HCISD outlines new formats for school year

HARLINGEN — Choose your path.

The Harlingen school district has released an online brochure detailing the new instructional pathways parents can choose for their children this school year.

Those pathways fall under two broad categories — face-to-face and remote.

And remote for the fall looks somewhat different than it did in the spring, said Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the Harlingen school district.

Noyola recalled how the district had to quickly mobilize in March to create remote learning with a fast turnaround.

“We saw a lot of successes, but there were also a lot of areas where we felt there was room for us to improve and create a better online learning experience for students,” Noyola said.

So when the district opened for summer school with remediation and enrichment classes it offered various models and strategies while incorporating safe practices. Teachers and administrators observed what worked and what didn’t, and the result is the Harlingen CISD Pathway to Reopening 2020-2021.

“We are going to be calling, texting, emailing and putting this document on our social media and website,” said Shane Strubhart, spokesperson for the Harlingen school district.

“Parents can read through it and then click on the link to choose their pathway,” Strubhart said. “That’s how we plan to distribute it is through those mediums. We’re not printing it for safety reasons, we’re trying to minimize people coming into the building.”

Harlingen Superintendent Art Cavazos hailed the release of the plan and the creation of the new pathways.

“As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we have put together a plan that will allow the option for face-to-face, synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning,” Cavazos said.

Remote learning has been further divided into synchronous (live) and asynchronous (self-paced) instruction.

“We want to take every measure possible to ensure the safety of our students and staff and continue to deliver high quality instruction that our community has come to expect,” Cavazos said. “The Pathway to Reopening plan brings clarity in these uncertain times as we prepare for the start of a new school year. I encourage parents to review the plan and select their pathway.”

The online Pathway to Reopening is the result of what Noyola called an instructional reset, a redesign of how the district does instruction. The district directed those efforts toward both remote learning and the face to face format in classrooms. One surprising and unexpected result was a change in how face to face learning is conducted.

“One of the lessons we learned was that we really needed to educate our students on how you navigate through online instruction,” Noyola said. “How do you best utilize technology and how do our teachers integrate technology into what they do on a daily basis. So that skill set then transfers to what we do in remote instruction.”

The district has emphasized in recent years the four Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Noyola pointed out that one of the challenges of remote learning is to continue pursuing those principles.

“We have redesigned the lessons that we deliver,” Noyola said. “We have done a lot of training with our staff this summer on how do you deliver effective instruction that integrates the technology whether its with students sitting in front of you physically or sitting at home remotely.”

Harlingen school board president Eladio Jaimez said the health and safety of all HCISD families is the board’s number one priority.

“We want to provide some clarity and peace of mind amidst these uncertain times with a well-thought-out plan that addresses some of the main concerns about returning to school,” Jaimez said. “I commend the HCISD team for developing a comprehensive plan our community can be proud of.”