Masks and social distancing marked the August 13th start of a new school year in Denison, one that will undoubtedly go down in record books as one of the most challenging in Denison’s history. The majority of students, roughly 75%, chose on-campus learning and were excited to be back. The remainder opted to learn at home via an online zoom platform supported by internet connectivity, hover-cams, enhanced audio equipment and, most importantly, dedicated teachers.
“We decided when all this started in March, when the pandemic closed our schools, that Covid-19 would not define us,” said DISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott. “Our staff is comprised of innovators and visionaries who have always found unique ways to meet and overcome challenges, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Thanks to the tremendous support we have received from our teachers, staff, students, families and community, we feel like we’re meeting safety needs while also continuing to prepare all our students for successful futures. We will continue to follow the mandates of health experts regarding diligent cleaning, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and doing everything in our power to keep everyone safe while our students continue to learn.”
The decision to offer a mix of online and classroom learning environments came as the result of a family/parent survey that revealed approximately 75% of Denison ISD families wanted their students back in the classroom, while the remainder (roughly 1,138 students) opted to attend online classes at home. Armed with that knowledge, school officials rolled up their sleeves, explored options, and decided that the daily learning experiences needed to be the same for everyone.
“We purchased hundreds of digital devices, internet hotspots, dedicated microphones, desk cams and audio enhancers so our online learners can actively participate in daily school work and activities with their teachers and classmates,” said Shonda Cannon, DISD Director of Instruction. “Daily attendance is required and recorded, which means our online students must start and end each school day at the designated times, staying actively involved and learning with their classmates and teachers at all times throughout each day. Accountability requirements in terms of testing and performance will also be the same for both groups. As always, our teachers are onboard 100%, demonstrating flexibility, creativity and a determination to ensure that all students learn and succeed at high levels, regardless of the learning environment they have chosen. Our teachers, students and families are the ones who will make this work and succeed, and we’re just extremely grateful for their dedicated efforts.”
According to Scott, Covid-19 has stimulated educators to think creatively and inclusively. “One of the many important things we’ve learned during this pandemic is that each and every student needs access to a digital device and internet service at home, regardless of circumstances, if we hope to achieve educational equality for all our children. They also deserve to have their basic needs for food, shelter and safety met, but many are struggling right now because of Covid-19. Everyone across our district as well as generous supporters throughout our community are stepping up to ensure that these needs are met, and we’re so thankful for that.”
Denison ISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Kirkbride echoed the optimism and determination felt in classrooms throughout the district. “For the first time in my many years in education, I couldn’t see the kids’ smiles because of the masks…but their eyes told me they’re excited and glad to be back. Everyone is trained and on point, ready to do this right and get our students where they need to be, as safely as possible. As always, our teachers are our heroes. They’re in the trenches every day, making sure everyone learns, grows, progresses and succeeds. Welcome back, everyone. We are Denison!”
Strategically placed empty desks in Melissa Greenwood’s classroom at Houston Elementary allow students to maintain a socially distanced six feet apart while completing study and work assignments.
Assistant Principal Stephanie Paulson and other Lamar staff members distribute hand sanitizer to students as they enter the building and throughout the school day. “Thanks to the tremendous support we have received from our teachers, staff, students, families and community, we feel like we’re meeting safety needs while also continuing to prepare all our students for successful futures,” said DISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott.
Mayes Elementary students in Laura Allison’s 4th grade class start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags. The only difference this year: strict adherence to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
The last thing Scott Middle School teachers and students do at the end of each class period is spray and sanitize desks in preparation for the next group of students. (Pictured are English teacher Courtney Hubbard with her 8th graders.) “As always, our teachers are our heroes,” said DISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Kirkbride. “They’re in the trenches every day, making sure everyone learns, grows, progresses and succeeds. Welcome back, everyone. We are Denison!”