BISD: Summer school online only; In-person instruction ruled out

Even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has given the go-ahead to do so, the Brownsville Independent School District has decided not to offer in-person summer school this year.

Abbott announced Monday that school districts across the state could begin offering summer school classroom instruction as early as June 1, marking the first time in-person instruction could be offered in Texas since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools two months ago.

Students in the Brownsville Independent and Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent school districts have been attending classes since March 23 via Google Classroom and other online group meeting apps or using traditional pencil-and-paper learning packets

On Tuesday BISD said it would continue to offer instruction using the delivery methods developed since the coronavirus hit during Spring Break.

In Los Fresnos, school officials said plans were still being developed.

“We’re still operating under the governor’s COVID-19 orders,” BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez said. “Even though we’re allowed to do so, safety is still an issue. To bring students in during the summer just would not be safe.”

Dora Sauceda, BISD assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability, said summer school affects about 1,500 students this year. She said classes will be offered using the same platforms students and teachers have gotten used to using since BISD went to distance learning and instructional packets. Online platforms include Google Classroom for third through 12th-grade students and Seesaw for pre-k through second-graders.

Because STAARS assessment tests and end-of-course exams have been suspended during the pandemic, students and teachers are concentrating on course work that needs to be completed to achieve promotion to the next grade, or in the case of seniors, to graduate. “It’s credit recovery to catch up or graduate, plus dual enrollment with Texas Southmost College,” she said.

About 60 percent of students are doing online learning, while 40 percent are using instructional packets. Last week BISD authorized ordering 11,000 Google Chromebooks, while a grant from the Sprint 1 Million project authorized 2,000 hotspots for summer distance learning, Sauceda said.

She added that a committee of about 75 staff and community members is helping develop a strategic plan for delivery of instruction, while another is developing possible calendars for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Every day is a learning experience,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve been adjusting daily since March 23. Having a traditional opening for the 2020-2021 academic year seems unlikely. A hybrid calendar is more likely. We’re modifying the calendar based on this crisis,” Gutierrez said when asked when the first day of school would be.”

“Luckily the Texas Education Agency has given us the freedom to look at different options for next year based on feedback from the two committees,” he said.

The first day of summer school is June 1.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com