TENAHA, Texas (KTRE) - During his interview on East Texas Now on Tuesday, Tenaha ISD Superintendent Scott Tyner said the start of the 2020-2021 school year has been a bit of a “mixed bag.”
He said the students and teachers are glad to be back on campus and that instruction has been going well, yet at the same time, starting the school year in the middle of an ongoing pandemic has been an adjustment for Tenaha ISD’s faculty and staff.
“It’s a great thing that we’ve been able to get back to normal,” Tyner said. “Our kids are back, and they have smiles on their faces because they get to be back in what I call a normal setting for them. Instruction is going great.”
The Tenaha ISD superintendent said they started the school year with a high number of remote-learning students. He added the 100 students who chose to go the distance learning route represents about 20 percent of the school district’s student population. Now that Tenaha is into the fifth week of its school year, the number of remote learners has dropped to about 55.
“Parents are realizing that a kid being in front of a teacher in a classroom is the best way to learn,” Tyner said.
Although things are going as well as they could in the current situation, Tyner said it has been an adjustment for his teachers and staff.
“Change is hard,” Tyner said. “It’s been an adjustment, and we’re in the middle of a transition. To coin a phrase, we’re building the plane as we fly it, and we haven’t crashed yet.”
Tyner said that all the changes and the switch to a more technology-based approach to instruction have caused him to start developing new ideas for the post-COVID-19 future.
Across East Texas and the whole state in general, teachers are working harder than ever, Tyner said. He said teachers' stress levels are probably “off the charts” because of all the changes and extra work they are being required to do.
"We’re doing all we can do to tell our teachers to, “Calm down. You’re doing great. We’re doing great as a district,'” Tyner said.
Tyner said he would be lying if he said teachers aren’t frustrated and tired. Giving an example of a subtle change that has occurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said when teachers do virtual instruction, they lose the ability to get instant feedback from their students.
“When you do remote instruction, you’re timing is off,” Tyner said. “If you’re in a classroom with students, you know right away when a student doesn’t get it.”
The Tenaha ISD superintendent said as a result of what is going on right now in Texas and the United States, education is in a critical phase. Tyner said school districts will wind up losing teachers in the long run because of all the changes.
Tyner said this school year has also brought home the necessity for school districts to have IT support in place to deal with issues like connectivity, servers, getting devices to students' homes, and working with teachers on virtual instruction.
When asked about how hard Tenaha ISD has been hit by the COVID-19 virus, Tyner said they had a total of six confirmed cases among their approximately 600 students and three confirmed cases among their staff members. He added that two of the staff members were from the same family, and five of the six students were from two families.
Tyner said they are doing everything in their power to avoid or mitigate a COVID-19 outbreak in the school district.
Tyner said if he could say anything to Tenaha ISD’s students, teachers, and parents about the rest of the 2020-2021 school year, he would tell them, “Hang in there. It’s a year for grace and patience. I’ll speak for all of you. I am sick and tired of COVID-19.”
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