On behalf of Melissa Schools, I wanted to reach out to you personally to provide additional context regarding our three Learn @ Home days (Nov. 18-20) that were announced late Monday evening. If you missed this memo, please click here to read it.
We understand that the timing of this announcement was far from convenient and that an unexpected pivot such as this one is not easy or comfortable for anyone. That said, our decision to move all students to a remote online learning environment for three days was made after much discussion and with much discernment, with our students’ safety and well-being top-of-mind. On top of consulting with our campus administrators and Board of Trustees, I personally spoke with the office of the Texas Commissioner of Education to ensure that we were following proper protocol for our Learn @ Home days.
Our team did our very best to communicate this decision to families and staff quickly and with transparency. When we are tasked with making difficult decisions, we lean on two of our core values in particular: integrity and honesty. Through integrity, we make decisions that have the ability to last over time. Through honesty, we tell the truth in a way that does not hurt or divide.
COVID-19 was absolutely a factor in this decision. As previously stated, we have not had a large uptick in lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases among Melissa ISD students or staff, but we do currently have many employees absent in relation to COVID-19, whether it be a family member impacted or themselves in close contact. For example, our independently-licensed employee daycare recently had to shut down for two weeks due to a single COVID-19 case, which meant that nearly 30 of our employees were met with the task of finding alternative care for their children or taking personal days off from work.
Across the district we currently have a high number of staff members away from their posts due to a myriad of reasons, with a low number of substitute teachers available to assist in-person. Our principals and staff have worked tirelessly to fill these gaps every day and stay operational in order to continue serving our in-person students, but the fact of the matter is that without our teachers at work or substitutes to help out temporarily, we cannot serve our students at school.
We strongly believe that our low COVID-19 case numbers are due to our collective mitigation efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at Melissa Schools. As part of our mitigation efforts, we felt it necessary to be proactive and extend the time that our students and staff would be physically distanced, away from one another. With our students learning remotely, this also means that teachers can work remotely if they are unable to physically be at work due to a COVID-19-related circumstance or otherwise.
When we were devising our return-to-school plan in August, we purposely invested our time in getting all students and teachers set up on a dedicated online learning platform, Schoology, in the event that a temporary switch to remote instruction would be needed. This moment is what we prepared for.
Unlike many school districts across our state and country, Melissa ISD has been blessed to have been able to operate in-person school continuously, without interruption, for three months. As of this moment, with what we know now, we fully intend to resume in-person school after Thanksgiving Break.
While we appreciate the feedback that we have received since yesterday’s announcement, we do hope to continue to build trust with our community, knowing that as a district we always operate through the lens of doing what is in the best interest of the kids of Melissa, even if the decisions we make are not always popular. We ask that you please continue to partner with us so that we can work together and strengthen our sense of community during this fraught time.
We look forward to welcoming our in-person students back to school after Thanksgiving and we wish everyone well during this briefly-extended time apart.
Superintendent of Melissa Schools