Nearly 20 HISD students and teachers
were among a select group from around the state who were invited to attend the
prestigious Tapia Say virtual STEM Camp at Rice University this summer.
At the summer camp, which is
sponsored by ExxonMobil, students
experienced five days of online STEM experiences led by Rice professors and
experienced facilitators, which focused on building problem solving and
communications skills. Each camper was challenged to design their own heatsink,
simulating the process through which heat is transferred away from the
processor in a computer to keep the device from overheating.
The Houston Independent School District will receive $1
million from the Moody Foundation to help close the digital divide by
purchasing computers for HISD’s Achieve 180 students on some of the district’s
The funds will be used to purchase more than 2,000 devices
for students in pre-K through fifth grade at schools where Achieve 180 program
is in place. Achieve 180 is a research-based action plan to support,
strengthen, empower, and increase student achievement in underserved and
underperforming HISD feeder pattern communities.
Starting with the
second six weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, Houston Independent School
District families will be required to select either in-person or virtual instruction
for students. The first day of the second six weeks is October 19.
The Houston Independent School District Board of
Education on Thursday unanimously approved 9-0 a resolution concerning virtual instruction that
provides flexibility for the district, if needed.
Currently, HISD is scheduled to begin in-person
instruction on October 19, 2020, pending COVID-19 conditions. The board voted
to provide flexibility to extend the virtual learning period for an additional
two weeks if that becomes necessary based on recommendations from health
authorities. As announced on July 15, HISD’s plan to provide face-to-face
instruction beginning on October 19 has not changed.
Trustees also approved a plan
to carry out online learning on Election Day, November 3, 2020 to accommodate
voters and maintain safe conditions for students and staff amid COVID-19
conditions. Per state law, the district is required
to make campuses available as voting sites during elections.
Roberts Elementary School fourth-grade teacher LaTasha Owens’
first social studies lesson of the new school year included an educational
video about the three branches of government, shared on Microsoft Teams.
Owens called on students to share their thoughts about what
they were watching. The children appeared onscreen as they unmuted themselves. Each
was accessing the class from a private residence, some of them wearing headphones
and some of them sitting in large office chairs.
This example of leveraging technology to ensure her students learn without jeopardizing the health and safety of all involved was replicated across the district on Tuesday.
HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan embarked on a
whirlwind tour of the district on Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of students,
educators, parents, and staff began the first day of the 2020-2021 school year
virtually with a charge to Reconnect Safely and Return Strong.
Lathan spent the day making in-person and virtual visits
to campuses and online classrooms to speak with students, parents, and teachers
encouraging them as they began, calling the 2020-2021 school year the
district’s Year of Flexibility.
“We are very excited for today because March was the last
time many of us saw our students,” she said before the start of the
districtwide tour. “The first day of school certainly looks different this
year, however, I remain optimistic that with continued determination,
resilience, and flexibility, 2020-21 can be our best year yet.”
In preparation for the
upcoming school year, HISD parents began lining up at Northline Elementary
School early to receive technology that will help when online classes begin
daughter Mila, a rising fourth-grader at Northline, received a Chromebook that
she is excited to start using. Villafuerte says she’s relieved the district is
making technology available to students during this challenging time.
“I really appreciate
that they have tried to accommodate as many families as they have,” she said. I
am still concerned about schools opening in October, so if we can continue with
online learning, we would like to take that approach, and this makes that
possible for us.”
Varona, a rising ninth-grader from DeBakey High School for Health Professions,
has dreams of pursuing a career in science, and after one week at HISD’s
all-virtual Camp Spark, those dreams are stronger than ever.
“One day, I
have dreams of creating medicine that will help people,” he said. “Camp Spark
has really encouraged me to pursue those dreams.”
The two-week camp, which is offered to students in
grades pre-K through 12 and provided at no cost, is designed to get students re-engaged as the district prepares
for online learning, and provides online lessons that focus on physical
fitness, science, literacy, math, internet safety, technology and art.
HISD’s Welch Middle School sparked to life for a few hours
on Saturday as parents and students drove through to pick up school supplies
during the 13th Annual Karen Johnson Back to School Bash.
This year’s event – hosted by the mother of retired Texans
wide receiver Andre Johnson – had to be narrowed down to a Drive Thru Backpack
Giveaway in accordance of COVID-19 physical distancing and safety measures. Nevertheless,
cars filled with excited parents and students lined up as items were loaded
into their trunks.
“Kids need their supplies for school, and some kids might be
embarrassed to ask for a pencil, or a pen or a notebook,” Karen Johnson said.
“We started in 2007 at Hobby Elementary and now, for the first time, we have
partnered with Welch Middle School. So hopefully we will be able to keep this
going for years to come.”
Students at HISD’s Edison Middle School and Yates High
School will receive innovative technological instruction through the Microsoft
Imagine Academy as part of the company’s partnership with the City of Houston
to stimulate digital literacy in economically disadvantaged communities.
Edison Middle School and Yates High School students will
receive virtual instruction in coding, IT infrastructure, data science, and
attend virtual Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) camps. High
school students will also receive training in Artificial Intelligence, modern
workplace tools and office productivity in preparation for earning
“This is an incredible opportunity for students at Edison
and Yates, who will gain the tools and knowledge they need to close high-tech
skills gaps,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “Participating
in the Microsoft Imagine Academy has the potential to be a game-changer for our
middle and high school students.”