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TEA suggesting school districts make big changes in response to COVID-19

The Texas Education Agency is proposing year-long school calendars in order to make up for lost time.

MIDLAND, Texas — The Texas Education Agency is suggesting big changes for school districts. 

The agency's expectation is that students will be behind on their education when school starts back up, an issue they call the "COVID slide." 

To make up for that lost time, the Texas Education Agency is suggesting that intersessional calendars be implemented for the foreseeable future.

"An intersessional calendar, or a calendar that's year-round, whatever you may reference it to, speaks to probably every nine weeks there's a two-week break," said Orlando Riddick, Midland ISD Superintendent. 

Riddick believes that throughout the 2020-2021 school year the district will see what he calls "microclosures" because of COVID-19.

"We know that at this point there's going to be what I call 'mircoclosures' where schools will close because of staff, or a student, or a family member that's connected to one or the other that we may have to close a school down for a duration of time, let's call it fourteen days," said Riddick. 

A year-round calendar schedule could help schools account for these lost days and remain flexible among the uncertainty.

The Texas Education Agency is also advising school districts to get ready for longer Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring Breaks in case of a COVID-19 resurgence. 

"We have to develop or think about a calendar that works that way," said Riddick. 

This is just a TEA suggestion for now, but this isn't the first time MISD has looked at moving the district to a year-round schedule. 

"A few board meetings ago, when we were presenting our traditional calendar, we brought to the community as well what a year-round calendar could look like as well that had these very elements built-in," said Riddick. "Even before we got dazed with this entire COVID-19 scenario around what school could look like."

In reality, not even Riddick knows what schools in Midland will look like just yet. 

Right now the approved 2020-2021 school year calendar is based on a traditional schedule, but he does believe that there could be big benefits to switching to an intersessional, or year-round calendar. 

"Time... that's one of the elements. After the 9 weeks, you get this two-week break so that not only affords the families and students time to refresh and get started again," said Riddick. "That two-week break you could actually use the first week as a type of recovery time for students who are still lagging in concepts academically, you could bring them in say, half-day, that first week from 8-12 so they're able to gain more exposure in the work and then have the following week off."

Next week, the intersessional calendar will be presented to the board for consideration. 

If approved, Midland's use of the intersessional calendar will not be unique in West Texas, as Socorro ISD in El Paso has implemented this practice district-wide. 

Ector County ISD added that they are considering a number of ways that their calendar could be adjusted, but that no decision has been made yet. 

If ECISD were to move towards this schedule, there will already be a blueprint for its implementation in the county. Gale Pond Alamo is an ECISD magnet school that has followed a year-long schedule for over fifteen years. 

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