Dear Tyler ISD Community,
I wanted to take another opportunity to address a few more questions you may have regarding our current status, as well as plans for the future. We will keep our communication channels open to ensure you stay informed as we navigate this unique situation. Again, we thank you for your support, flexibility and patience.
Why Call It a Community Mitigation Period?
Community Mitigation Periods are intervention strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help slow the potential spread of illness in communities, like COVID-19. We simply did not want to deviate from the strategy provided by experts. Yes, the timing of this precaution came on the heels of Spring Break, but please understand that we would not be out of school if not for the national, state, and local health challenge we are facing. Additionally, we wanted to make sure the period of “time away” had a clear delineation between a planned break versus an emergency period that was influenced by information from local health officials, trends in national and statewide data, and local and regional news specific to the crisis. Lastly, we wanted to be specific about the exercise: that if we follow a prescribed strategy of social distancing, we could lessen the impact of illness here in Tyler ISD, in Tyler, in Smith County; in East Texas; and ultimately, in Texas.
What Are the District’s Concerns?
As a District, there are many concerns, but we are constantly evaluating short, medium, and long-range implications. Our priority is student and staff health and safety and our mission is that we will continue to focus on successful student outcomes. Right now, those two things are inseparable, considering the decision to operate under this Community Mitigation Period. Here’s a few of the things we’re working on:
1 - Accounting of Student and Staff Travel: We need to know where our students and staff have traveled over the last 10-15 days, whether abroad or within Texas and the United States. By identifying those locations, and if those places are known “hot spots,” we will be able to ask those individuals, without consequence, to “stay put” for a prescribed amount of time. This can help lessen the opportunity for exposure and “community spread” to those not at-risk who did not travel to or through a zone identified to have a high incidence of COVID-19. This could include any airport within the United States identified as an “International Airport.”
2 - Graduation: Extra-curricular activities are certainly a concern for us. Students who have experienced 13+ years of an educational journey deserve to finish with normalcy, and we will certainly do all we can from the extra-curricular sense, with the time we have and under the conditions we will operate. But, this is an abnormal time. End of year concerts, games, performances, and yes prom, are secondary. Our priority is to get the Class of 2020, whether at Early College High School, RISE, John Tyler, or Robert E. Lee high schools, completed and graduated after meeting requirements. Our staff is preparing learning opportunities for all students, but we will certainly give our very best effort to put the seniors in position to successfully attain a diploma. If you have a senior, please encourage them to stick with it.
3 - Distribution of Food Service: Our food program is one of the top in East Texas and we have participation in our school breakfast, lunch, and snack program across the economic spectrum. We have students and families that depend on the school breakfast and lunch program, qualifiers and non-qualifiers. We will continue to provide a distribution schedule as long as Federal and State regulations allow. Please reference our web site at tylerisd.org/covid19 and follow us on our many social media platforms. There, you can find the locations and times for meal distribution.
4 - Learning Opportunities: While rewarding seniors for completing their journey is a District priority, so is the continuum of learning for all of our students, grades PK-12. We all know students learn best, and their outcomes improve immensely, when a high quality teacher provides strategic and effective instruction on a consistent, routine basis. The challenge we could possibly face may have us adjust to how that teacher is available. If, and that’s a big IF, we have additional time away from the normal school routine, the District will provide learning opportunities for our students through e-learning, mailed, or delivered curriculum. We ask that parents, guardians, and community members become an extension of the classroom as we mobilize to give the children of Tyler as best an experience as possible under the circumstances.
Again, I encourage all of us to pay attention to health care experts, be intentional about adhering to the strategies they have given us, and take seriously the practice of social distancing during this Community Mitigation Period.
Marty Crawford, Ed.D.