Category Archives: Virtual Learning

HISD students, teachers attend prestigious virtual STEM camp at Rice University

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.

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HISD receives $1 million grant from Moody Foundation to help close digital divide

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 underperforming campuses.

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.

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Selection period for in-person or virtual instruction begins Sept. 21

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.

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HISD Board approves formation of District of Innovation Committee

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.

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HISD teachers kick off classroom lessons virtually for 2020-2021 school year

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.

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Interim Superintendent kicks off first day of virtual learning with districtwide tour

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.”

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Campuses distribute technology to prepare for first day of virtual learning

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 next week.

Lourdes Villafuerte’s 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.”

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HISD’s Camp Spark prepares students, families for virtual learning

Alberto 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.

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Welch MS students receive supplies thanks to Karen Johnson Back to School Bash

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.”

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Two HISD campuses selected for Microsoft Imagine Academy

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 certifications.

“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.”

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