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Back to School Update from Dr. Chadwell

The start of a new school year is always a special time for families and educators, and I want to welcome you to the 2022-2023 school year. We’ve been working diligently over the summer to prepare for this year, and the excitement is building for students to return for the first day of classes on Monday, August 15. Before the first bell rings, there are a few important topics I want to share so that we are all prepared to have a great school year.

Safety and Security

On everyone’s mind right now is school safety and security. This has been and remains a top priority in EMS ISD. Over the summer, the governor issued enhanced security requirements for public schools in Texas. I am pleased to share that we already had most of these items in place before the requirements were issued. When it comes to safety, we seek to exceed state standards and are continuously evaluating how to further protect those in our schools and facilities. Our comprehensive safety plan includes measures for multi-layered lines of defense, drills and specialized training for all staff, physical barriers, threat assessment and mental health supports, and the new EMS ISD Police Department and continued partnerships with local law enforcement. Additional information is provided on the attached safety plan overview.

Safety is a non-negotiable in EMS ISD – we understand that it must be embedded in all that we do. You likely will notice enhanced measures and stricter expectations when it comes to security protocols in our schools and facilities. While this may create some inconveniences, I hope it also provides you assurances and reiterates the priority commitment to the safety of all staff, students, and stakeholders in our care.

Culture of Kindness

Another important piece is our focus on student and family engagement. I know that for many students, the last two years have felt different. For some of our younger learners, they haven’t yet experienced what we’d call a “normal” year. Our goal with this new school year is to get back to the personal connections that make our schools so special. This is supported by two-way communication and high standards in all we do – in academics, in behavior, and in the way we all treat each other.

As students settle into routines and again become comfortable in their school spaces, our teachers, staff, and administrators will be working closely with them to grow the culture of kindness that is foundational to nurturing learning environments. Our success will be tied directly to how we start the school year, so please know our teachers will be setting clear expectations, both academic and behavioral, from the first day and will work with students to make sure they exceed those expectations.

Paramount to this will be strong systems for positive behavior throughout each school. Also critical to this effort is your engagement with your child’s school. Due to the pandemic, I know the opportunities for parent volunteering and participation have been limited the last two years. Now, we need you back, we need you involved, and we need you – both at school and at home – to help us reinforce these positive behaviors in our students. We, as adults, must work together to demonstrate what we expect from our children. In turn, students play a key role in being ready for learning and being a positive contributor to the learning environment. To support a positive learning environment, it is expected that students demonstrate appropriate behaviors and do not create distractions from learning for themselves or others. We are asking you and your student to partner with us to uphold these expectations in a culture of kindness across EMS ISD.

Health Protocols

While COVID-19 continues to be a health concern, we know much more now about prevention and mitigation than we did even a year ago. New this year, the Texas Education Agency has reduced the quarantine period for students who test positive for COVID-19 to five days, in alignment with state and federal health agencies. With that in mind, please continue to notify the school nurse if your child tests positive for COVID-19. Close contacts do not have to quarantine as long as they remain symptom free. Although not required by the State, we will continue to offer the COVID Tracking Dashboard, which will now serve as the official notification of COVID cases in our schools. Campuses will no longer be sending general notification letters, but the information will be readily available on the Dashboard on the district website.

As always, if your child doesn’t feel well for any reason, please keep them at home and notify the school nurse.

Accountability

The Texas Education Agency will release the 2022 school accountability ratings on August 15 on the website, www.Txschools.gov. EMS ISD is celebrating areas of growth in student academic performance, with continued focus on targeted supports to increase achievement. Information about the ratings system is available on this Frequently Asked Questions document available for download from TEA.

I know this is a long letter with a lot of information, and I appreciate your attention to these important topics. I am excited to see students back in our hallways next week! With our EMS ISD community working together and looking out for one another, we will continue to experience what makes our schools special, positive spaces for education. If you have any questions, suggestions, and/or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us through the Let’s Talk! system on our district and all campus websites. I wish you and your family a happy first day of school and a great school year.

Sincerely,

Jim F. Chadwell, Ed.D.

Superintendent