LHISD focused on future, closing out academic year

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

With the bulk of the logistics behind it, and confirmation last week from Gov. Greg Abbott that students would not return to school during the academic year, Liberty Hill ISD has been able to turn its attention to ironing out policies for finishing this year and preparing for the next.

“We’ve come a long way in a month, not just Liberty Hill, but every school district,” said Superintendent Steve Snell. “I can’t thank parents and teachers enough. You want to talk about a group effort, there’s no way this could be done without parent involvement and support.”

But the announcement from the Governor was bittersweet for district personnel.

“It’s hard for teachers and students when we got word we were extending (at home learning) until the end of May,” said Dr. Toni Hicks, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability. “I think everybody cried. It’s so unusual to not have the things we are accustomed to and traditions to celebrate one another, the friends and connections we have with one another. We’ve just kind of ended things without getting to say goodbye or wrap up.”

Liberty Hill ISD has established how grading will be done for the entire Spring semester, and how that will fit into grade point calculation at the high school. The determination was made that beginning with the fourth six weeks grading period, a grade of pass or incomplete will be given.

“We are taking into account all students,” Hicks said. “That’s why we went with a pass or incomplete system. Students that we can’t reach or maybe don’t have the level of access and therefore aren’t able to indicate progress are why we went with an incomplete. Our teachers and staff will get together with our administrators based on what they know of the student, based on their understanding of the big ideas and their progress, the grade placement committee will make a decision to move that student forward with supports.”

There are still some students the district has had trouble getting to or maintaining contact with through the campus closures.

“It’s a very small number of students we haven’t been able to reach and we’re still working toward that so I feel confident in saying we will be able to reach all kids by the end,” Hicks said.

The high school is offering a credit recovery option for students that failed a class the first semester.

“Any high school student who failed first semester, we are providing an opportunity for them to recover that grade for a maximum of a 70 and we’re using credit recovery to do that,” Hicks said. “Teachers who have students who failed a course are reaching out to those students, creating modules for them to indicate understanding concepts they did not show in the first semester so that they can earn a grade up to a 70.”

While instruction will continue through the original last day of school – May 21 – there will be no final exams.

“As we go through this COVID crisis we certainly understand it is a very challenging time for our kids and our families and not knowing what access they have to resources and the situation all families are dealing with right now there will be no final exams for this semester,” Hicks said.

Snell is pleased with how much has been accomplished by LHISD and other school districts since spring break.

“Having teachers reinvent the wheel has been an amazing process to watch, but it’s also been very inspiring to see how school districts across the state have come together,” he said. “The amount of communication, support and collaboration from Williamson County school districts and Austin area districts and statewide has been awesome to see. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 25 years of education.

“Texas has dealt with hurricanes frequently, they’ve dealt with tornadoes and with the explosion in West,” Snell said. “We have manuals that help us with these things, but there’s nothing to prepare us for this and it changes rapidly. People have just stepped up and done it. We understand there has been a lot of frustration along the way, but you want to talk about teamwork and positive attitudes, this has shown the championship culture of Liberty Hill shining through for the entire community.”

A new hurdle for the district is how to get materials back from students and allow them to get their belongings from the closed campuses.

“We’re working on how we’re going to gather materials such as textbooks and library books and there will be more to come on that to make sure it is done safely and these resources get back to our schools so we don’t lose them,” Hicks said.

There is no definitive plan or schedule as of yet, but Snell said it is coming soon.

“The logistics of social distancing and getting 5,000 kids up to the school to get their personal items will be a little bit problematic but we think we have a good start on a plan,” he said.

Then there is the question of how to celebrate graduation for the Class of 2020.

“I would like to see, personally, without putting anyone at risk health wise, to have a graduation ceremony on the night scheduled at Panther Stadium,” Snell said. “In order to do that we would have to do some crazy social distancing and probably limit the amount of spectators to be allowed into the stadium.”

He added that the district has about five weeks to nail down plans, and that all options are being considered.

“From there we’re looking at anything like a possible drive-through graduation ceremony or a live ceremony with people in their cars,” Snell said. “No idea is a bad idea, we want to put it all out there and see what happens.”

New furniture
On Monday, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal for furniture for the new Santa Rita Elementary campus in the amount if $892,800.95.

“We narrowed it down to three leading firms independently,” said project engineer Casey Sledge. “We allowed all three firms to bring furniture to us and we used Rancho Sienna as a location and we got a lot of good staff feedback. After that we followed up and asked for a pricing package.”

The recommendation after staff communication was to go with Meteor Education.

“This will be to fully furnish Santa Rita Elementary including freight, delivery and installation,” Sledge said.

The purchase covers four pre-k classrooms, six classrooms for each other grade level, five collaboration rooms, music room, maker space room, art room, cafeteria, library and administrative offices.

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