Deadlines loom for parents to choose a school learning platform

by Cristin Parker

(July 29, 2020) Cherokee County’s school districts are letting parents decide if their children will attend classes in person or online during the upcoming school year and parents have a limited time in which to do so.

School districts in Cherokee County have released their 2020-21 back-to-school plans and each ISD is offering two options – return to class for face-to-face instruction or attend class online.

School officials across the state were faced with the conundrum of how to safely reopen their schools amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – which shut schools in Texas down prematurely during the spring and has continued to intensify through Cherokee County throughout the summer months.

Parents in all local school districts are being urged to visit their ISDs’ websites to make sure they officially choose which way their children will attend school, before the first day of school arrives.

Wells ISD -- which has the earliest start date in the county on Monday, Aug. 10 -- has opened the parent portal in Skyward on the district’s website, so parents can complete registration for Wells students.

“This is a new process for us and there may be glitches,” WISD Superintendent Jill Gaston stated in a letter published on the district’s website. “Please be patient and just call if you need help. Online registration needs to be completed prior to Monday, Aug. 3.

“You will make your instructional selection for your child(ren) during online registration. Once the at home selection is made, it will commit your child to the at home setting for the first six weeks.

“Please understand that as we get closer to the start of the year, this plan will be updated and changed to remain current with all agency expectations. More information will be provided on a few items as we approach Aug. 10, such as Meet the Teacher, At Home student expectations, meals for students who choose at home option, expectations for students who are at home to participate in extracurricular activities and parameters of after school activities such as athletic games, ag activities, etc.”

Rusk ISD plans to start back to school on Wednesday, Aug. 12. All Rusk students will participate in School@Home -- Rusk ISD’s virtual class option – Aug. 12-21. On-campus face-to-face learning will begin on Monday, Aug. 24.

“This is subject to change if there are new orders from the governor or new guidelines from the TEA (Texas Education Agency) but at this moment this is how we will proceed,” RISD Superintendent Grey Burton said of his district’s plan.

RISD parents are urged to choose which instructional option their student will utilize by Thursday, Aug. 6.

New Summerfield ISD’s first day back to school is Thursday, Aug. 13.

“First, we want to thank the more than 150 households who completed the survey previously sent,” NSISD Superintendent Joe Brannen said in a statement made on the district’s Facebook page. “The district was able to use this valuable information to design a plan for our students to return to school Aug. 13. Please review the plan and if you have any questions, contact your school office.”

On Monday, July 27, New Summerfield ISD’s parents should have received a link to a survey via Facebook or email to indicate what preference of learning they choose for each child.

That survey is due by Saturday, Aug. 1. Parents are asked to commit to either option 1: on-campus learning; or option 2: online learning for an entire nine-week grading period.

“In addition, there will be other important information we will need as we prepare for students to return to school so that we can continue guiding the development and planning of our teachers and staff,” Brannen stated.

NSISD’s campus supply drop-offs, schedule pick-ups and Meet the Teacher events have been set for:

• 2-6:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10; for elementary students last names beginning with A-M; and 2-6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11; for elementary students last names beginning with N-Z;

• 1:30-6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11 for junior high students; and

• 1:30-6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11 for high school students.

Face coverings will be required to enter the buildings. Limit one family member per student.

Alto ISD starts class, both in person and online, Monday, Aug. 17.

“All RETURNING AISD students, both remote online learners and traditional on-campus learners, must register online,” district officials clarified on the ISD’s Facebook page. “The Pre-K Round-Up held in April was not the full registration process. It was strictly to hold a place in the class. All Pre-K students must register at the Elementary campus.”

Parents are encouraged to visit AISD’s website,, to make sure their children are registered.

Jacksonville ISD has the latest start to school. JISD Superintendent Dr. Chad Kelly said JISD staff will report back on Monday, Aug. 10, and students will return for instruction on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

Jacksonville parents are urged to visit to review the Back to School plan and submit their child’s Instructional Choice Form before Tuesday, Aug. 4. After that date, families will be required to wait until Sept. 8 to make a change.

“One Instructional Choice Form needs to be completed for each student and is NOT the same as the survey sent out several weeks ago,” district officials posted on Facebook. “This form is for you to finalize your instructional platform decision and must be submitted by Tuesday, Aug. 4.”

If no option is chosen by a parent in any local school district, the default will be to begin the school year with on-campus, traditional instruction.

“While we all know this year may generate unforeseen circumstances, we are up to the challenge and eager to get our students back in effective instructional settings,” Dr. Kelly said. “Since the March closure, our team has worked tirelessly to plan, strategize, change plans, update and review every area for safely opening our district for students and staff, while simultaneously providing two exceptional learning options.
“JISD is appreciative of our community, and the patience and partnership our parents and students have demonstrated through this unbelievably difficult time.

“We will get through this crisis, and we look forward to the time we are all together again.”