The Bryan school board met for an emergency special meeting Tuesday night to give an update on the school’s response to COVID-19 and to give Superintendent Christie Whitbeck approval to purchase bags needed to help provide at-home instruction to students.
The thousands of bags — which could cost more than the $50,000 allowance granted to superintendents — will be used to send district Chromebooks and chargers home with students who need them to do at-home instruction while the district is closed through April 3.
Whitbeck said a home internet access survey is on the district’s COVID-19 page under the “Technology and Internet Access” tab. There, parents can note whether their students have internet access and access to a computer at home.
If not, the district will have about 9,000 Chromebooks it can allow students to take home and use during the extended closure. The Chromebooks, which run through the school district’s filter to protect students, are being cleaned and checked to make sure they do not need new keys or batteries before being given to students, Executive Director of Instructional Support for the district Julea Johnson said.
To help families learn to use the Chromebooks, Johnson said, each bag will have a handout, and help desk staff will be working from home during the closure from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to assist parents. There is a possibility the staff could offer extended hours for parents who need help outside of that 8-4 timeframe.
The district also is looking at ways to boost the internet signal at some schools to reach the neighborhoods and allow students to connect to the school’s internet.
The district also noted Suddenlink and Altice USA is offering broadband internet for free for 60 days to households with a school-age or college student within the Bryan school district boundaries. More information is on the Technology and Internet Access section of www.bryanisd.org/covid19.
The devices will be given out as needed, but students in the International Baccalaureate program at Bryan High School, Bryan Collegiate High School students and seniors will have top priority.
“We need to make sure that they are able to graduate,” Whitbeck said about prioritizing seniors. She also noted Blinn College courses Bryan Collegiate students take will begin in an online format on Monday, and the deadline for IB projects has not been changed.
The computers are just one part of the instruction. Other hands-on and low-tech activities are available on the district’s COVID-19 page. The full academic instruction plan is in development now and will include technology and hands-on activities. District librarians also will have books to give out to students picking up lunches.
The College Station school district is working on an academic instructional plan that will be rolled out district-wide. Officials noted more information about the plan should come this week.
Calvert teachers and administrators distributed instructional packets today to students. Teachers came in on a staggered schedule on Monday to create packets for the core subject areas. All but a few of the individual packets were given out Tuesday.
“We’re left to try to provide instructional service to students in a different way,” Calvert Superintendent Thyrun Hurst said.
The Normangee school district created “Discovery Ideas” for students to do while the school is closed. The options were put together by teachers and principals based on grade-level groups.
“These are intended to provide fun ideas for students to do to prompt their creative and critical thinking skills while at home,” the introduction states.
Snook, Somerville, Richards and Brenham schools all state on their websites they are working on developing at-home instructional plans for students.
International Leadership of Texas will be providing Chromebooks for students in kindergarten through third grade to continue at-home instruction while the school is closed “indefinitely.” All other students should have Chromebooks, according to a post to the campus’ Facebook page. At Allen Academy, students will be moving to distance learning beginning Monday and will continue through at least March 30.
Students in fifth grade through high school are required to have laptops, science teacher Stephanie Hanover said. Teachers in the lower grades are working with parents to make sure students have access to videos, worksheets and other learning resources for each subject, including PE, with coaches sending home workouts for students to do.Many companies, she noted, are offering free subscriptions to online learning resources to help teachers.
In an email from Hanover and English teacher Elizabeth Martin, they said, “Distance learning will be hard because we miss our students, but we are well-equipped to continue teaching and learning even from a distance.”The relationships the teachers have help them tailor the situation to each student.
With her eighth grade Earth and space science students who are currently studying astronomy, Hanover said, “There are wonderful opportunities to continue to explore the night sky from home and using remote telescopes. They are reading The Martian as a cross-curricular with English class where they will reflect through written work as well as use NASA software to track and analyze Mark Watney’s journey across the red planet as well as research and report on the science (or lack of) behind many of the situations in the book.”
Hanover said she has never been in a position as a teacher to use distance learning for such an extended time.
“I am so fortunate to work with a group of educators who are pooling our collective resources, experience, and ideas to ensure continued student engagement, empowerment and success,” she said.