President Biden calls for full school reopenings in fall
President Joe Biden has called for all schools to open this fall for in-person learning. He pointed to funding through the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan from March that allowed schools to implement improved ventilation systems, and he noted teachers were prioritized through the Department of Education when COVID-19 shots first became widely available in the spring, with almost 90% of educators and school staff now vaccinated. "We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time," he said. "It's better for our children’s mental and emotional well being, and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely."
Conroe ISD to send COVID-positive students home
Conroe ISD Superintendent Curtis Null announced on Wednesday evening that the district now has the authority to send students who test positive with COVID home. According to the district’s plan, students who test positive for COVID-19 must be fever-free for at least 24-hours without the help of medication, and must be diarrhea free for at least 24-hours without the help of medication before returning to school. The district will continue with its notification process of COVID cases, alerting parents to positive cases in their student’s school and classroom. “The first level of personal responsibility is don’t send your children to school if they are sick,” Mr. Null said. “We presented last Tuesday that COVID positive people — be it students or parents or educators, staff — should not be at school. And they will not be at school. We now have been given that authority by the state, as we knew it was coming. If you test positive for COVID you will be isolated, which means you’re not allowed to come to school.”
Friendswood phases in new grading system
For the upcoming school year, Friendswood ISD is moving to standards-based grading versus numerical grading at the kindergarten and first-grade levels. A pilot program will also see 11 second-grade classrooms go the standards-based route. The plan is to progressively introduce standards-based grading, adding one grade per year until fifth-graders are put on that standard in the 2025-26 school year.
Coppell ISD hopes to continue as District of Innovation
At its board of trustees meeting on Monday, Coppell ISD leaders said that being a District of Innovation (DOI) has worked out so well the last few years that they wish to continue the initiative. The designation, awarded to Coppell in 2016, gives the district flexibility in certification for educators teaching hard-to-fill positions, such as health sciences. It also provides additional non-instructional days for teachers to receive professional learning and to use data to respond to student needs. To renew its DOI plan CISD must convene a District Education Improvement Council (DEIC) committee to review the plan and its exemptions. Deana Dynis, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning, said considerations on a future plan include exemptions that are no longer needed because of Texas Education Code changes in the last five years, as well as components of the plan that has worked and what has worked for other districts.
Congress gears up for debate over charter school law
In early July, House Democrats released their legislation for funding the U.S. Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers who wrote this fiscal 2022 bill proposed cutting the $440m Charter School Program, which aims to help successful charter schools replicate and expand, by $40m next year. The bill also includes a section stating that no federal funding can go to a charter school “that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school." Supporters of charter schools argue that this would essentially bar all charter schools from contracting with any private entity for a wide variety of services, from meals to backroom office work. In a July 26th letter addressed to House and Senate leaders, more than 60 national, state, and local groups said that “Separating out and dividing public school students - treating their funding differently based on the type of public school they choose and then punishing students who choose to attend one type over another - sends a message that the federal government doesn’t believe all public school students are equal." In response, Democrats say they are targeting charters run by for-profit management organizations; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-CN), the chairwoman of the House appropriations committee, called the letter's rhetoric part of a “well-funded misinformation campaign” that distorts the actual, narrower purposes of the bill. A Democratic staffer said lawmakers are open to improving the bill's language to clarify its intentions.
Humble ISD teachers in line for $2,000 COVID retention stipend
Returning Humble ISD employees can look forward to receiving a COVID-19 retention stipend at the start of the 2021-22 school year following unanimous approval by the district's board of trustees. All eligible full-time teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors will receive a one-time stipend of $2,000, while all other eligible staff will receive a one-time payment of $1,000 on or before the September 30th paycheck.
Virginia judge dismisses case targeting transgender student policies
A Virginia judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by faith-based conservative groups challenging guidelines on the treatment of transgender students in public schools, ruling that the group lacked standing. The Founding Freedoms Law Center and Christian Action Network filed separate lawsuits against the Virginia Department of Education in March after the state came up with its guidelines. The two cases were consolidated into a single lawsuit in Lynchburg Circuit Court. The department's guideline focus on protecting and affirming trans children, calling on schools to do things like respect their name, gender, and pronouns and to let children use restrooms that match their gender. Children whose gender doesn’t match the one they were assigned at birth often face discrimination and harassment, impacting their ability to succeed in school. In his opinion, Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson wrote that “because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards.” While the dismissal limits future statewide challenges, the fight will continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the school year starts.
US News and World Report
Amended lawsuit over bullied Huntsville student drops 3 defendants
Three defendants have been removed from a federal discrimination lawsuit against Alabama's Huntsville City Schools by the family of a student who say he killed himself in 2019 as a result of being bullied in school because he was gay. The family of Nigel Shelby, who was 15 when he took his own life, amended its lawsuit against the school district in a filing last week. The amended lawsuit also removes all references to a school administrator’s suggestion that a suicide note might be found in Shelby’s backpack. School district Superintendent Christie Finley as well as school administrators Aaron King and David Whitener are not listed as defendants in the amended lawsuit. The only remaining defendants are the board of education and Jo Stafford, who at the time was the administrator of the Freshman Academy at Huntsville High School when Shelby was a student. Despite the changes, the lawsuit still maintains its original premise - school officials, specifically Stafford - did nothing to help Shelby despite being made aware on multiple occasions of the problems he was facing.
New LED lighting system can help sanitize school buses
Aerospace engineering company Waypoint Interiors has launched a dual light system designed to combat deadly viruses and germs on a variety of commercial vehicles, including school buses. Hubbell Lighting has licensed Waypoint to use its Spectra Clean 405 nanometer (nm) light, which is used by airlines to help sanitize passenger seating areas during flu season and viral outbreaks. Waypoint has added a stronger 280 UV-C light to the system; it says that the initial cost to districts is less than one year of chemical sanitizing considering materials, handling, and labor.
School Bus Fleet
U.S. emphasizes commitment to international students
The U.S. Government has announced a “renewed commitment” to promote the United States as a study destination for international students as well as the benefits of global academic engagement. The joint statement by the Departments of State and Education comes after a decrease in international student interest to study in the US due mostly to policies considered unwelcoming under the previous administration. “The United States cannot afford to be absent from the world stage,” the statement reads. “U.S. leadership and engagement makes an essential difference abroad, as well as at home. Indeed, in today’s interconnected world, our foreign and domestic policies are inextricably intertwined in pursuit of a preeminent goal – improving the lives of the American people.” In the 2019-2020 academic year, US higher education institutions registered a slight decline in the number of international students, with sentiment dampened by high tuition fees and concern that Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows international students to work in the US for an initial period of 12 months, would be discontinued.