Virtual learning

Little Elm ISD officials don’t know if virtual learning will even be an option next year.

But they’re planning for it just in case it is.

Cyndy Mika, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning, updated the LEISD Board of Trustees last week on how the district is preparing for the virtual option, even though it’s not guaranteed districts can use it next year.

Students across the state have been able to choose virtual learning as an option because of the high COVID-19 numbers when the school year began. Many districts allowed their students to switch from in-person to virtual and vice versa throughout different points of the year.

“The virtual learning that we are doing right now is via a waiver from the commissioner,” Mika said. “Legislatively virtual and remote learning is not allowable except with the TXVSN districts, and there are six of those in the state. So we will not be allowed to provide remote learning unless there is legislative action.”

Mika said that all hinges on what happens at the Texas Legislature.

District officials said there are three virtual learning-related bills LEISD is watching as they make their way through various committees – House Bill 1468, Senate Bill 258 and Senate Bill 1389.

“School Districts across the state make decisions that are best for their students,” said Cecelia Jones, director of communications. “Our job is to ensure their academic success. That would be a reason why we like HB 1468 – it gives local control on how school districts can determine the eligibility for ideal virtual learners. It also gives districts the flexibility to monitor students who may be enrolled in a virtual program and make decisions based on the criteria for attendance and academic performance.”

Jones said the district’s only concern about HB 1468 is that as written it would require synchronous instruction.

“This means instruction is in real-time where the teachers and students are engaged at the same time for the entire school day,” Jones said. “This limits the flexibility asynchronous learning gave many students who were successful this school year.” 

HB 1468 has been passed by the House and has been sent to the Senate.

Jones said SB 1389 would provide flexibility with a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction throughout the school day, as well as a hybrid option.

“Students will have opportunities to enter into a school setting for assessments, labs, small groups, and interventions,” Jones said. “This bill allows districts to ensure only academically successful students remain in a virtual program and it also gives districts the ability to develop its own locally developed curriculum.”

Mika said the district has a committee made up of principals and curriculum leaders that meets weekly to discuss various topics. Last week the committee created a survey for parents to offer feedback on what they would like to see in a virtual learning scenario should it become available.

“We do know it won’t look like what it looks like this year,” Mika said. “That has been evident in the hearings before the (state) committees.”

So until a bill is signed, LEISD is making tentative plans.

“If it’s possible for us we have to be ready with a plan,” Mika said. “We can’t sit back. We’re planning alongside what might be possible.”

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