Kilgore Independent School District will soon transition to on-campus learning only, phasing out the remote learning, the News Herald has learned Tuesday evening.

Sabine ISD is ending its remote learning plan, as well, officials say.

KISD Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker confirmed the transition in an e-mail to parents on Tuesday, after the print deadline for the News Herald’s print edition for Wednesday, October 21. The transition was also announced on the district’s website, www.kisd.org, and on the KISD Facebook page, all late Tuesday afternoon.

As a part of the e-mail, Baker notes that all students currently receiving at-home remote learning will be required to return to regular, on-campus instruction by Monday, November 9.

Baker also notes that parents or guardians who have medically fragile children or serious immediate family household safety concerns may apply to continue remote learning.

To do so, follow these steps, according to KISD:

  • Go to www.kisd.org
  • Click the at-home learner parent request link
  • Complete a separate request for each child with each appropriate campus
  • If you prefer not to submit documentation electronically you may take them directly to your child's campus.

It is important to note that remote learning will also remain in place for students that must quarantine at home because of a positive COVID-19 test or determined close contact with someone who has tested positive.

As for why KISD taking these steps now, those reasons were specifically outlined in the e-mail to parents, among them, failure rate among remote learning students, and attendance.

The e-mail refers to “alarming” first nine-week grading period failure rate among remote learning students, and gives these numbers: students failing at least one class at nine weeks at KHS: 69 percent. At Kilgore Middle School: 56 percent; at Kilgore Intermediate, 40 percent, and at Chandler Elementary, 27 percent.

“Of these students,” the e-mail states, “a great many earned failing grades in multiple courses to the point where grade promotion and even the ability to graduate are now problematic concerns.”

As mentioned, another reason is attendance for remote classes. “The Texas Education Agency requires students to be in attendance, at a minimum, 90 percent of the time each course is offered to obtain credit,” the e-mail states. “This applies to individual course subjects at middle school and high school, and to all grade levels at the elementary level. Students who do not complete this 90 percent attendance requirement will be required to repeat the grade and/or subject the following school year.”

The KISD plan to prevent students and faculty from getting COVID-19 was the reason remote learning was implemented to begin with, of course, and the e-mail provides virus numbers – and how Kilgore has been on the more successful end of the spectrum in its student population and faculty contracting coronavirus.

KISD’s COVID policies have included routine cleaning, social distancing procedures, contact tracing and, of course, face covering. This “has successfully helped to keep the spread of COVID-19 virus in our schools to a minimum,” the e-mail notes. Continuing: “During the first nine-week grading period, our school district has had 27 positive COVID-19 cases among our 3,946 students, which equates to less than one percent (less than seven positive cases per 1,000 students).”

Already, of the 663 students that began the school year as remote learning students, 222 have already made the transition back to standard on-campus instruction since then.

KISD is encouraging parents of current remote learning students to contact their child’s campus as soon as possible to begin the transition back to on-campus learning. “Only those students who receive approval from their campus to continue at-home remote learning will be allowed to do so,” states the e-mail. All other current at-home remote students will be expected to return to on-campus learning by Nov. 9.

“We know that this school year has brought with it many unknowns and many unprecedented uncertainties,” Baker closed the e-mail, “and we sincerely appreciate the support our Bulldog parents and community have provided our campuses as we’ve opened our classrooms to our students. Thank you for your understanding and continued support as we begin our school district’s transition back to on-campus learning.”

Sabine ISD’s plan to end remote learning was originally reported Tuesday by Kristen Barton in a story in the Longview News-Journal, a news partner to the News Herald, as both are under the M. Roberts Media banner.

Barton reported Tuesday evening that Sabine Superintendent Stacey Bryce said in a statement that the board decided Monday to end virtual instruction starting Nov. 3.

"While our students on campus have been doing very well, our remote learners have not been successful," Bryce said in a letter to parents. "After gathering the data, it shows that the failure rate of the remote learners is extremely high, and far too many students are not progressing adequately."

Other school districts that have elected to end the remote learning option include Tyler ISD, Gilmer ISD, Hallsville, and New Diana, as well as Panola County schools Carthage, Beckville and Gary.

Bryce said in the statement that students need to return to campus by Nov. 3, and about 92 percent of students are on campuses with few COVID-19 cases.

The letter to parents provided options for families who still want to keep their children at home, including K-12 online, the Texas Virtual School Network and TTU K-12.

Truancy charges will be pursued for students who do not return to campus or choose another virtual option by Nov. 3, Bryce said.

"We look forward to a closer return to normalcy and want to reiterate that we strongly wish to have your student back in our classrooms," he said. "We feel this move will benefit all students to achieve their maximum potential."

Kristen Barton of the Longview News-Journal contributed to this story.

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