The Killeen Independent School District school board reviewed the requirements and challenges associated with offering a virtual learning platform Tuesday night.
During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, KISD’s Chief Learning Officer for Secondary Schools Susan Buckley provided an overview of Senate Bill 15, which funds remote, virtual instruction for public school districts.
“District’s last year, part of the reason we couldn’t offer it was the funding went away, so now they are offering ADA (average daily attendance) funding to be received for the district for offering remote learning,” Buckley said.
Signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 9, SB 15 caps the number of students allowed to attend class virtually at 10% of the district’s population.
About 4,400 KISD students would be eligible to attend school virtually under SB 15’s 10% cap.
According to the district’s overview, students must meet a number of state-required criteria in order to be deemed eligible for virtual learning.
To be eligible for virtual learning, a student must have a C or higher in courses taken virtually or remotely the preceding school year and have fewer than 10% unexcused absences.
The number of secondary students in the district who meet SB 15’s stipulations equals about 6,585 students, Buckley said.
“For current sixth- through 12th-graders, we have approximately 32% that qualify, that passed their STAAR test, were in good attendance and passed their core content,” she said.
When the district surveyed interest in virtual learning in March, about 810 students said that they would like to attend school virtually.
“I think at that time most students were ready to see their friends and be back in school,” Buckley said of the survey’s results.
Buckley listed 18 decision items — including staffing, location, class size — that would need to be addressed if the school board opted to move forward with a virtual option.
“A lot of this we created a little bit last year, so we have stuff we can dust off and revise,” she said.
Considering the district is still hiring teachers for the current 2021-2022 school year, KISD Superintendent John Craft said staffing would present a hurdle in developing a virtual platform under SB 15.
“I think a virtual education platform could possibly serve some of students, maybe not the vast majority, but some of our students,” Craft said. “One of the biggest challenges we have before us right now, as Susan mentioned, is staffing. It’s just going to be really difficult, I believe, to staff seeing as we’re still working to fill vacancies particularly at the secondary level.”
Craft questioned the appropriateness of a virtual platform for students at the elementary school level.
“There are also some really significant concerns with early childhood literacy skills and being able to deliver the instruction necessary for students to build those foundational building blocks and skill sets particularly at the elementary level as it pertains to early childhood literacy skills,” he said. “I have some real concerns and reservations just in regards to the appropriateness of such a platform. A lot of the questions are being answered, but as questions are being answered, it’s evolving into more questions.”
The superintendent said the district would continue to look into offering a virtual learning option for KISD students.
“We’ll be providing further information in the near future but the staffing and of course just program appropriateness are two of the big challenges that I foresee,” he said. “It’s not to say they won’t be navigated but they are not easy.”