Central Texas school districts adjust academic calendars to help with student/teacher challenges

Education

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Leander Independent School District is working on finding solutions to smooth the ever-changing COVID-19 school year.

District leaders say they may have a solution to curb failing grades, and lighten the load on teachers.

“It’s another curve ball to scheduling, keeping them engaged and keeping them on task. I thought it was a bit aggressive for them to take that approach to lesson planning, because it does add a bit of stress since I am still working full-time at home,” said Christina-Ante Woodson.

Christina-Ante Woodson has four students at home. She says keeping up with the rapid-fire communication from LISD and her students’ teachers can be a lot to take on. District leaders say that’s one of the reasons it’s chosen to make changes to its academic calendar.

Beginning Nov. 11 and continuing for most Wednesdays for the rest of the 2020–21 school year, LISD schools will dismiss two hours early so that teachers can collaborate and plan for in-person and virtual learning experiences.

“We’re investing in our teachers so that they can invest in our students, and we’re asking our community to help us out with the lift here as we make that investment,” board president Trish Bode said. “It’s a challenge and a sticky wicket, and I appreciate so much the effort to get this message to the community quickly and also coordinate with our campuses.”

Leander Trustrees made the decision after multiple listening sessions with district teachers. Many suggested adding more time to lesson plan.

“We believe having this additional teacher planning time is directly going to impact our students because a teacher who feels supported and rested will be able to impact our students,” said Leander Spokesperson Corey Ryan.

Ryan also spoke to this lesson planning allowing for teachers to provide clearer communication to parents, and better assist with students who may be struggling virtually. It’s extra attention Woodson says her four students desperately need.

“My son — his secondary teacher who handles his math and science class — reached out and said he was getting Cs, but last year he was so interested in the concept and that didn’t happen,” said Woodson.

The flexibility of creating early dismissals in Leander is made possible by “extra minutes” that are built into the academic calendar and, as such, will not require additional instructional days.

Round Rock takes slightly different approach

The Round Rock Independent School District has a similar idea in mind but one that’s a little different.

The Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees approved amending the 2020-2021 academic calendar to change the high school early release days scheduled at the end of each semester to full instructional days during their meeting in October. The adjustment was made to meet state requirements for in-person instructional minutes due to changes related to COVID-19.

The change should also make up for high school students missing out on their in-person tutorials before the school day. Right now, the district is not able to offer the in-person tutorials before school each day on a reliable basis due to safety procedures

Round Rock High School algebra teacher, Jennifer Drabbant says although she doesn’t know how these instructional days will work for her online students, she’s hoping it eases some of their stressors.

“Some of them are failing for the first time ever in their lives in a math class,” said Drabbant. “I do worry about my students, because they know they have a certain college they want to get into. They have scholarships, and this is directly going to impact their GPA. However, I do not expect the same level of success in an online class than I do in my in-person classes.”

The Round Rock changes impact the four early release days, Dec. 14-17 and May 24-27, at the end of each semester for high school students. Students will now participate in a full instructional academic day on these dates.

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