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What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, The Advance News published a profile piece about Vanguard Academy Public Charter Schools’ number-one ranking in the South Texas region (Region 1), with an A+ rating of 97 (out of 100). Now, how the times have changed. Who can write a school-related story without mentioning SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19? All across Hidalgo County, the state, the country -- really, even the world -- educators are working to figure out how to best teach children while making sure that the novel coronavirus remains off campus. Not only away from the students, but the parents and grandparents to whom they return home every day. No one wants kids and/or their families to contract COVID-19, but no one wants them to miss out on a quality education. Not in today’s competitive world. Tough times indeed. On top of that, there are the school teachers, the administrators, the support staff to consider. How to keep them safe? Over the next few days (online), weeks (in print), The Advance News will work to profile as many local school districts as possible scattered around the county, to see how each is fairing in these unprecedented times. Since last year’s school calendar began with our profile story on Vanguard, we decided to return there this week to see how things are progressing. For students at this charter, school began Monday, Sept. 7, and according to Superintendent Narciso Garcia, despite the pandemic, classes began well. “This school year took a lot of planning, which we actually began last March,” said Garcia. “So, given the time we spent preparing for this school year, we were very pleased that 95 percent of our student population was already online when classes began Monday morning.” Texas has given, via the Texas Education Agency (TEA), schools the option of teaching in virtual (online) fashion using either a synchronous or an asynchronous curriculum model. What’s the difference? The synchronous form mandates that a school district count its student population based on how many students log in at the beginning of the day. Classes then continue throughout the day. Only difference is, the breaks between classes take place at home. The other curriculum model approved by TEA is labeled “asynchronous.” To garner TEA approval, however, a district must draft a plan on how the lessons will be taught, etc.. In other words, the class lectures can be downloaded any time throughout the ...

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