In-person, online and hybrid options for K-12, community college and university students
Delayed, but not denied amid the COVID-19 pandemic, kindergarten through college students have more learning options as Houston-area campuses welcome students back to school in person and online.
In addition to strategies to keep students, faculty, staff and campus visitors physically apart and requirements to wear face masks, schools have increased sanitation procedures.
Now, the top priorities for educational institutions are safety and wellness procedures that facilitate academic success. For most, that means increased cleaning as well as more robust online platforms for doing business as well as teaching and learning.
Under the “Reconnect Safely and Return Strong” campaign, Houston Independent School District (HISD) students will begin the 2020-2021 academic year through online platforms on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
“Our decision to begin the upcoming school year virtually and delay the start of the school year for two weeks was due to the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area,” Dr. Grenita Lathan, HISD interim superintendent, said in a video message to students, parents and the community. “Virtual instruction for all students will continue for six weeks through Oct. 16, with face-to-face instruction beginning on Oct. 19.”
Lathan notes that the dates are subject to change based on COVID-19 case numbers in Houston and the recommendations of health officials.
HISD parents can opt out of in-person learning for their children and select online learning for the remainder of the fall semester or school year. For flexibility, the educational setting can be changed by parents after each grading period.
Fall registration is open at the Houston Community College (HCC) System, which has four ways for students to take classes beginning Aug. 24.
HCC’s “Flex Learning” offers those four options: “Online anytime” classes are completely virtual and do not require students to come to campus; “online on a schedule” are virtual classes at scheduled times; “flex campus” classes can be attended in person or online at scheduled times; and lab-based courses will be in-person with smaller section sizes to allow for social distancing.
Texas Southern University (TSU) will begin an early-but-abbreviated 13-week semester on Aug. 19. The “Safe Return to TigerLand” starts on Sept. 7 with a hybrid back-to-school strategy that includes reduced classroom capacity. The fall term will end on Nov. 13, with finals scheduled for the following week and commencement on Nov. 21.
“This means students will not return after the Thanksgiving Break and will instead report back to campus in the spring semester,” the TSU plan says.
In addition, TSU and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) have postponed all scheduled fall contests, along with SWAC championships because of the global pandemic.
Prairie View A&M University plans to restart classes in person and online.
Dr. Ruth Simmons, Prairie View A&M’s president, joined MSNBC’s Craig Melvin this week to discuss how the pandemic has created a “new normal” for historically Black colleges and universities.
“We’ve gone to online in large measure and this has hit hard in certain communities that are economically distressed because it’s not a simple matter to go online and have all of the equipment you need and the WiFi access … in addition to many of them feeling that it’s very difficult for them to learn online,” Simmons said.
PV has used some of its emergency funding to purchase computers for students and to train faculty to teach in an online environment, according to Simmons.
As students prepare for in-person classes, there will be increasing online and hybrid course options. In addition, PV officials are “securing loaner computer checkout vending machines,” according to the campus reopening plan.
PV employees are slated to return to work on a biweekly rotating schedule starting Aug. 17.