As promised, I am here today with an update on our plans to transition to face-to-face instruction, following last night’s meeting with our Board of Trustees.
During the meeting, the Board approved the timeline that will allow us to bring our staff back to campus on September 23. Students will begin transitioning to campuses by grade level during a two-week period that begins on Monday, September 28, giving them time to adjust to the comprehensive health and safety protocols in smaller groups. During the recent learning model selection process, approximately 60 percent of our families indicated that they will be continuing with online instruction for the time being, while 40 percent will transition to face-to-face learning.
As of September 28, we will be running two distinct instructional programs with independent schedules – online and face to face. To support the success of students in both models, our district and campus administrators have been hard at work developing bell schedules that will be refined and staffed during the next two weeks. They will also carefully consider each student's individual schedule to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
During the past few weeks, we have received many questions and concerns about plans to operate the face to face and online learning models on a staggered schedule. Many parents and staff members have suggested we align the schedules. At last night’s meeting, we spoke at length about the systems we have in place to ensure that the development of master schedules is strategic and intentional so that we can use our teachers most efficiently while minimizing disruption to the relationships that have been built with their students since the first day of school. Although there are benefits to aligning the schedules, we believe the benefits of the planned, staggered schedule better support the high-quality instructional program our students desire and expect and provide increased student opportunities to participate in co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
Last night, we also reaffirmed our commitment to supporting our teachers. Because we will be operating two learning models, some teachers will teach only online, some only face to face, and some will teach in both models. But we will be managing the number of different courses they teach, as well as their overall student load in a way that supports their well-being, so that they are able to give their very best to our students, with adequate time to plan and deliver instruction with fidelity.
To ensure the most efficient assignment of our teachers, some online students will be in class with students from other schools and in, some cases, taught by teachers from a different school. This is another way our plan supports high-quality instruction for students, a balanced workload for teachers, and prudent use of district resources. I do want to be clear that an online student will remain enrolled at their home campus, even if they participate in a class with students or teachers from another school.
We have spent countless hours working on these plans – and there is still more work to be done. There have been many, many questions about how FBISD developed our plans… and we’ve continued to update the FAQ on the FBISD relaunch website.
Here’s what you can expect next:
Prior to the transition, you will be hearing directly from campus administrators about schedule changes, teacher assignments, and classroom assignments please know that they are working hard to make this transition safe and successful for students and the staff.
Parents who selected face-to-face instruction received an email yesterday about transportation and extended learning. Your prompt follow-up to that message will further assist in our planning efforts… and we are asking that you complete the questionnaire by Thursday, September 17, at 4:30 p.m.
While campuses will be communicating specific information over the next couple of weeks, you can trust that we are providing guidance and support at the district-level to make sure all our students have a similar, equitable experience. Although all schools are operated by the same playbook, detailed campus plans will vary based on the number of students in each learning model. You can trust we are all working to meet the unique needs of each student and each campus.
I want to remind our community that we are still educating our students during a pandemic. We are still operating in “crisis” mode, doing things we would not normally do in a way that we would not normally do them. It is not a comfortable or easy place to be – our staff and organization have been accustomed to only running one face to face instructional program… and running two parallel learning models is challenging, near impossible. But we have a team of highly experienced educators and leaders doing what we have to do to keep our students learning and growing during this season of change and uncertainty.
Before I go, I also want to share an important update on the 2020 tax rate, as it was also discussed last night during a special public hearing. The Board will consider approval of the tax rate on Monday, September 21.
While FBISD is required to adopt a budget in June that is based on a proposed rate, the Board does not approve tax rates until September, after we receive the certified tax rolls from the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District.
Because official guidance on how to calculate this tax rate did not come until after the budget was adopted, we recently recalculated the tax rate, and based on the legislated tax rate compression adopted in 2019, the new 20-21 tax rate is about three pennies less than the 19-20 tax rate. This change will not result in a funding decrease for FBISD, as the reduction in property tax revenues will be offset by an increase in state aid. I also want to mention that, even the board is considering a lower tax rate, any impact on your personal tax bill will be based on the appraised value of your home, which is determined by the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District, an independent entity, not directly related to Fort Bend ISD.
In closing, I just want to share that we are here to serve you, our FBISD community these are trying times, to be sure, but we remain committed to providing the excellent education you have come to expect of your public school system. Thank you for partnership and for holding us accountable to that standard.