After finding out information from the the Texas Education Agency has not yet been published to the website, Aledo ISD Board Secretary Forrest Collins expressed concerns Monday night about what the agency may be doing for future learning and funding.
“FRED, Free Remote Education Delivery system, being developed right now by TEA using CARES Act money. There’s a lot of fear about TEA running curriculum through a computer program to all the districts, basically centralizing everything we do. Imagine this as a common core where instead of us creating our curriculum, it’s all coming from TEA,”Collins said. “It’s very concerning and something we’re keeping an eye on. We know TEA has a lot of power, but we believe in local accountability, local control. The fact that you’re using money that should be earmarked for us to build a computer program is pretty upsetting.”
Collins said another concern is that TEA could require school districts to submit their school calendars for review.
“We need to understand that the calendar is our decision. That is a board local decision. The fear with that is with the COVID-19 things going on — the uncertainty about school — the funding could somehow be tied to that calendar,” Collins said. “Let’s say for some reason we don’t come back and we miss days, are they going to give us waivers? Or are they going to come to us and say, ‘Well, we gave you this opportunity to go to year-round school and you didn’t take it, so we’re not going to give you this money.’ We know that our funding is based on a child being in a seat at a certain time of day and the fact is in Texas, we do not fund every child that is enrolled in school. We fund every child that’s sitting in a seat. So those are things we’re going to be aware of. We’re meeting with [Rep.] Phil King Friday to talk about these things and so we hope we can get to him and continue our local control.”
AISD Superintendent Susan K. Bohn updated the board on state information related to COVID-19 and said that band and athletics met this week to go over requirements for summer activities.
“We were very excited to get to have some students back on campus today in both band and athletics. It’s my understanding that this was just learning how the rules are going to be,” Bohn said. “[From the state] we need to know if there’s going to be a requirement related to either the number of students who can be in a room or a space, or whether there’s going to be a requirement to implement a six-foot rule, so we need to know that spacial number of kids that can be together. That’s pretty important for us to know to be able to run things in the fall. Then, we also really need to know how the state intends to fund public schools in the case of distance learning.”
Bohn said the district has already started creating internal subcommittees to put together a plan and will be surveying parents once information from the state is received.
“The expectation that we have is that there is a possibility that the state guidelines will be just that, only guidance, not requirements. So there may be some significant decisions that we all need to make as a community, as an administrative school board team with respect to how we return in the fall,” Bohn said. “What I want to make sure the community knows is that we’re going ahead and working on planning. I want to make sure that our choice would be to give parents the choice in the fall and we hope that we get the opportunity to do that.”
As for continued distance learning in the fall, Bohn said that will look different if the district needs to go that direction.
“There’s a little bit of misunderstanding about the distance learning that we provided in the spring. We basically had a week to put that together and then a week to implement it with teachers, so the plan would be different for distance learning,” Bohn said. “I just want to be sure our community members know that.”