Change continues to be a theme at Humble ISD as the school board discussed the new normal of educating students with asynchronous learning, bringing in a new nutrition director, and the possibility of changing board committee procedures during the August board meeting. While some of the meeting was centered around celebrating the changes and work that went into them, portions of the meeting were spent explaining some of the hiccups and difficulties that have been included in the implementation of the changes.
Among the issues explained during the meeting was the cyber-attack that occurred on the very first day. Though some attendees were suspicious of there ever being an “attack” on the system, Executive Director of Technology Dustin Hardin said “[The district] would not lie” about something like that. According to Hardin, when the issue was brought to the attention of the district, an outside agency was brought in to diagnose the problem. The expert said the “information is consistent with a TCP Syn flood attack.”
“We did everything we possibly could,” Hardin said, “I am very proud of my team for what they were able to do.”
Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen gave a shoutout to everyone who has been instrumental in installing the changes within the district as well as highlighting what those changes mean during the inspiring moment which included interviews from teachers and staff about on campus and online learning. Small details like staggered release times and elementary students staying in pods were explained in the video, along with details on precaution and sanitation. The full video can be seen on the district’s website or their YouTube page.
During the community comments segment of the meeting, multiple attendees utilized their 60 seconds of speaking time to bring up concerns on population with on-campus students and the reconsideration of letting secondary students return to on-campus instruction sooner versus keeping learning online for as long as possible for safety. People who were for having students allowed to be on campus full time cited learning, suicide rates, depression in youth, precedent by other districts, and online classroom sizes
Those that opposed having students on campus for learning mentioned safety equipment or PPE, the probability of confirmed cases soon after return to campus, and teacher safety. Some also mentioned supporting all the students with provisions of devices and internet access in order to complete schoolwork.
During the consent items, the board approved consent items L and M, “Request to Extend the Start of the 2020-2021 School Year Transition Beyond the Four-Week Limit” and “Request for 40% Campus Hybrid instruction for 9th-12th Grade Students” respectively. According to the documents for item L, “Implementation of [the district’s plan for returning to school with asynchronous learning] would require an extension of the transition period beyond the four-week limit, especially in light of the Aug. 11 school-start date. Factors that would help expedite a faster end to the transition period would include a continuous decline in weekly coronavirus cases in the Humble ISD jurisdictional area, positivity rates under 5%, and/or the development and implementation of a vaccine on a wide-scale.”
For consent agenda item L, the following was stated by the district:
“Based on the public input and decisions made during the Aug. 3, 2020, special board meeting, the board developed a phased-in transition period for the school start that would address the public concerns about opening the district with anything but a cautious, measured approach.”
For consent agenda item M, the following was stated by the district:
“Based on the decision of the board on Aug. 3 for a Gradual Return to Campuses plan and to meet the two weeks before on-campus instruction deadline, the district submitted the waiver application for 40% Campus Hybrid Instruction for 9th-12th Grade Students on Aug. 4. Approval of the application by TEA will allow the district to continue the A/B schedule for high school students through the remainder of the school year.
“By approving this item, the board ratifies and approves the application submitted by the district on Aug. 4 in compliance with prior board authority and authorizes the superintendent to take all actions necessary for the same.”
The school board also hired Aramark to facilitate the Humble ISD school lunches for the 2020-2021 school year with the possibility to renew the contract up to four years during the consent item portion of the meeting. According to Fagen, this decision came after the previous nutrition director’s retirement over a year ago and weighing all the options and information.
“My student advisory brought up some concerns with the food,” Fagen said. “We went down this path of a third-party approach. All employees within the child nutrition and service division will remain Humble ISD employees and there will be no changes to any of their contracts, working conditions, etc. This is simply trying a new approach with the director position.” The contract will be re-evaluated every year over the four years.
Trustee Robert Scarfo proposed changing the way committees are run to be added to a future board meeting agenda. The board would then discuss allowing the public to watch committee meetings, suggesting that they become open committee meetings. After a poll of the board, the item was added to the October school board meeting to be discussed further.