What questions remain? NISD talks benefits, challenges of longer school days.

Published 12:11 am Thursday, June 18, 2020

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NEDERLAND — The Nederland Independent School District is the first in Mid- County to approve a calendar for the 2020-21 school year.

The board adopted the amended calendar unanimously at a Monday night remote meeting.

The new schedule adds 30 minutes to the school day for all grade levels, allowing the district to bank one school day for every 15 days attended.

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This model allows for the same start date, Aug. 17, the same amount of school days and the same holiday breaks.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick recently broke down the thought process behind the decision, also providing insight into future decisions and current questions left unanswered.

“This new calendar serves two purposes,” Kieschnick said. “One, it allows us to bank days with those excess minutes. That way if we have to close down because of COVID-19 we have the ability to close down at any time.”

There will be 11 flex dates available for use.

“Two, this gives us flexibility,” he said. “We know kids are behind because of last year, so this is the opportunity we need to meet the learning needs of each individual.”

Kieschnick said having the time built into the schedule eliminates an overall need for additional before- or after-school tutorials.

“We understand this isn’t a perfect schedule, but we feel this is the best schedule to meet our students and our community halfway,” he said. “From the feedback I’ve gotten so far, the positive support for this plan is really high.”

Ambre Bushong, whose son recently graduated from Nederland High, said she supports the district’s decision.

“I think it’s the best option for all involved based on the fact that this is a learn-as-we-go type of thing,” she said. “It will not disrupt the kids in a major way. It’s a stepping point, and I think they’re doing the best they can with what they know.”

As the district moves to the next step, several questions remain.

Superintendents statewide met briefly with Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Kieschnick said the meeting yielded little advice going forward.

“They are still working on giving us further guidance,” he said. “(Morath) told us to expect that guidance to come in the next week.”

Kieschnick said once the information is given he is hoping to finalize a concrete plan by mid-July.

Questions waiting to be answered at the state level include the same concerns parents and teachers are posing to district officials.

“We are hoping we get guidance on the number of kids we can have in the building at one time,” Kieschnick said. “If it is limited, what would that space need to look like? What about WiFi connectivity on students who do not have that at home?

“What are the health protocols if COVID-19 breaks out in a school? How long may it need to be shut down for an outbreak? What about child nutrition and feeding our kids at school? What about transportation structure? Extracurricular activities?”

Kieschnick said questions are posed every day that have to be looked at and studied to give potential answers.

“We need the guidance from the state so we can build our plan on that guidance,” he said.