Largest school district in Central Texas prepares for an unprecedented fall term

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 1:51 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – The Killeen ISD, the largest school district in Central Texas is preparing for an unprecedented fall term amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and concerns about the health not only of students and teachers, but also parents and other family members to whom children could spread the virus.

Administrators have been on the job since June 1, preparing for the start of the new school year.

Teachers return on Aug. 4 and the projected first day of class is Aug. 17.

The district will offer parents the option of either sending children back to the classroom or of keeping children home to learn remotely on “a custom virtual online platform,” officials said Wednesday.

“This is absolutely going to take a team effort,” Killeen Superintendent Dr. John Kraft said Wednesday.

“This is going to take real commitment from our teachers and from our community.”

The district is asking parents to choose an option by July 27.

More information is available on the district’s Return to Learn website.

For students whose parents choose on-campus instruction, the district plans to step up cleaning using hospital-grade disinfectants as well as encouraging frequent hand washing and daily self-screening.

Face coverings will be allowed even after official orders requiring them expire.

Social distancing will be encouraged on and off campus, large gatherings will be limited, campuses will be closed to external visitors, classroom supplies will be provided for communal use, breakfast and lunch will be served in cafeterias and buses will be disinfected after each run.

Social distancing, however, won’t be required on buses.

“I can’t make that guarantee,” Kraft said.

For students whose parents opt for remote instruction, the district plans professional development sessions from Aug. 4 to Aug. 14 “addressing multiple platforms and technology integration,” the district said.

Grab-and-go meal distribution will continue with proper documentation and students in need “may receive technology, connectivity and hotline support,” the district said.

Students “will engage in live online and recorded lessons from their teachers during normal class times correlated to a normal school schedule.”

The district will provide training for students and parents on various platforms.

Attendance will be checked, assignments will be required, and assessments and grades will be issued.

Parents may transition between online and in-person instruction “as they deem appropriate through their specific campus,” the district said.

Texas Education Agency guidance says districts may limit access to on-campus instruction during the first three weeks of school, starting temporarily with online instruction, although students without internet access or devices with which to access the internet are still entitled to receive classroom instruction during the transition process, but Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated the period could be extended.

And a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency told the Texas Tribune Wednesday that local public health officials may order schools to shut down in-person instruction without risking state funding.

Bell County has nearly 2,300 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and nearly 600 patients have recovered.

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