Katy ISD to offer virtual learning for students in grades K-6 beginning Aug. 30

Katy ISD to offer virtual learning for students in grades K-6 beginning Aug. 30

Katy ISD’s Katy Virtual Academy will be available for students in kindergarten through sixth grade from Aug. 30-Oct. 15. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

As the number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continues to increase in the Greater Houston area, Katy ISD administration announced it would offer online learning for students in kindergarten through sixth grade who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The KISD board of trustees unanimously approved funding the Katy Virtual Academy for the first nine weeks of the 2021-22 school year using federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding during an Aug. 10 special meeting. The district’s allocation for the second and third round of ESSER funding totals $97 million, according to Texas Education Agency documents.

The application period for KVA begins at 10 a.m. Aug. 11 and runs through midnight Aug. 17. Parents and guardians with questions about the virtual option or application process can email [email protected] or call 281-234-2060.

While the first day of in-person learning in KISD is Aug. 18, KVA will begin Aug. 30. Deputy Superintendent Leslie Haack said students participating in KVA will remain at home until the start of virtual learning, and these missed minutes will be recovered.

Students enrolled in KVA will not be able to transfer to in-person learning during the first nine weeks. As of right now, KVA will be available through Oct. 15.

“At that time, I would assume that we would re-evaluate should any new statistics or anything come,” trustee Rebecca Fox said.

Haack said KVA teachers will provide online instruction from a centralized location, and online classes will include students from a variety of home campuses.

While Haack said she was not exactly sure what staffing for KVA would look like, KVA teachers could be available campus staff, certified substitutes or retired teachers. Campus teachers should be prepared for in-person learning Aug. 18, and the district aims to prevent these teachers from switching to online instruction Aug. 30.

Because the Texas Legislature has not funded virtual learning, Superintendent Ken Gregorski said KISD will not receive average daily attendance funding for students participating in KVA. Although he did not provide an estimated cost for the program, he said the district would lose out on approximately $35-$40 per day per student enrolled in KVA.

“I am a bit hopeful that our state Legislature will do something with virtual funding, although that did not get done in the regular session,” Gregorski said. “Money for that virtual program would be very beneficial to our schools. We just need our Texas House and our Senate to take a look at that virtual bill and see if they will fund that for our districts so that we would have a funding mechanism.”

Board President Greg Schulte said 100 Katy ISD parents and community members registered to speak during the more than two-hour public comment portion of the Aug. 10 meeting.

The board heard from speakers who were in favor of a virtual learning option, requiring masks and other COVID-19 protocols as well as those who were against these measures, saying they restricted personal freedoms. The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all individuals regardless of vaccination status wear masks in schools.

Additionally, the board of trustees approved funding for COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 paid leave and remote conferencing for students at home for an extended period for a temporary medical condition.

COVID-19 testing resumed at the Merrell Center on Aug. 9. Testing is free for employees and their insured dependents and costs $125 for non-insured dependents. The district is also working on confirming logistics for student testing, which is paid for by the state, Haack said.

The district also approved 10 days of paid COVID-19 leave for staff who test positive for the virus or whose school-aged children test positive for the virus. These 10 days are in addition to the employee’s personal leave bank.

Lastly, KISD will offer remote conferencing, also known as intermittent school to home learning, for extended absences related to a temporary medical condition, including a positive COVID-19 case or close contact.

Neighboring district Fort Bend ISD announced details of its online learning program for students in grades pre-K through six in a press release Aug. 9.

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