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Dr. MARK PORTERIE — New options, requirements highlight 2020-21 PAISD school year

The Port Arthur Independent School District is gearing up for the first day students are to return to the classroom for face-to-face instruction or synchronous (remote) learning that will take place from home.

Since the PAISD closed its doors on Monday, March 16, there has been a major shift in the way we have thought about the delivery of instruction to the more than 8,000 students enrolled in the district.

The district has followed the recommendations of the Texas governor, the Commissioner of Education, our local government leaders, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our local health care leaders. The vast amount of information has assisted in discussions on plans for how the PAISD would return to school during the fall semester.

We are grateful to our parents, grandparents, family members and the community for their support of student learning in a way that was never imaginable. In a matter of a few days the district pivoted from face-to-face instruction to remote learning. Parents have had to sit and learn with their children in order to assist them with the lessons.

The PAISD team of leaders have learned that we have the capability to strengthen the delivery of at-home instruction by using technology as the main tool. What we have found to be a challenge is the number of students without technology in their homes.

As we continue to discuss and contemplate the best way to reopen our school doors to staff and students, the main concern is how to keep everyone safe and how to meet the needs of every student in the district, including our Special Populations.

Some decisions that have been made according to the recommendations thus far are the following:

  • The first day of school will begin Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
  • All staff and students will be required to wear masks during the workday.
  • Temperature checks will be taken upon entrance into all PAISD buildings.
  • Sanitizers will be placed at the entrances of all district facilities.

Parents will choose for their child one of the following instructional methods:

  • Face-To-Face Instruction – Students who will return for face-to-face instruction will be given guidelines on how to enter, directions on where to walk in the halls, scheduling changes, etc.
  • Remote Synchronous Instruction – Two-way, real-time/live, virtual instruction between teachers and students while students are not on campus. With this method, the required amount of instructional time is scheduled each day. Synchronous instruction is provided through a computer or other electronic device. This method must address the required curriculum.
  • Remote Asynchronous Instruction – Instruction that does not require having the instructor and student engaged at the same time. Through this method, students learn from instruction that is not necessarily being delivered in-person or in real-time.

This type of instruction may include various forms of digital and online learning, such as prerecorded video lessons or game-based learning tasks that students complete on their own, and pre-assigned work and formative assessments made available to students on paper. Students who choose this model must be self-motivated.

Under the remote synchronous instruction method, the minute requirements associated with the student grade level must be provided each day.

At-home, parent-led instruction time will not count towards overall minute requirements under the remote synchronous instruction method.

If the PAISD chooses to serve students through a remote asynchronous instruction method, we must submit a learning plan to TEA that includes details on how student engagement will be tracked daily.

Students who elect to participate in a district-provided remote learning option will be coded to the physical campus to which they would have been assigned.

Grading policies for remote instruction must be consistent with the district’s grading policies for on-campus.

The minimum attendance for the class credit rule of the Texas Education Code, 20.092, will be in effect for the 2020-2021 school year, and the Texas Education Agency will not be issuing waivers for districts to exempt themselves from the rule.

Truancy laws will apply to students who fail to attend school. The district will continue to make every effort to ensure the safety of its employees and students while securing a curriculum that is viable and one that we can deliver with fidelity.

I have every reason to believe our parents will continue to aid us in our mission to educate every child. If parents choose a remote option for their children, we ask that they purchase a device for each child in the household.

In order for every child in a household to be able to log on, they must have their own device. In addition, we are asking that parents begin now seeking broadband connectivity to their homes so that their students will be able to connect.

For us to return to school and be successful it will take the entire community. We are ready and excited for the many wonderful possibilities for the upcoming school year.

Dr. Mark Porterie is Superintendent of Schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.