Highland Park ISD to make full return to in-person learning amid coronavirus surge

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Starting Tuesday, all students in Highland Park ISD will return to school for in-person learning.

The move comes as local health leaders say our area is experiencing another surge in coronavirus cases.

HPISD Superintendent, Jimmy Hannon, spoke with MyHighPlains.com on Friday and said after reviewing data for the first five weeks, they found students were not doing well with a virtual learning model.

“We had right at 90 kids that were learning from home, and I’m going to say, somewhere close to 30% or so were not passing and then we had some more that we’re not attending school as regularly as what we would like,” Hannon said.

On Monday, Oct. 5, the district announced a complete move back to in-person learning, giving HPISD parents eight days to figure out their next steps.

Hannon said as of Friday during the interview, five students and one staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Based on that lack of success [with virtual learning], we were afraid that we were losing too many of those kids that were at home and so that, coupled with the data that we had from COVID cases, we just felt like it was best for us to call those kids back and have everybody back to school and on campus,” Hannon added.

President of the Amarillo Education Association, Aaron Phillips, who also serves as the junior director from Texas on the National Education Association board, voiced his concern over districts across Texas getting rid of the remote learning option.

“I know it’s a very difficult system to implement. It’s not the best educational setting, but the coronavirus pandemic is not under control in our state,” Phillips said. “So it’s concerning to hear that families are going to have potentially another hardship in an already difficult time.”

According to HPISD, families have some suggested options for schooling moving forward:

  • Come to school for in-person learning
  • Withdrawal to homeschool
  • Utilize the Texas Virtual Academy or other online school

However, Phillips said some districts, including property-poor districts which rely on state funding, stand to lose money if a large number of students withdraw—especially since the state has not yet guaranteed any funding.

“A lot of districts that might otherwise say we are only going to offer in-person and for this year, your family needs to try something different, until you can get back to school,” Phillips added. “It’s putting hardship on the district and making the district make tough choices, because the state has not guaranteed funding, and so you do see, especially with larger districts, a need to say, ‘Well, we’re going to do both, even if it’s breaking us.”‘

Hannon said HPISD will continue virtual learning for students in quarantine or who test positive and need to stay home. Students will see a live stream of classes going on in real time.

Hannon also said there was a staff meeting on Monday, when the announcement about returning to in-person classes was made, about staying on top of virtual learning skills.

When asked how the district would handle a move back to virtual learning, Hannon said: “We need to continue to refine our skills there, continue teaching and the kids that are in our class, using that as a medium, so that whenever those kids do get sent home, or if that’s an entire class, or if it’s an entire campus, whenever they’re at home, they’ll have a lot better skill set then kids were equipped with whenever we started school back in late August.”

Hannon said HPISD staff and students are wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety protocols. He said the district will keep working with the Amarillo Public Health Department as the pandemic continues.

Watch Kaley’s full interviews with HPISD Superintendent Jimmy Hannon and Aaron Phillips below:


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