Temple ISD

The Temple Independent School District announced on Tuesday that it will exclusively offer in-person learning for the 2021-22 academic school year.

Temple ISD Superintendent Bobby Ott — who noted that the decision followed consultation with the Bell County Public Health District — said about 88 percent of Temple ISD’s students are currently enrolled for on-campus instruction.

“Remote instruction has proven to be a far lesser option to in-person learning, in particular for our younger students,” he said in a news release. “Our data shows that students who were enrolled in on-campus learning out-performed their remote learning peers across the board.”

The third-year superintendent cited an increase in student failure rates across his district.

“Failure rates for remote learners, beginning around fifth grade, averaged double the percentage as compared to in-person learners,” Ott told the Telegram. “This percentage grew when compared among high school students.”

He added how the rising failure rates previously led administrators to capitalize on TEA’s January provision that allowed school district’s to require underperforming remote learners to return to on-campus instruction.

“Our campuses reached out to these families and the majority of those students have returned to on-campus instruction and are beginning to show progress in closing any gaps that may have developed,” Ott said. “General conversations with other school district administrators across the state ... have also indicated below average results for remote learners.”

But Temple ISD has plans to further close those instructional gaps.

“TISD will offer a May credit recovery academy at the secondary schools for those that have fallen behind and to recover failing grades,” Ott said. “We will offer summer school as well; and in the event that stimulus money comes to school districts, we will focus on re-engineering plans to enhance summer school and targeted instruction strategies for small groups at the beginning of next school year.”

Strategies will be implemented across Temple ISD’s elementary campuses.

“At the elementary level we will continue our remediation efforts during extra specials, after-school tutoring and Response to Intervention periods built-in to the school day,” Ott said. “If stimulus (funding) comes we will also hire additional interventionists in the fall to shrink the group sizes for differentiated instruction.”

This return to 100 percent in-person learning will require Temple ISD — which has seen a majority of its staff receive a COVID-19 vaccination — to revise its current health and safety protocols. But some local health professionals are confident in the school district’s ability to provide a safe learning environment for its students.

“(Temple ISD is) a model school district,” Dr. Janice Smith, the health authority for Bell County, said in a news release. “I have no reservations about their return to full in-person learning knowing the district will work with us on developing and revising safety protocols next year.”

Given this confidence from Smith, Ott does not believe the shift in instruction will spur negative feedback from the community.

“Judging by the constant increase in students returning to school, I believe that our families have been satisfied with our transparency in communication, collaboration with the Bell County Public Health District and our low case counts,” he said.