The Houston ISD Board of Education will consider whether to pursue District of Innovation status when it holds a virtual meeting late Thursday afternoon. Such a designation would allow the district more flexibility in scheduling, hiring and issuing class credit to students, beginning with the 2021-22 school year.
The largest school district in Texas also is considering its options for a 2020-21 academic year that likely will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
HISD, which like all other school districts in the state has had its campuses closed since mid-March, said in a statement Wednesday that it is prepared to continue educating all of its 200,000-plus students through virtual distance learning. If local, state and federal health officials allow students to return to campuses in 2020-21, either on a full-time or part-time basis, HISD said it is prepared for that possibility as well.
“HISD continues to explore all options as it relates to the 2020-21 school year,” the district said.
Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency issued statewide recommendations for adjusting 2020-21 school calendars to account for possible closures related to COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, as well as negative impacts on student achievement caused by missed classroom time. Among the recommendations are to have earlier start dates, later end dates and longer intersessional breaks — with the ability to use those breaks for remediation days — along with employing a mix of remote learning and staggered in-person instruction.
The TEA recommendations said school districts have several routes toward moving up the start date of their academic calendars. Among them are receiving designations as a District of Innovation or as a Year-Round System.
HISD said in a Thursday news release that it is considering becoming a District of Innovation so it can “exercise greater control over decisions impacting positive educational outcomes for students.” The resolution to initiate the process of becoming a District of Innovation, which will be presented to the school board, outlines the following exemptions from state law that HISD plans to seek:
- Starting the school earlier than the fourth Monday in August
- Hiring qualified industry professionals to teach Career and Technical education (CTE) courses in areas where the district struggles to fill vacancies
- Exercising flexibility with the minimum attendance for class credit requirement (90 percent attendance rule)
If the school board approves the resolution, HISD said the District of Innovation designation would take effect in time for the 2021-22 school year.
Thursday’s virtual board meeting, scheduled to start at 5 p.m, can be viewed live online at www.hisdtv.org and on Xfinity channel 18 or AT&T U-verse channel 99.