ANNA, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – After offering nine weeks of online learning, the Anna ISD Board of Trustees approved the administrative recommendation to suspend at-home learning, requiring all students to return to school on November 3, 2020.
Superintendent Michael Comeaux told parents about the decision in a letter. He said 26% of the district’s students are currently using online instruction. But, according to Comeaux, academic performance and attendance data indicate that the majority of them are underperforming compared to students physically at school, making online learning unsustainable for long-term academic success.
He stressed that the district isn’t taking their decision lightly, citing data from the Texas Education Agency indicating since the beginning of face-to-face instruction this school year, a total of 0.4% of Texas students have tested positive for COVID. A total of 0.8% of Texas school employees have tested positive for COVID, according to Comeaux’s letter.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Thomas O’Neal says currently, more than half of virtual learners have too many absences or are failing at least one class. He told CBS11 strict cleaning and safety protocols have kept the infection rate low, so families can feel safe returning to class. “The guidelines we’re following are working and we can keep our students safe and help them more academically if we brought them back.”
Approximately 26% of Anna ISD students learn from home. Ruby Findlay says her 2nd grader and 5th grader are excelling at online learning. “When I voiced my concern I was told, ‘well you can homeschool.’ That’s what they kept telling me: ‘you can homeschool.’ Well I don’t have a teaching degree. I don’t know how to do that.” It’s a personal issue for Findlay; she lost her aunt to the virus.
Findlay says parents feel blindsided by the decision. “We didn’t even realize it was up for debate,” she said. “To force everyone back seems like a drastic measure, especially since there wasn’t a heads up.” The decision was made at the Anna ISD school board meeting October 15th. The district says the agenda was posted in advance, but O’Neal admits they did not contact parents prior to the meeting.
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Students who are deemed “medically fragile” and are unable to return to face-to-face instruction must contact their child’s campus principal by Monday, October 26, 2020. The following criteria describe those who are medically fragile.
- has a serious ongoing illness or a chronic condition that has lasted or is anticipated to last at least 12 or more months or has required at least one month of hospitalization, and
- that requires daily ongoing medical treatments and monitoring by appropriately trained personnel which may include parents or other family members, and
- requires the routine use of a medical device or the use of assistive technology to compensate for the loss of usefulness of a body function needed to participate in activities of daily living; and
- lives with ongoing threat to his or her continual well being.
Alternative options for families that choose other means of education include withdrawing to homeschool, transferring to another school district with open enrollment, or enrolling in an online K – 12 school. Students who do not return to school by November 3, and who have not withdrawn from Anna ISD will be considered absent. All enrolled students are subject to Texas compulsory attendance laws.