LPA Survey: Schools Will Permanently Change, Texas Superintendents Say

Nearly 90 percent of Texas school superintendents surveyed by LPA say they are facing challenges with the transition to at-home-learning and 64 percent strongly agree that today’s challenges will permanently change educational delivery.

The survey was conducted as a precursor to an online discussion with Texas superintendents, hosted by LPA, “What’s Next? Navigating School Changes During COVID-19.” The discussion was moderated by Dr. Kevin Brown, Executive Director of the Texas Association of School Administrators and featured Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent, Dallas ISD; Dr. Brian Woods, Superintendent of Northside ISD; and Dr. Julie Zoellin Cramer, founder of Wayfind Education and an LPA consultant.

The discussion focused on the issues facing districts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting an opportunity to share experiences, highlight key topics and develop actionable ideas for the challenges ahead.

“We’re trying to elevate the conversation to identify the real issues and the opportunities that exist,” says LPA Regional Studio Director Gary Blanton. “Every challenge is also an opportunity.”

To get better sense of the state of Texas school preparedness, LPAred, LPA’s research team, asked superintendents several questions about where they stand in their COVID-19 responses. Of the respondents, 80 percent said they are likely or very likely to implement physical distancing when schools re-open.

But more than anything, the survey results reflect the uncertainty facing school leaders. The overwhelming majority of respondents said they are only now beginning to start the planning process for reopening schools. And while many superintendents are studying such options as phased openings, staggered start times and alternative scheduling, the majority acknowledge they are still considering their options.

“People are confused right now by the state of the affairs,” Dr. Hinojosa said during the online discussion.

Texas Survey data2
Texas Superintendent Survey - Survey Data Collected 5/1/2020 - 5/4/2020

“We’re trying to elevate the conversation to identify the real issues and the opportunities that exist,” says LPA Regional Studio Director Gary Blanton. “Every challenge is also an opportunity.”

Dr. Hinojosa, who oversees an award-winning district with more than 154,000 students in diverse communities, was among the superintendents who believes the current situation will lead to permanent changes in how education is delivered to students.

“This is going to force us to change,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “It will force us to think differently.”

Every school leader is trying to assess the issues and determine priorities, which will vary from district to district, Dr. Brown noted. At Northside, they are exploring the impact of distance learning and the importance of access to technology, Dr. Woods said. While some students are adapting, NSISD is also identifying critical situations with students who are in danger of falling behind, including young learners and special needs students, he said.

“There are groups of learners that need to be in the classroom with a high-quality teacher,” he said. “We are desperate to get those kids back in the building.”

Districts around the state are responding to the crisis in extraordinary ways, Dr. Brown noted. In Dallas, Dr. Hinojosa has led an effort to supply wi-fi hot spots to thousands of under-served families. “Operation Connectivity” is his next mission, he said.

The “What’s Next?” discussion was part of an outreach effort launched by LPA a few weeks ago to begin to focus on the issues facing schools. The discussion helped identify the critical challenges facing the districts and the different options available.

“We heard clearly from superintendents that their organizations need to consider different ideas,” Blanton says. “We will have to implement multiple strategies to address the issues and see what works for each specific situation.”