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WATCH or READ: Checking In with Charles (10/13/20)

As of this week, Fort Bend ISD has begun the second nine-week grading period, and we are operating two learning models – face-to-face and online. During Monday’s board meeting, we gave an update to the board, and I was pleased to recognize the significant effort of our campus staff members, who have spent countless hours manually creating student schedules. The brunt of this work was carried by counselors and campus administrators, along with many clerks and admin associates who were assisted by many team members from central office. I want each person to know that your work has not gone unnoticed.

I know that our efforts have taxed staff at all levels, and the transition has challenged the patience and goodwill of parents and students. During the board meeting, I was given the opportunity to share additional insight into why we chose the staggered face-to-face and online schedules instead of simply aligning the schedules as many have requested, and you’re invited to watch the board meeting so that you can hear the rich conversation with our Board.

I will be the first to say that our decisions have not been easy or popular. Yesterday, I read a quote that said, “sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” I believe that quote because it’s what we have been doing for the past few months – remaining steadfast to doing what is right, even though it has been hard, and it requires a lot from our staff.

I also want to add that it has been hard because we have completely eliminated the traditional school schedules that our campus teams develop each year with ease. We developed a robust plan to implement our transition from virtual to dual learning models, and many things just did not go as we planned or expected.

While we have welcomed our students back to campuses, the transition to the dual learning models is still very much underway. During Monday’s board workshop, we discussed the work that is still ongoing to balance courses and class sizes and ensure that students are placed into the right courses. This is work that is always a part of the master scheduling process, but it’s usually done before students ever enter the building. And this is not a typical year.

During the next two weeks or so, some secondary students may continue to see changes to their schedule until things are set in skyward. Again, we know that our campuses have been asked to take on a virtually impossible task – but we are doing it, together, with significant support from central office.

This week, we temporarily redeployed members of our central office staff to secondary campuses to assist in this transition. It has been, and continues to be, an all-hands on deck situation. We are doing everything we can to support our students and we are thankful for our staff members and the demonstration of servant leadership.

I continue to be concerned about the well-being of our team members that have been working under new and unique conditions. By itself, change is stressful, but operating our schools in a whole new way has been exceptionally taxing on staff. We are taking action to address the well-being of staff by holding leaders accountable for providing relief where necessary, and we are considering ways to lighten the workload of campus team members.

As a parent, you might notice that teachers are taking longer than usual to respond to your call or email. This is because I have asked staff to keep their focus on planning, preparing, and delivering instruction, and assessing student performance. Like all districts in the state and nation, many students are struggling this year. We are attempting to address their needs to the best of our ability, which means some other responsibilities will be reprioritized.

Monday’s board workshop also included an update on the COVID-19 response plan, which was developed to ensure continuity of operations and uninterrupted learning for students, and to help keep our students and staff healthy.

This plan was built to support transitions throughout the district’s response to COVID-19 and we invite you to learn more by watching the full presentation to the board of trustees, which also included an update on our contact tracing efforts.

When there is a positive case of COVID-19 confirmed at any FBISD campus, we are initiating an extensive process to identify potential exposure. This is done using guidance from the CDC and is done on a case-by-case basis while protecting the privacy of our students and staff.

This contact tracing process is important as we work to mitigate the spread of illness and we are doing this with the utmost care, concern and compassion.

I want you to know that we are keeping the health and safety of our students and staff at the forefront of decision making, which means school looks and feels different as we implement social distancing, face coverings and continue online learning.

Before I go, I want to remind you that we are asking parents and campus staff to reach out to your school leaders if you have questions or concerns. You can also reach out to the district via Let’s Talk.

We recently added special interest areas so that staff, students and parents can report specific concerns about the use of PPE on our campuses and facilities, as well as concerns related to the transition to face-to-face instruction, because it’s important that we have the opportunity to address your concerns as they arise.

It really does take all of us, working together to support our students.

And we appreciate your partnership.