Kilgore Independent School District trustees, campus administrators and faculty discussed the district’s successes and challenges in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic at Monday night’s board meeting.
The plan includes steps to ensure both groups of students are receiving equal amounts of instruction and teacher access time, as well as adequate instructional materials.
Board president Reggie Henson asked administrators and staff to describe the biggest challenges faced on Kilgore campuses so far in the semester.
The consensus among the faculty and staff members was “teachers are overwhelmed” and frustrated by the new demands being placed on them to ensure equal and adequate learning opportunities.
“It’s hard to teach somebody to read in that little 30-minute time,” said Tamara Dean, KISD’s Director of Elementary Learning/District Accountability, when discussing the scheduled learning time slots for students in pre-K through fifth grade. Students using remote learning were also more prone to distractions outside of the classroom, she said, as other faculty members pointed out some remote learning students had shown an unwillingness to engage in the offered learning opportunities.
Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker said teachers had begun preparing for this unusual semester back in April, and teachers were “rock stars” for adapting to a variety of changes to their normal instruction plans.
Baker told board members Texas Education Administration requires districts to submit a plan for how they will offer instruction to students as some parents opt to keep their children at home during the semester.
“Every single district is going to be a little bit different,” Baker said.
“It’s just a plan and it can still be tweaked” to account for additional changes as the semester progresses, he added.
Currently, students opting for remote instruction are being offered equal opportunities for instructional time, teacher access and test preparation. However, several faculty members at the meeting cited a lack of student engagement with online learning as a primary frustration for teachers.
Administrators at all KISD campuses pointed out some remote learning students are easily distracted by events outside the classroom and not all of them are strict about using learning opportunities provided by the district. Baker said the primary complaint from teachers about remote learning was a lack of attendance.
KISD’s Director of Technology Mark Lane described the problem and a solution being offered by the district.
“One of the challenges was our middle school and high school teachers. They were taking attendance for every class that they had. The trick is…that teacher is at work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of these students were not logging on and doing activities that would count for (their) attendance until eight o’clock at night. It might be the next day (for teachers) to figure out if that students was actually in attendance. It was turning into an administrative nightmare for all these things,” Lane said.
As a solution, KISD is implementing an additional “homeroom” class for middle and high school students.
The plan, described as a “big boost” for teachers, allows some of the pressure of teaching remote classes to be removed from teachers.
“We are creating another homeroom class for those middle and high school students. We’re assigning a staff member to take attendance in that class, which will satisfy all of our state requirements for taking attendance. This will allow our teachers to not worry about attendance. They can worry about the assignments, the grades and all of those things,” Lane said.
Baker noted some smaller Texas school districts had moved away from offering remote learning, as it is not a requirement by the state. However, he said, KISD will continue offering its remote learning opportunities into the future and teachers and staff would continue to work to provide equal education opportunities to all students.