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Plano ISD charges forward with fall learning plans



PLANO, TX – Plano ISD Board of Trustees met through teleconference Tuesday night to discuss the district’s plans going into the fall semester. Superintendent Sara Bonser and the district administration team worked around the clock to design a safe plan of action, according to Chief Operating Officer Theresa Williams.

“From the beginning of school closure, it’s been very clear and important to all of the administrative team and the board for all of our staff, students, and families to know that our number one priority has been and continues to be a focus on health and safety,” Bonser said.

The meeting came just a few days after Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement announcing his intent for students to return to in-person instruction. According to Bonser, the statement came as a “surprise,” as the district did not receive word on the statement before its release.

“Texas students will be returning to public schools in person this fall. I will tell you that my goal is to see students back in the classrooms in seats interacting personally with the teachers as well as other students,” he said.

Bonser said she hoped to see the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issue guidance on in-person interaction but did not receive distinct direction.

“While we can all agree that we love nothing more than to see all kids and teachers back in the classrooms, staff interacting with one another in a learning environment that is typical, we also need to be realistic about the safety and health of our staff and students in doing so,” Bonser said.

Without specific guidelines, the administration decided to move forward with planning for the 2020-21 year.

The district’s original focus going into the summer season was on hybrid learning. The model was designed to emphasize parents’ choice in learning. But the district ultimately decided to create a safety-focused in-person plan and an enhanced remote learning plan.

The learning programs are still designed to accommodate individual families’ choice.

“This is a very complex plan,” Williams said. She compared the plans to “building a plane while in flight.”

“We don’t have all of the parameters.”

The district will facilitate a preference option for parents soon, according to Williams.

In reference to the climbing COVID-19 cases in Plano and Collin County, Bonser stressed the district’s role in taking into account the opinions of students, families and staff members.

“We know people are nervous,” Bonser said. “We acknowledge there is fear about the virus. We know that on every side of the equation, we have differing opinions of what should happen. We’re listening.”