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'Devastating impact' on students prompts TEA to suggest changes to school calendars

The Texas Education Agency suggests school districts use intersessional calendars for the 2020-2021 school year.

BRYAN, Texas — High student absenteeism and school closures are what the Texas Education Agency expects the 2020-2021 school year to consist of.  

The TEA's research shows these disruptions could have students returning to school “nearly a full year behind what normally occurs.” To help combat that, the agency suggests schools use intersessional calendars.

What does that mean? 

School years earlier start date and later end date. It also accounts for more remote learning time and staggered in-person attendance. The TEA recommends six weeks of intersessional breaks. 

The agency said it would provide a flexible schedule. 

Those extra six weeks could be used for:

  • Remediation, acceleration and enrichment.
  • Breaks required because of a resurgence of COVID-19.
  • Bad weather make-up days.

“I think the intersessional calendar is something that is not right at this time," said Dr. Christie Whitbeck, the superintendent of Bryan ISD.

Whitbeck, says the intersessional calendar that is being proposed is similar to a year-round calendar.

“I am familiar with them," Whitbeck said. "They are a bit of change and more radical than something that we would do within two months' notice for our community.” 

Although she said the intersessional calendar is not something to be dismissed, but its something school districts must be developed collaboratively. 

“I’ve already spoken with the superintendent of College Station ISD because we’re so intertwined. We’re also so intertwined with Texas A&M and Blinn College," Whitbeck said. "To suddenly jump into something like that, whether it's for a pandemic reason or a different reason, would be a disservice to our families.” 

Whitbeck believes to have the intersessional calendar work all public schools, private schools, daycares and universities in the area would need to work together. 

“I understand the research behind it and I respect the research," Whitbeck said. "But we are so used to an agricultural-based calendar this is the way of the world for so long, if you are going to make those changes I think you do it carefully and thoughtfully.”

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