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College Station school board trustees vote to move first day to Aug. 18
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College Station school board trustees vote to move first day to Aug. 18

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The College Station school board approved an adjustment to the school calendar on Thursday, moving the first day of school to Tuesday, Aug. 18.

The board’s decision changes the start date from Aug. 13 back to the original one selected when the calendar was first approved in January. The other changes made to the revised calendar, which was approved last month, remain the same.

“I didn’t in May and June anticipate that we’d be talking about the calendar again in July,” College Station Superintendent Mike Martindale said.

In June, the board — along with many other districts in the state — chose to move the first day to Aug. 13 following recommendations from the state for districts to build extra time into their calendar to account for unforeseen closures, noting emergency waivers would not be available like they were in the spring. At that point, he noted, the Texas Education Agency had not given guidance that remote instruction would be an option or be funded if districts provided the option.

“Circumstances have changed and moved us to this day and time,” he said. TEA announced in early July districts must provide in-person and online options for students, allowing parents up to two weeks before the start of school to decide which mode of instruction they prefer, and that they would receive funding for students who choose the online option.

As circumstances and guidance change, Martindale and multiple board members agreed the decision made last month was the right decision, as was Thursday’s adjustment. The additional three days gives district employees more time to prepare for both in-person and online learning from an instructional and operational standpoint.

“That additional time just allows our folks a little more time to focus on the details, not feel as rushed,” he said, calling the situation another new opportunity for public schools. “It is still a significantly compressed timeline for what they have before them. It allows just a little bit more time to cross T’s and dot I’s.”

Understanding it is one more change for the community, he said, he hoped moving back to the original start date would have less of an impact on families.

Board member Kimberly McAdams said she wants to have a discussion with the district and the Brazos County Health District about if the district should visit the option of starting the school year entirely online.

“Not saying what the answer would be, but I feel like the discussion should be had,” she said.

Parents and teachers were asked to fill out a survey about if they prefer to return to campus or continue learning or teaching remotely.

At the time of the meeting, Martindale said, the district had received more than 12,300 parent surveys with about 62% selecting on-site instruction and the remaining 37% choosing virtual instruction.

The district anticipates enrollment of about 14,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year, and parents who do not select an instruction model will be placed into the on-site model by default. All parents are allowed to change their selection at the end of each grading period.

Of teachers who submitted surveys, 17% said they preferred teaching virtually, 59% wanted to return to campuses, and the remaining 24% did not have a preference.

Those survey results have led the district to prepare for the first day of school happening both in person and online on Aug. 18, he said, unless something changes in the state’s recommendations, the Brazos County Health District advises otherwise or the situation “changes very quickly” in the next few weeks.

Bryan Superintendent Christie Whitbeck noted during a recent Brazos County Health District news conference her district could make a calendar change also.

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