Jubilee getting ready for new school year

HARLINGEN — Face to face, virtual, or a combination of both?

All of the above when Jubilee Harlingen opens for the new school year, says Flor Robinson, associate superintendent for Jubilee Academies — Rio Grande Valley.

The nonprofit charter school organization has sent surveys to parents of all students. In those surveys, parents can indicate which instructional model they prefer for their children this school year. They can ask for their children to continue with online learning or come physically to class. There is also the hybrid model, which consists of both face to face and virtual instruction.

“We’ve been planning, planning, planning to get ready for the next school year,” Robinson said. “We’ve been trying to develop our school academic calendar and providing our parents with the different modes of instruction for the upcoming year.”

Jubilee Academies, based in San Antonio, has campuses in Austin, Kingsville, Brownsville and Harlingen.

The district is currently developing safety protocols for the upcoming school year; administrators already have the foundation for those measures laid down since the schools closed in response to the pandemic.

“We haven’t been face to face with students since March,” Robinson said.

But, the instruction continued, even into its summer programming in June.

“We tried to limit as many interactions as we could due to the COVID to ensure that our parents and our kids would still feel safe with all the turmoil going on,” Robinson said. “Since March when we went into shelter in place we did provide the distance learning. We worked through our Spring Break to ensure we had 100 percent contact with all of our students.”

As has been so highlighted in the past few months, technology made that contact possible. Educators and administrators sent nonstop emails and made phone calls until each teacher was in contact with the family of each student.

“We wanted to make sure that we were meeting their instructional needs,” she said.

And those needs meant making sure every student had the appropriate technological devices to perform their school work online. Jubilee Academies provided those devices to students who didn’t already have them.

“Some parents chose to do paper packets, and we provided that for them also,” Robinson said.

All of this provided a smooth transition into summer school which was all done through distance learning. In like manner, this will also provide another framework for ongoing discussion to determine safety protocols in the new school year.

“We continue to have multiple meetings to ensure that we are following guidelines from the CDC and from TEA,” Robinson said. “This is crucial for us to know what students are going to be coming face to face with. That will provide us additional data to make sure we are putting into place all of those safety measures as concrete as possible.”

Finalizing those plans can be difficult considering the new developments that consistently arise in the COVID crisis.

“We know that things are changing daily,” said Jessica Gonzales, public relations director.

“We’ve come up with a couple of options around the safety protocol and what it would look like or include for the students and for the staff,” Gonzales said.

The protocols for the fall semester, she said, will depend on the COVID situation at the time school starts and how it changes moment by moment. Safety measures will depend on recommendations by the CDC and regional health departments. Meanwhile, Jubilee Academies has been ordering sanitation items and personal protective equipment in preparation for the new school year.