Back to School McKinney

Evans Middle School science teacher Chandler Jackson introduces herself on the first day of McKinney ISD in-person learning on September 3, 2020.

McKinney ISD will be removing the virtual learning option for certain students beginning in the spring 2021 semester, according to a Wednesday email to MISD parents from the district.

Virtual learning students who meet certain criteria will be required to attend in-person classes beginning Jan. 5, according to the district email.

“Teachers and staff have worked hard to provide an exceptional experience for both in-person and virtual learners and to provide support for students to be successful,” the email stated. “However, as the year has progressed, an increasing number of virtual learners have become disengaged, which is reflected both in increasing absences and decreasing performance and grades.”

The problem is not McKinney-specific, the email states, and multiple Texas school districts are grappling with similar issues.

McKinney ISD’s new move will become effective in the upcoming semester. Students who meet at least one of three listed criteria will be required to attend school in person starting on the Jan. 5 date. The criteria involves students with nine or more unexcused absences, an average grade of 69 or below in two or more secondary classes or a grade of “1” in two or more elementary school classes.

The guidelines do not apply to elementary school art, music or physical education classes.

The district began sending notices to parents and guardians of impacted students this week. Those students will not be allowed to return to a virtual learning platform for the remainder of the school year unless they are granted an appeal or unless they are quarantined due to COVID-19. The appeal requires medical documentation.

In-person students looking to switch to virtual instruction in the upcoming semester have to have fewer than nine absences and cannot be failing two or more classes, according to the same email.

“The district is committed to providing the best possible environment for students to be successful, and we believe requiring struggling students to attend in-person learning is a critical step to ensuring that we fulfill our responsibilities as a school district to meet the needs of all students,” the email concludes. “We appreciate your ongoing support.”

The move comes one day after the district took to social media to dispel rumors that schools would be closing after the Thanksgiving break.

“There have been no district discussions related to closing schools at this time,” the district stated. “McKinney ISD continues to track COVID-19 cases at campuses and across the district and will notify parents if cases begin to rise to a level that could necessitate a campus or district closure.”

McKinney ISD’s published COVID-19 data shows 20 total staff cases and 47 total student cases as of Nov. 20.

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