Courtesy of LISD
Editor’s note: This story was named a superior news story in the 2021 TAJE Best of Texas contest.
In-person learning will be delayed until at least Sept. 8 throughout the district. All students, including those who signed up for in-person or virtual plus learning, will start their classes remotely on Aug. 19.
Senior and student body president Morgan Zimmerman said she respects the district’s decision.
“I know, as kids, we can be a little opinionated and one minded as a way, and just focus on what we want,” Zimmerman said. “But we do have to look at the surrounding world and realize what’s going on.”
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers announced the new plan in a video released by the district on July 27. He explained that LISD considered every option before deciding to postpone in-person classes.
“We do not take this lightly, because we understand the tremendous ripple effect those decisions have on our families, our staff members, and our community,” Rogers said in the video. “I can say one thing without a doubt, the health and safety of our students, families, staff and communities are at the heart of every choice we make.”
The district made this decision after the Denton County Public Health Department released a statement that said it is unsafe to open schools for in-person classes at this time, as COVID-19 transmission is increasing in the community.
“While I’m personally disappointed because I’ve been so excited about being back in the classroom with students again, I understand that we’re still in a period of high community transmission and I respect the recommendation of Denton County and the decision of our district,” Humanities teacher Jennifer Forthun wrote in an email. “Dr. Rogers will always do what is in the best interest of our LISD community. Knowing how strongly he feels about the value of in-person learning, this had to be a very tough call.”
Sophomore Will Gange, who signed up for in-person learning, supports the district’s decision.
“Whenever they first offered in-person, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Gange said. “So personally, I am not opposed to the idea of having the start of the school year be online until hopefully vaccines come out or something to be able to handle it better.”
However, art teacher Julie Murdock, who initially planned on returning to campus in August, is disappointed with the new plan. She said that while postponing in-person learning could prevent the spread of the virus, she believes students get a better education in a classroom setting.
“I missed the kids so badly,” Murdock said. “It’s just not the same working at home. You give up everything you taught for.”
Gange agrees that missing out on the social aspect in-person school offers will be one of the biggest problems with starting the year online.
“I think a lot of people were probably looking forward to just being in a more social environment again, even if we had to distance and wear masks,” Gange said. “Just to be in an environment outside of their home.”
Murdock is worried that some classes that were initially going to be offered in-person, including her art course, will be difficult to transfer online because students won’t have the materials they need. Last spring, Murdock was not allowed to provide her students with supplies due to possible contamination, so she is planning on focusing her lessons on drawing and art theories until she can return to campus.
“You can’t teach painting without paint, so that one will be a little harder,” Murdock said. “The ceramics teacher and the sculpture teachers are in a difficult situation, because they just don’t have the supplies at home.”
While the district is currently unable to answer every question students, families and teachers have about the new plan, they will continue to make adjustments in response to public health experts and local COVID-19 trends.
“The upside is that it gives us more time to see what happens in the districts that do open in August as planned and continue to look at COVID numbers locally and then develop policy based upon that data,” Forthun stated.
LISD will be updating its website as new information becomes available. Additionally, students can choose between in-person and virtual learning until Aug. 5.
“In the last several months, I have said that we all must be flexible and nimble, and sorry to say, that has not changed,” Rogers said in the video. “There are no easy answers in the midst of a global pandemic, and I truly know how challenging this is for everyone.”
Zimmerman hopes students will face the upcoming year with a positive attitude, especially since nobody really knows what the future looks like.
“I think it’s important for us to be open minded with all the decisions the district is going to make for this school year, but also be excited in a way that, yes, it’s not necessarily what we all hoped for, but it’s what we’re given,” Zimmerman said. “Still have that excitement of school starting. Still have school spirit. We are Marcus Marauders and that’s never going to change.”