Cy-Fair ISD looks to keep the ‘resilient’ school calendar, puts families, teachers, students ahead of politics

Last minute changes to upcoming school calendar go to vote Tuesday

The proposed upcoming school calendar (left) compared to the already board-approved calendar on the right, as presented during the June 11, 2020, Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees working meeting. * Update: The school board approved the changes to the calendar on June 16, 2020. (screenshot)

Cy-Fair ISD looks to keep the ‘resilient’ school calendar, puts families, teachers, students ahead of politics

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CYPRESS — The Cy-Fair ISD school board looked at proposed changes for sticking with the previously approved 2020-2021 school calendar earlier tonight, June 11, 2020.

During tonight’s board of trustees’ work session, the Cy-Fair community’s education representatives also learned that the state of Texas currently intends to keep the same state testing calendar, despite pushing for districts to change their instructional calendars deeper into the summer after the much despised STAAR testing would be completed.

After losing 52 days, roughly a third of the school year, of in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 coronavirus last school year, Texas schools have grappled with how to move into the coming school year. The Texas Education Agency suggested that independent school districts change their calendars — something virtually unheard of across the state. The TEA suggested either year-round school or an “intersessional” calendar.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Or do they?

Making changes to the upcoming school year would only cause further disruption to the community: Not every family is back to normal, nor would families want longer breaks during unusual times. For example, parents with Kindergarteners could have a major childcare issue on their hands if holiday breaks were to last weeks instead of days.

The district consulted two committees of principals (grade school and high school) and recalled the previous calendar committee that was manned by community and business leaders and teachers, according to Dr. Linda Macias, CFISD’s chief academic officer.

“We anticipate this will be multiple years in closing the gap,” Macias said, explaining that educators are concerned with a longer-than-usual summer learning loss that may equate to nearly losing an entire year of school in certain subject areas.

Instead of the usual 8,000 to 8,500 Cypress students in summer school programs, the district currently has approximately 37,000 students in summer school programs to mitigate the summer learning loss.

District of Tradition

Since the district has not been approved as a “district of innovation” by the state, it is unable to have the first day of school any earlier than already approved by the trustees, leaving only two options on the table: year round school or something else. Having previously tried year round school — and felt the community backlash — years ago, the trustees were presented with an alternative.

“It’s clear this community did not want year round school,” said Trustee Tom Jackson, about the previous attempt. He added that Cy-Fair’s school calendar is more resilient than either of the TEA’s suggested changes.

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Proposed changes to the 2020-2021 CFISD calendar

Instead, Macias presented the same calendar that was already approved back in January. Albeit, with two functional tweaks (bolded).

  • Firstly, the school day would increase by up to 15 minutes. High schools would only increase by 10 minutes. This extra time is to be utilized similar to “Genius Hour” before school, or like an after-school tutorial. This will put every Cypress school at 450 minutes (7.5 hours) per class day.
  • Macias explained the additional time will multiply into the equivalent of eight additional school days over the course of the school year. However, it would not crash into the 187 days on teacher contracts. This is an issue that other districts seem to be running into with both year round and intersessional plans.
  • While the first and last days of school look to be set in stone, the “snow days” for inclement weather will run the entire month of June.
  • If COVID-19, or major weather events strike the area, forcing CFISD to dip into June 2021, the high school graduations would be rescheduled similarly to how the Class of 2020’s graduations were adjusted, according to Superintendent Dr. Mark Henry. Click to read how the Berry Center was used for outdoor graduations.
Dr. Linda Macias, CFISD’s chief academic officer, explains a proposed upcoming school calendar to trustees during the June 11, 2020, Cy-Fair ISD school board work meeting. (screenshot)

Cypress Athletics

While strength and conditioning camps started on Monday (click to read), the question is still whether or not fall sports such as the big three of Texas high school football, volleyball, and cross country, can occur. And if they do get to start their seasons, the potential for pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks is still a looming threat.

The board posited the concept, but the analysis was summed up that Cypress student-athletes are in a better position than the competition that’s adjusting into non-traditional instructional calendars. Other school’s teams taking seemingly random weeks off will put CFISD into positions of strength when the whistle blows.

This concept is similar to what we see with the mandatory “bye week” in high school football coming at the wrong time and it can cripple a football team’s season. In Texas high school football, there are up to 10 games in a regular season that are spread across 11 weeks.

And other districts that are switching to intersessional or year-round calendars would have one or two weeks of no school in the middle of a season. This would conceivably give schools using “traditional” calendars a slight advantage on the field.

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What’s next?

The board of trustees is scheduled to meet Tuesday night in a regular board meeting, June 16, 2020 at 6 p.m.

Until approved, the proposed changes to the upcoming school calendar are not in effect.

Additionally, the over-$1-billion budget is expected to be approved, as well as a resolution regarding the current moral crisis beset across the country is expected to be adopted.

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