In a special board meeting Monday, Oct. 12, Navasota Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve Superintendent Stu Musick’s recommendation to discontinue remote learning at Navasota ISD. Students will be required to return to on-campus instruction Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Musick said Tuesday, Oct. 20 was selected as the date because it begins the second nine-week grading period for the district.
Principals from each campus spoke at the meeting and addressed remote learning concerns with the board and the public. Navasota High School Principal Kristi Ramsey said she received a new failure report at noon the day of the meeting. “I have some pretty disturbing numbers to report,” stated Ramsey. One of the most disturbing things Ramsey said are the students failing four or more classes. “Students take eight classes, so if you’re failing four or more you are really setting yourself up for trouble.”
Currently failing four or more classes are 12 seniors in remote learning and no seniors that are on campus. There are 23 remote learners that are juniors failing four or more and one that is on campus. In the sophomore class there are 24 remote students failing four or more and five on campus. There are 45 freshman remote learners failing four or more courses and 12 on campus. “I don’t know if you know very much about freshman, but freshman year is a tough year. Everybody is adjusting whether they are on campus or at home,” explained Ramsey.
“This is devastating. All of these numbers that I am reporting are devastating and I know that if we had these students on campus we would be making a bigger difference than we are with them being at home,” said Ramsey.
Principals from other campuses throughout the district reported numbers with unacceptable failure rates and also stressed the bearing remote learning has on teachers whether it be in lesson planning, checking attendance or attempting to connect with parents and students often times without response. Many students that began
Many students that began the school year enrolled in remote learning have since returned to campus. Some of those students returned because of contact that was made by principals reaching out to the parents.
One of the major concerns also lies within the younger students. John C. Webb Elementary Principal Emily Nichols said 40% of her students are reading below their grade level. This also affects their learning in other subjects. She said teaching a child to read while they are at home is tough and a concern that teachers have.
Not all campuses are seeing negative effects in remote learning, Bizzell Academy has seen a positive change. Bizzell is an alternative campus that helps at risk students that may have gotten behind their graduation plan for any reason obtain enough credits to graduate. Principal Dr. Jamie Bates said attendance has increased for her students because of the flexibility. Given the opportunity to learn remotely, she said more students are participating in learning. Many of her students are now able to work jobs and attend school. Some of her students have expressed they have full time jobs they don’t want to lose and if required to come back to campus they will likely just drop out.
“At Bizzell they are using Ingenuity which is an online platform. Even if they are on campus, the bulk of their work is all done online,” explained Musick. Bates stated that her students have also logged in for interventions and tutoring when requested. Because Bizzell is an alternative learning campus, they are able to continue remote learning.
The school board also heard from members of the community. Todd Wisner stated that he works at the bio safety office at Texas A&M and is a professional risk assessor for biohazardous work in the lab. “All the talk tonight has been about the academics and none of it has been about the health risk and that should be taken into consideration when discussing this,” said Wisner.
Wisner added that the biggest concern is that the school has had really good COVID-19 numbers and that may make the district a little complacent and cavalier about how they progress. “We need to keep an eye on the long picture and that is that we don’t have one kid get hurt by this virus,” Wisner said. “We’re here to protect and take care of our kids first. Education, yeah it’s important but we got to have them healthy first before we can educate them.”
A couple spoke about the risk of their children bringing home the virus to family members with a compromised immune system. They stated their children are doing good with remote learning and shouldn’t be forced to return to school because of those who aren’t.
The board also heard from teachers within the district who worry about the workload and morale of the teachers. Rocky Whitely, high school teacher, that has taught for seven years, said the lesson plan preparation has tripled. Whitely said in addition to the increased workload teachers still have responsibilities at home, have to find time for studies if they are continuing their education or other responsibilities elsewhere. “We’re here to support you, we’re here to take care of the students in Navasota, but please we ask that you take care of us too,” said Whitely.
The board agreed this is one of the toughest decisions they have had to make because they know it is their duty to not harm students and to educate them. With safety measures the district has implemented and COVID-19 numbers staying low, they agreed it was time to discontinue remote learning and begin to educate the students on campus again.