August 7, 2022

 

 

Superintendent Fred Brent, seen here speaking at the 2022 State of the District event, spoke to the Sun this week about the upcoming school year.Sun archive photo

 

 

Time for GISD, community to reconnect 

 

Superintendent says upcoming school year will be ‘year of discovery’ for the district

 

By KATHERINE ANTHONY

Reconnecting to parents and the community will be a focus for Georgetown ISD this school year now that Covid-19 is mostly in the rearview, Superintendent Fred Brent told the Sun Monday.

He said 2022-23 will be “a year of discovery.”

“I think this year we’re going to need greater clarity on where our kids are, academically speaking, and also on what their needs are socially and mental health wise,” he said. 

“For more than two years, we’ve had to stay apart — literally, keep distance between ourselves — even when schools were open. Our students miss that connectivity. We, the adults, miss that connectivity.”

As Covid bore down in 2020, schools statewide closed for the school year in March. Reopening in fall 2020, teaching and learning in GISD took place either online — at the time an unfamiliar challenge for teachers, students, and parents — or in person in socially-distanced classrooms. 

In-person instruction resumed for all students in 2021-22, but campuses were closed to visitors. In effect, they were islands in the community.

“We have to recover from that time period,” Mr. Brent said. “We have to discover what our needs are. There’s financial recovery, there’s an academic recovery, there’s an emotional recovery. This is what lies ahead.”

Taking stock post-pandemic

Coming into this school year, Mr. Brent cited an urgency to engage with the community and parents, which has been difficult the last two years.

In what are hopefully the declining days of the pandemic, he said uniting the school community is a goal for this coming year.

“The biggest challenge I believe we face is making sure parents feel welcome and connected in our schools. We want to help them understand what we’re about and what the challenges are for their kids and teachers.”

A first step in that process, he said, is taking stock post-pandemic. 

“Where are our kids? What are their truest needs? And as an organization, what do we need to do to meet those needs?” he asked.

Mr. Brent said district leadership is talking about revisiting GISD’s strategic plan to address post-Covid needs.

A first step would be to talk with community members about their family’s experiences during the pandemic and what their kids’ needs are now, he said. 

“There’ll be a series of questions and protocols we go through so we can have greater clarity on students’ future needs,” he said.

Teachers and principals know there will be recovery periods for kids academically, Mr. Brent said. 

“There are some mental health and social needs that we’re worried about,” he said. 

Parent and community input, he said, will be vital in this process. 

“I don’t believe you go through a global pandemic, and just go back like things are supposed to be normal,” he said. “I believe that we’re going to try to make things as normal as we can — but we know there will be things about who we are and what we’re doing that will have to adjust based on the needs of our families.”

Looking back, looking forward

As the new school year approaches, Mr. Brent is reflective of the challenges and successes of the past two years, which he called a “really tough time.”

He said he was proud that the district and community held together.

“We worked toward a common goal, we kept creating opportunities for kids,” he said. “We got to graduate and celebrate them. They got to compete on the fields, they got to represent in the fine arts, got to do all the things. It just looked a little different, right?”

But now, he said, it’s time to discover the needs of students, families and staff.

“I'm excited about how we move forward on the backside of this pandemic,” he said. “I think we’re heavily grounded in our beliefs as a community and a school district. But what’s ahead is how we move forward. We just need our parents and community and all of us to stay connected to one another and chart the best path forward together.”