Local school districts account for all students
Every student in Pilot Point, Aubrey and Tioga ISDs was accounted for during the COVID-19 closure.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools had to switch to a distance learning format after spring break and continued it through the end of the school year. About a month after the schools closed their doors, Denton ISD employees were unable to contact 777 students, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
PPISD, AISD and TISD each took a proactive approach in communicating with their students and investing in needed equipment.
“I don’t know if it was anything magical that we did,” PPISD Acting Superintendent Harold Colson said. “I think the main thing is we were just persistent.”
Some students were harder to contact than others, but the principals, assistant principals and teachers in Pilot Point pulled their weight by constantly calling and emailing, Colson said.
“At one of our campuses, for a few kids, we even had to do home visits to gain that contact with them, just because of their situation,” he said. “I think more than anything it was just them, teachers and administrators, and everybody just being persistent.”
The district made the commitment to maintain almost daily communications with students and families via email and phone calls when the COVID-19 crisis first began, Colson said.
“Once we got to a certain point where we did not hear back then we utilized the home visit where we had [our school administators and student resource officers] to actually go out and knock on doors,” he said.
If students had limited internet access or access to the needed equipment, the district worked out ways to help with whatever was needed, Colson said.
“A lot of kids, we’re mailing packets to, we’re mailing instructional support packets to and they’re getting their work that way,” he said.
School staff has spent time putting packets together and physically mailing out in self-addressed envelopes for students to get their work and be able to send the work back, Colson said.
Overall, the district sent out about 200 packets, Colson said.
Other districts used the packet method but set up pick-up lines, Colson said. But PPISD decided to mail them.
“By us taking that approach and again, not just leaving it up to them saying come up to the Intermediate between 9-12 on Monday [helped],” he said. “… Initially, at the very beginning, us taking that proactive step and mailing and visiting homes, I really think that was a step in the right direction to get that 100%.”
Aubrey ISD was also able to account for every student in their district, Superintendent David Belding said.
"There may be varying degrees in work completion,” he said. “But we made contact with every one of them or accounted for where they were.”
Into the second week of the crisis, Aubrey teachers and staff reported the names of the students with whom they were having difficulties making contact to the district, Belding said. And then the district began calling and visiting homes.
“Obviously, the home visits were at a distance and with masks and all the protocols we need to keep everybody safe, but we went to student homes and were able to interact with families in that manner.”
There were some students that moved in with other family members and other community members, but the district was still able to account for them, Belding said. The district also invested in better technology to assist students.
“We purchased 30 hot spots, and we distributed 28 of those hot spots to families if they didn’t have good internet access or any internet at all,” he said. “So, we were able to distribute those.”
The district also distributed more than 300 devices to families in need, Belding said.
“I would say the vast majority of folks were engaging with us,” he said. “But there were a number of people that we had to go and reach out to.”
In the beginning, there was about an 85% engagement rate, Belding said. And, it increased over time.
“We knew early on that that was something we were wanting to have a good handle on, the very best we could,” he said. “And, it’s all about support and making sure that families out there have what they needed to help the kids continue some schoolwork and continue with the instructional support we’re providing.
Tioga ISD also didn’t have any unaccounted for students during the school closure, Tioga Superintendent Charles Holloway said.
“We were good, we kind of prepped everybody before we went out what we were going to do,” he said.
Students from fourth grade up already had school-issued Chromebooks, which helped make it easier for the district officials to connect with them, Holloway said. The students have been using Chromebooks for a few years now, so the schools just let them hang on to them during the closure.
“All ours were accounted for, whether they’ll come back or not, I don’t know,” he said. “While we were out, they were turning in assignments and stuff like that, teachers were checking on them, we were lucky in that aspect.”
Finding hotspots was a problem at first, but that eventually worked itself out, Holloway said.
“Again, I’m not saying we were any more prepared than anybody else was, but we did have our Chromebooks in our kids’ hands,” he said.
Only one student had to have their Chromebook repaired, Holloway said.
“Now, your earlier grade levels, they sent out packets, and even some of our other kids that had Chromebooks took packets, too,” he said. “There are some people that just work better off No. 2 pencil and pad than they do off paper.”
The district used every avenue available to it to check on its students, Holloway said.
“We kind of used every little thing we could to keep an eyeball on everybody,” he said. “Believe it or not, there’s a lot of kids that miss teachers.”