PETTUS – When the new school year starts Aug. 13 for students in the Pettus Independent School District, they will not be meeting their new teachers face to face.
That is because at its July 20 meeting, the Pettus ISD board of trustees voted that for the first four weeks of school, education would take place via an asynchronous instruction model. Superintendent Mike Homann said this would mean students would not be interacting with teachers in real time.
“Courses are self-paced with teacher instructional videos and pre-assigned work,” he said.
This would prevent the possibility of multiple teachers holding a class at the same time, which would mean many students simultaneously logging in and potentially resulting in connectivity issues, Homann said.
The board made the decision after a lengthy discussion about the school calendar, which currently has the last day of school as May 27, 2021. A lot of consideration is being given to the constant state of flux brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the district had planned to poll parents and ask whether they planned to send their students on the first day or keep them at home.
Board President Jaime Rodriguez, the father of a Pettus ISD student said, “I’m personally not comfortable with (students starting school in person) and that’s just me. That’s a decision I’m going to have to make for mine. The numbers are going up so high, and I know we have some people in our community who have tested positive.”
Pettus ISD recently polled its parents via Survey Monkey and received 150 responses. Homann said most of these were from parents of students enrolled in Pettus Elementary School. When asked how comfortable they were to have students return to campus on the first day, 52 percent of parents said they were uncomfortable with the idea.
Homann said he recently ordered multiple WiFi hotspots and computing devices that could be loaned out to students whose home lack computers or internet connectivity.
Education will not take place entirely at home. Homann said students enrolled in certain career technical education courses that require hands-on work, such as welding, will be allowed to come to the high school campus for those classes.
COVID-19 also has brought about changes to the district’s health guidelines. Per the Texas Education Association, staff members are required to self screen. They also are required to inform administrators if they have symptoms and to stay off campus until they are without fever for three days without fever-reducing medications and are without symptoms for 10 days. And anyone who has come into contact with someone who has an active case of the virus must stay off campus for 14 days.
Staff members, along with students ages 10 and older will be required to wear face masks while on campus.
William J. Gibbs Jr. is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 361-358-5220, or by email at email@example.com.