Fort Worth ISD changes plans for school year after Tarrant County issued health order

Fort Worth ISD says it still plans to start school on time, but it will follow the county's order and offer online-only learning for the first few weeks.

Making sure the lowest-income students have the tools for online learning remains a challenge.

Many parents and staff are thankful to the board and superintendent for delaying in-person learning. But others still have concerns about returning to campus come late September. The board also approved additional funding to help bridge the learning gap.

The Fort Worth ISD school board is working fast to get students and teachers ready for virtual learning come Aug. 17.

On Tuesday, the board approved $2.4 million for the district to buy more Wi-Fi hotspots. That's in addition to the millions spent earlier this year to outfit 6,000 Chromebooks and 6,000 hotspots for students. The district is also spending millions to prepare classrooms.

“We’re spending a lot of money on PPE. We’re spending a lot of money on face shields, plexiglass, fogging machines, hot spots and devices,” said Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner.

The move comes on the heels of a Tarrant County order delaying the start of in-person instruction until Sept. 28 due to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Tarrant County delays in-person school until Sept. 28

Dr. Scribner says 85 percent of Fort Worth ISD students live at or below the poverty line.

“We expect to see historic academic regression,” the superintendent said. “Students have not been in class since March 6 in Fort Worth.”

Fort Worth ISD council of PTAs President Alexander Montalvo says it's vital students don't fall through the cracks.

“We know that with Fort Worth ISD, we're a majority Black and brown district,” Montalvo said. “So we want to make sure we're partnering with everyone in the community so those students have the resources they need to participate virtually.”

Montalvo says PTA's at 71 Fort Worth ISD schools play a crucial role in addressing students' needs.

“We understand any decision that is made impacts families, teachers and students in different ways,” he said.

The district says students with special needs will be given opportunities for in-person learning, although details about how that will work remain unclear.

Fort Worth ISD parents are taking it one day at a time.

“We were hoping we would get to go back. But knowing the numbers, we anticipated it would be delayed. So it wasn't a shock for us,” said parent Haley Zamarripa.

“I'm very thankful that the health department and Fort Worth ISD were thoughtful in their decision,” said parent Tiffany Roger. “Safety is definitely a priority for all of us, especially for our children and teachers.”

Many low-income parents also reply on the district to help feed their kids. Fort Worth ISD has distributed over 900,000 meals since school shut down in March. The superintendent says that will continue through the summer and into the fall.