No earlier than the 2021-2022 school year, if they can qualify for it.
Students in Houston ISD could start their school year several days earlier beginning in 2021-22, joining peers in other districts who return to class in mid-August, under a plan in the early stages of development.
HISD officials this week said they want to seek a “District of Innovation” status that would grant them flexibility on four state education laws, including one that requires schools to begin their academic year no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. All of the region’s largest traditional public school districts, with the exception of Cy-Fair ISD and Lamar CISD, sought the status in the past few years and changed their start dates to mid-August.
In a presentation to board members Monday, HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said her administration wanted to request two exemptions, which would allow HISD to start its year earlier and hire more non-certified teachers in hard-to-staff vocational and technical fields.
The switch to a mid-August start date would create a more balanced schedule between the first semester, which runs 77 days from August until winter break, and the second semester, which lasts 96 days.
HISD students also stand at a disadvantage on state standardized tests, as well as some college-centered tests, such as the SAT and Advanced Placement exams, because they spend fewer days in the classroom before the tests are administered, Lathan said.
“They’re already 10 days ahead of us academically and structurally because they’re starting 10 days in advance, but we’re all required to take the state assessments at the same time,” Lathan said.
Note that this has nothing to do with when schools may reopen this fall, for which the answer right now is “no one can say for sure”. The proposed change seems reasonable enough, and would likely mean a slightly earlier end to the school year as well. The story doesn’t say what HISD has to do to qualify for this status, nor how long it would take to know if it has qualified. I think as long as there’s enough time to let parents make plans for the summer of 2021, it should be fine.