KISD Preps for 2020 Start

Teachers prepare lessons for virtual learning
By: Todd Martin
Purposely spread across school cafeterias and then deployed in small planning groups while masked and distanced, Killeen ISD teachers returned to class this week to strategize a most-unusual return to the classroom.
In many ways, KISD’s traditional welcome back for teachers mirrored what parents and students might experience in just over a week - the first day of virtual school.
New Teacher Induction, usually a large celebration in a conference ballroom, this year took place across most of KISD’s schools and included recorded introduction and in-person guided training.
The next day, the large wave of experienced district teachers and other professional staff arrived and after a recorded welcome from the superintendent, moved into large and small group training. Learning included protocols tied to virus mitigation.
Many school leaders found ways to incorporate fun into the unusual welcome back.
West Ward teachers chose grade-level representatives to stuff marshmallows in their mouths and try to say words newly familiar to educators (synchronous and asynchronous).
At Bellaire Elementary School, staff members followed their leaders in a hallway parade with music and costumes reflecting New Orleans’ traditional second line parade. The display, Principal Lavonda Loney said, celebrated the Bellaire Braves final year.
Bellaire and Clifton Park elementary schools wrap up long service in the central part of Killeen prior to consolidating in the new Clifton Park Elementary School, located next to the now-closed Nolan Middle School.
A new Nolan Middle School stands on Warriors Path in Harker Heights and includes KISD’s second middle school STEM Academy, this one serving the east portion of the district.
Last year, Nolan’s first-year principal, Ashley York closed out the building on Jasper Road without formal ceremony and now is opening the district’s newest school with a largely virtual event, appropriate in the district’s all-virtual start to school.
For all the uncertainty and long hours, York showed her joy Friday to have teachers in the building.
“Having teachers here makes me happy,” she said between recording segments for a virtual school tour. “We have this big, beautiful building. It’s better when it’s not empty.”
Across the school, technology services employees prepared laptops for returning teachers, work crews cleaned and teachers planned to meet their students.
Sixth-grade science teachers Justine Morales and Pamela Lewis moved between their adjacent, connected classrooms talking through lab experiences their students could conduct from home.
They hope to prepare “care packages” of simple ingredients students can pick up for conducting experiments at home with virtual teacher guidance, both recorded and live. “We want them to be able to enjoy the fun of science at home,” Morales said.
Just as the science teachers unpacked and tried out their new equipment, Lewis said their students would learn along with them.
“We gave our teachers a little information and then let them start doing their own planning,” York said. “They’re starting to make videos to support virtual learning. They are taking it and going with it. I’m super-proud.”
Elsewhere in KISD, West Ward administrators and teachers took the registration process into the neighborhoods.
Sixteen families took advantage of the registration at the Boys & Girls Club, the Open Book Fellowship and the New Sunset Community Church. They will provide the off-site registration again from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13.
West Ward Elementary School is also ending operations at its campus on Dean Street and will consolidate with the former East Ward Elementary School attendance zone in the new Killeen Elementary School in 2021.
Transition is underway at Killeen High School, too. The first phase of a huge renovation is near completion. Teachers began training at the old Nolan building, but will get a look at their new space before students arrive in September.
For the start of professional development, KHS staff members gathered in subject-area groups in Nolan classrooms with Principal Kara Trevino and other staff in the library. All took part in a virtual Challenge Day activity focusing on empathy and compassion.
“We are focusing on building relationships, reconnecting and re-establishing as a family,” Trevino said.
In the coming week, KISD parents will be able to pick up school supplies and requested iPads and laptops. Many teachers are planning virtual classroom tours to launch prior to the Aug. 17 all-virtual start to school.
Traditional face-to-face school begins Tuesday, Sept. 8 following the Labor Day holiday.
See KISD’s Return to Learn and COVID-19 response at