Fort Worth ISD to offer in-person or online learning option for fall; Dallas ISD hopes to follow suit

The Fort Worth Independent School District is taking “school choice” to a new level as concerns for the coronavirus continue.

Parents will be offered two options for this coming school year: in-person classes or virtual learning.

Dallas ISD is exploring the same option but is awaiting guidance from the state.

A classroom

Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner said feedback helped the district make the decision to provide options for every student and family.

Virtual learning in the fall will be much different than it was during stay-at-home orders in the spring. It will be more robust with higher expectations for students.

Fort Worth ISD says it received 35,000 responses to a survey that highlighted nearly a split decision. About 52 percent prefer traditional school this fall. The district is still waiting to see how much of virtual learning and other details will be state funded.

“All Fort Worth ISD teachers will report to work at a school,” Dr. Scribner continued.  “Whether they are teaching in-person or online -- or both --they will do so from a classroom setting and engage over the course of a usual school day.”

Classroom learning will also be different with the schools following strict health and safety guidelines. Fort Worth ISD parents must choose an option when online enrollment begins on July 1.

“Even though a student is at home as opposed to one being in the classroom, they will be being taught the exact same thing,” said Fort Worth ISD Spokesperson Clint Bond.

Rhonda Sewell says even if she prepares her high school twins to practice safety measures against the coronavirus, all it takes is for them to come across one student who isn’t as safe.

“They could kind of already have it, have the symptoms and their parents not really not paying attention to it,” she said.

Some students tell FOX 4 virtual learning this past spring wasn’t what they hoped.

“It felt weird because I’m so used to being in the classroom with instruction from a teacher rather than a computer,” said student Rakell Sewell.

“Classes go by easier. But at the same time, you learn less,” said Gabriela Burrola.

Families now have a decision to weigh while trying to keep their kids safe. Most of those kids are wanting a return to a sense of normalcy.

“I feel like it’s still going to be a little awkward because no one is going to really know what to say to each other but I think overall we’re all going to be so excited to see each other again.”

Fort Worth ISD promised to provide more specific details about the two options in the coming weeks to help parents make the best choice.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa also wants to give parents the remote learning option. He says 20 percent of parents expressed interest in a recent survey. The state is expected to have more rigorous documentation standards than in the spring.

“And we do have some robust technology systems that will help us document that,” he said.

Hinojosa said he is not waiting for the state to issue guidance before choosing a return to school plan for the fall. The district has purchased Plexiglas dividers for classrooms and lunchrooms, as well as face shields for classroom time.

“It's been really interesting as I'm walking through the grocery stores and my mask on. You don't really see what people are thinking,” Hinojosa said. “Because facial expressions tell a lot in an instructional setting that would be very important. That's why we decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and order those shields for our students.”

Dr. Hinojosa said the district has ruled out having alternate days for school for students since that wouldn't work for homes with two working parents. He believes the Plexiglas divers will enable the district to have 20-25 students in a classroom.

The first day of school for both districts is Aug. 17.