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LESSONS LEARNED: Longview ISD embraces change to get through pandemic

Taking a look back on 2020 with Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox and the many Lessons Learned from educating during the COVID crisis.

LONGVIEW, Texas — The hope of the new year is something we're all looking forward to in 2021, but looking back on 2020 is also important, especially for schools who are trying to provide students the best education they can during the most difficult of times.

Longview school leaders, students and teachers are spending some much needed time with their families for the Christmas break after a trying year. 

Dr. James Wilcox says they've put a lot of focus on embracing change to get through the year of the pandemic.

"We've learned that it change not always bad. It's inconvenient. We struggle with it. But there's an old saying that you need to begin with the end in mind and we talked about that a lot this past summer," said Dr. James Wilcox, Longview ISD Superintendent. 

Because Longview ISD leaders knew the only certainty was the fall 2020 would be a year like they'd never seen. That just reinforced what was most important — providing every Longview ISD student the best education possible.

"We can't get satisfied with where we are. We can't say well, it's the pandemic, well, everybody's struggling. Well, next year will be better. We can't let our student population lose a year of academic growth and have them where we want them to be, not just for themselves, but for Texas, but for the country. We can't lose a year for every student in the United States, let alone Longview ISD. That can't happen," said Dr. Wilcox.

That means educators are having to constantly pivot to make sure all students are growing academically with COVID precautions in mind. Longview did that at the start of the year. They offered in person classes along with synchronous and asynchronous remote learning, but they realized asynchronous learning isn't for everybody.

"Well, I think the biggest lesson we learned was that even if you're a remote student, you need daily accountability.  And that's why the synchronous is a video feed that's live with the classroom teacher. Well, I was not a mature enough student when I was in school to do that. So what we wanted to give that option. And so the biggest lesson that we learned is there are rare exceptions where a student is self-motivated enough that they put the time into it to get everything that they should," explained Wilcox.

And if there was anything good to come out of 2020? 

"Longview ISD will always maintain a remote option, synchronous, if you will, connectivity for students to be able to be in that classroom. If they're at home, if they're in another country, if they're in another state, and whatever's going on in their life that's out of their control, they will stay connected with that classroom and their teachers," explained Wilcox.

Another lesson learned in Longview — the benefits of Coronavirus testing. LISD became one of the first districts in the state to offer on-campus testing. This allowed them to quickly identify if a student or teacher needed to quarantine.

"The TEA and the governor's office also made us a pilot for the quick test and it's self administered. And then, the teacher, the employee, or the student just sits there and no more than 15 minutes, they get a result of their positive or negative. Their parent doesn't have to come pick them up. The employee doesn't have to leave work." said Wilcox.

Dr. Wilcox says they also feel a tremendous responsibility not only to keep their students and staff safe, but the entire community.

"You like to think that everyone is concerned about the well being of their fellow citizens. You think that's probably true. But this fall of 2020, and the things that we've had to deal with here at the district has proven that to be true. And that's about, you know, the most positive thing that came out of this and the most positive thing that we've learned is that people understand, hey, we're all in this together. I have a responsibility to my fellow citizens. I have a responsibility to someone that is unfortunate to have underlying conditions that I don't have."

And that's been Dr. Wilcox greatest lesson to learn.