The Dispatch responds to student and parents questions about the upcoming school year


Faith Lawrence

Principal Mark Robinson, along with several staff members, hosted a virtual Community Fireside Chat to discuss the upcoming school year and answer several questions students and parents might have. The Fireside Chat provided answers for some of the questions in this article.

Faith Lawrence, Managing Editor

The Dispatch asked students and parents, via Instagram, what questions they had regarding the upcoming school year and then got answers from the Bowie Community Fireside Chat, the Bowie website, and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) website.

“We recognize that there’s going to be challenges in doing something completely different in a dynamic environment that is still evolving but we see it as an opportunity to build a better Bowie,” Principal Mark Robinson said during the Fireside Chat. “We want to make the most of that opportunity and we appreciate [the] support.” 

Q: What will remote learning, beginning on Tuesday, September 8, look like? 

A: Students will follow the regular bell schedule to attend Zoom classes linked on their teacher’s BLEND page. Teachers will present both synchronous and asynchronous learning during each class period: synchronous learning refers to Zoom meetings and asynchronous learning refers to independent work. All assignments and materials will be posted on BLEND for each class. During the first week of school, students will undergo a BLEND training course during their math class. More information can be found on the Fall 2020 Reopening page on the Bowie website. 

Q: How will attendance be taken during class?

A: Students are expected to attend all of their classes and participate in activities in order to be counted as present during each class. The Texas Education Agency requires students to attend 90 percent of classes in order to receive credit for the course. To promote attendance, Bowie’s final exam incentive program will continue from previous years. If students are unable to attend classes, they are advised to let their teacher know of their absence and check BLEND for any assignments they can complete without attending class. If students are unable to attend their Zoom class but complete work for the class the same day, they will be given a new attendance code called “RL,” remote learning, that counts toward attendance.

Q: What will students be expected to do during the Flexible Instructional Time (FIT) portion of the school day?

A: For the first four days of remote learning, Tuesday, September 8 through Friday, September 11, students will attend FIT with their advisory teacher in order to complete orientation. Links to advisory FIT should be found on students’ BLEND advisory page. Teachers will host office hours or tutoring beginning Monday, September 14 during the FIT portion of the school day. Students should check the FIT portal each day and attend a FIT session if assigned. Students who are not assigned to a FIT session do not have to attend an optional session. FIT sessions can be accessed through the Zoom link on the teacher’s home page. 

Q: How will students be graded?

A: Students will receive a numerical grade for each class that will count toward their cumulative GPA and rank. A students semester average will include three grading periods, around six weeks each, and a final exam. Grades will officially be recorded on TEAMS, and teachers are required to record at least one grade each week and at least six grades per grading period. Grading policies, including late work policies, for each course can be found on the individual teacher’s course syllabus. 

Q: Will students be able to request a schedule change?

A: Schedule changes will not be available the first two days of school. If something is wrong with students’ schedules, they should email their counselor and request to fill out the Google Form for course corrections. Course corrections are available for students who are placed in the wrong grade level class, like a freshman placed in sophomore English, or other important mistakes. Students should not request to change their classes unless necessary as the final course verification deadline has already passed. 

Q: How will lunches work?

A: Students will attend either first or second lunch, and can determine their lunch period by looking at the bottom of the bell schedule. When students begin on-campus learning, lunches will be eaten within Stationary Homeroom Instructional Pods (SHIPs). Students who have second or sixth period off will not have an assigned lunch period, but have from 11:14 a.m.-1:28 p.m. for both their off period and lunch. 

Q: How should students combat excessive screen time from school?

A: Lead Counselor Nicole Hepburn recommended during the Fireside Chat that students take short breaks from their online classes when possible and go outside. Hepburn said maintaining a schedule, getting lots of sleep, keeping technology out of the bedroom and safe socializing with friends will be beneficial to students. 

Q: When can students begin attending school on-campus?

A: Monday, October 5 will begin Phase Two of the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan. During this phase, students can either continue online remote learning or attend school on-campus. Students who select on-campus learning will be placed into a SHIP where they will continue attending Zoom classes. Students attending school on-campus will remain in their SHIP for the majority of the school day, including lunch, and will still take their classes online. Students who are able to continue with remote learning are asked to do so. 

Q: What safety precautions will be taken during on-campus learning?

A: Teachers and students will be required to properly wear face coverings while attending on-campus learning. AISD does not allow ported masks, bandanas or gaiter masks. All classrooms will be equipped with sanitary wipes, a sanitation station, extra cloth masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. Teachers will set up their classrooms according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AISD guidelines of social distancing. Each SHIP will have 10 students or less. Signs will be hung around campus to promote social distancing, wearing a mask and hand-washing. Students attending on-campus learning should download the AISD app for screening before entering school. More information can be found on the AISD Health and Safety page.

Q: Once students are attending school on-campus, what will happen if a student or staff member gets COVID-19?

A: Students feeling sick will be seen by a nurse and, if needed, will be isolated in a separate room until they can be picked up by a family member. All areas of campus that the student or staff member could have been in contact with will then be disinfected. If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, families and students in the person’s SHIP will be notified. All students and staff who came in contact with the person will undergo a 14-day quarantine. 

The questions in this article were answered on Thursday, September 3. Due to constant changes in recommendations and policies, you can find the most up-to-date information by referring to Principal Mark Robinson’s Bowie Star Newsletters, the Bowie website, the Bowie Twitter page, and the AISD website