We reached out to Leander ISD Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing and asked about his district’s response to COVID-19.
AF: Tell us about any unique student projects or activities that have been happening in response to campuses closing and students learning remotely.
BG: I’m really proud of how our school communities have persevered in spite of these tremendous challenges. Our students are incredibly resilient and have really embraced the independence and opportunity that comes with this situation. Here’s an example: Mirroring much of our local television media, the Cedar Park HS broadcast students are continuing to produce the “Wolfcast” daily newscast. Creating, editing, and anchoring content remotely, these intrepid students continue to exemplify hard work and commitment to their community.
AF: How have you overcome some challenges in the new way of educating students during these last several weeks of instruction?
BG: Distance learning is different for every student and every family. Some students don’t have the benefit of technology, connectivity or parents working from home to help them continue to learn.
Our teachers have done a great job reconnecting with students and engaging with them so that they are ready to learn. It all starts there. We are fortunate to have a Board of Trustees that takes decisive action, including adopting the recommendation to alter our academic assessments to pass or incomplete instead of regular grades. This decision was based on what’s best for both teachers and students, as we know that no two home environments are the same. Our staff and administrative teams distill the essential concepts and content. Teachers work with students and families to make sure they are learning according to their schedules, following up to support and encourage.
In the span of a week, LISD staff distributed more than 5,000 Chromebook laptops to elementary school students in need so that distance learning could flourish. This is on top of the more than 18,000 devices on loan to middle and high school students throughout the district.
AF: How can families support their children with remote learning?
BG: It’s crucial that families work together to support one another during these challenging times. Allowing freedom to step away from studies from time to time, fostering a supportive environment and taking time to connect with each other is so important to the mental health, and well-being of a young person. We have a great resource for families to help guide them through the distance learning by way of our remote parent learning hub and we encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to their counselors or teachers. We’re all in this together and help is out there for anyone who needs it at any time.
AF: What are your hopes for the 2020-2021 school year?
BG: I expect things will look different in August than any August we’ve had so far. I think we have a real opportunity here to do things a little differently, and it’s an opportunity that we’ve been thinking about even before this change happened. So, this can serve as a catalyst for pushing us a little further down that line of making sure that students are mastering the standards and getting the skills they need to be successful and happy in life. We will be working hard over the next few months and into the summer to make sure that when we come back that students are presented with the best educational situation possible. We’ll continue to make those plans and consult families, students, and faculty in making these decisions.
It may well be a hybrid learning model, with some students learning in our buildings and some parents choosing for them to learn at home. So, we are going to be prepared for either or both eventualities. We have to make sure that we’re learning from the experiences we have now and that we’re being as rigorous as possible as we go forward.