KISD Launches All-Virtual Start

Killeen family logs into new school year
By: Todd Martin
Five months after an unprecedented early end to the school year, thousands of students logged in Monday to Killeen ISD’s historic all-virtual start to the new school year.
Teachers, mostly occupying empty classrooms across the district’s 50-plus campuses, welcomed their students to the first day of school while students participated virtually from home.
By 11 a.m., a total of 39,459 students logged into virtual learning platforms and the school district’s technology hotline fielded more than 1,800 calls.
For many parents, like Tori Mullins of Killeen, the long-awaited start was a welcome end to the extended break and a hopeful step toward returning eventually to a more traditional classroom setting.
For her five school-age children, the first day was a celebration, smoother for some than others.
The oldest, Brylie, began middle school as a sixth-grader at Patterson Middle School, third-grader Brantley, second-grade twins Lilly and Kacie and pre-kindergarten Blakely all logged into virtual lessons at Reeces Creek Elementary School.
“They are so excited to start school,” said Mullins, explaining that all her children love to learn. “They love school. They make all A’s. Even during a long weekend, they miss it.”
Following a delayed start, young Blakely posed for a picture, then decorated it on her tablet, completing her first-ever school activity.
Meanwhile, her older brother and sisters, all wearing headphones and using their own district tablets, worked through reading and math assignments, while “meeting” their teacher and classmates through the virtual environment.
“I’m happy they get to see their teacher and see their classmates,” Mullins said. She converted the front room of the family’s house into a classroom, with each child keeping their personal bin of school supplies.
“I wanted them all together so I could see them and help them.”
Lilly Mullins, beginning second grade with her twin sister Kacie, said it was difficult to get up early for the school’s 7:30 a.m. start, but was happy to be engaged in school. “I like it because I get to see faces I’ve seen before – my teacher and the other kids,” she said.
Down the road at Reeces Creek Elementary School, teachers also began the unusual start to school.
“So far, so good,” said second-grade teacher Helen Davis. “Just seeing them smile made me excited. I could see they are excited that they have a teacher. That really hit my heart. They are excited to learn. Some of them have already uploaded their assignment.”
“It was wonderful,” said Reeces Creek pre-kindergarten teacher Shelley Lewis, “really a joy. They said ‘hello’ and I could see them singing and dancing. They were very engaged.”
Most teachers acknowledged trepidation at starting school at a distance, but also relief to be back to the classroom. They repeatedly reassured parents that everyone was learning the virtual environment together.
“It makes me feel a lot better to see them enjoying it,” the pre-kindergarten teacher said.
At KISD’s new Nolan Middle School in Harker Heights, teachers launched into virtual instruction with the rest of the district, introducing their students to a building they have never seen.
Kelly Fife taught at the former Nolan school 20 years. He said it was an unusual experience not to be easily recognized by most of his students. He hopes to give them a virtual tour of the building in coming days.
English teacher Arnold Murphy shared with his students that Monday was his first day in middle school after teaching at the elementary level. “I’m excited about the change,” he said.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed the interaction,” he said. “It was exciting to see their smiles. Every parent I’ve talked to has been positive. They say ‘we know you are swamped.’ We’re all rolling with it.”