By Megan Wehring
HAYS CISD — Going to school during the pandemic is like walking on eggshells for many, in fear that they may get sick. Virtual learning is the alternative, still unfamiliar to some, and it is causing a high failure rate for the first nine-week grading period in Hays CISD.
There were 4,444 students failing at least one class for the first nine-week grading period of the 2020-2021 school year, compared to 2,583 students of the 2019-2020 school year, according to Hays CISD.
“We are getting better,” Derek McDaniel, director of curriculum and instruction, said. “That first nine weeks was a steep learning curve for students, parents and teachers. It’s taken us time to adjust.”
McDaniel said the main reason there is a higher failure rate this year compared to last year is because of the increase in virtual learners.
“We didn’t get to train kids in person,” McDaniel said. “We had to train them for virtual learning, virtually and that was a real challenge for the first three weeks. Our virtual failure rate is higher than our in-person failure rate.”
Parents are obligated to embrace the challenge of their children attending school during a pandemic, either virtually or in person. Hays CISD is hosting a training on Thursday, Nov. 19; the training will help parents navigate Schoology, the learning management system, and Teams, where student’s grades and attendance are monitored.
McDaniel advises parents to be more interactive when their child is struggling with their schoolwork.
“They can sit down with their child, start accessing those assignments and make sure their child knows where to access those things and how to access those lessons,” McDaniel said. “They can reach out to their teacher, ask for the teacher to support and what support they can get from the campus to help their child.”
Advisory and homeroom periods within the district are used to help students navigate Schoology, according to McDaniel. Students are given additional support for time and stress management, independent learning skills, asking for help and learning how to be a self-advocate.
“You have to be an advocate for yourself in this new environment,” McDaniel told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “The teacher isn’t there to see you every day in person to recognize when you may be struggling.”
Hays CISD recently updated the 2020-2021 academic calendar to implement asynchronous/virtual days for students each month. Campuses will be open for students who need to be on campus; regular bus service will not run on these days.
“Grading, answering emails, instructional planning; it takes a lot more time for teachers than normal,” McDaniel said. “We’ve tried to identify one day a month where it’s going to be asynchronous only instruction to give teachers additional time to grade, instructional plan and communication with parents.”