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Big District Superintendents Worry Students Are Falling Behind In Texas

Bill Zeeble
Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa

Leaders of the state’s two largest school districts worry their students are falling behind during the COVID-19 shutdown. Dallas and Houston superintendents shared their efforts Thursday to ensure their kids keep learning.

Houston and Dallas school districts enroll a total of 370,000 students. With the shutdown, leaders looked first to ensure basic necessities, like meals, served by the millions to students each week. They managed to keep getting food to kids. Both superintendents also worried about keeping kids on track academically.

Houston’s interim leader Grenita Lathan said her district has at least had some recent experience dealing with extra challenges.

“Mental health, social-emotional issues keep me up at night,” Lathan said. “The worry that we had students and families that were still trying to recover from Harvey and now they’re experiencing this different type of crisis. And we in our district added wrap around specialists several years ago and our wraparound specialists have been key over the past several weeks in supporting our students and our families.”

Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s been pondering what school will look like this fall. He doesn’t believe it’ll be like the old days. He also doesn’t think it’ll be virtual-only, forced by COVID-19.  He came up with a plan C.

“So we have several versions of plan C,” Hinojosa said. "One of those includes maybe having all of our elementary students report and we spread them out. We even send them to secondary schools and maybe secondary students can do more virtual learning.”

Hinojosa said next year’s school calendar will be up to the legislature.

He’s also actively working to get every Texas student connected online, which isn’t the case now for thousands of students. Hinojosa heads a state committee to accomplish that goal.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at . You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

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Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.