Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott officially signed into law a new education funding bill that will allow public schools like ours to offer full virtual learning to up to 10 percent of our student body enrolled in Grades K-12.
Under the law, to be eligible to participate and remain in virtual learning, students must meet all of the following criteria:
- Students must have passed the most recent STAAR exams (if applicable to grade level). If student did not take STAAR, NWEA grade-level proficiency is required, AND;
- Students must have earned a “C” grade of higher in “foundation curriculum” courses taken virtually or remotely in the previous school year (ex. Math, reading), AND;
- Students must have no more than 10% unexcused absences during the previous school year, and maintain less than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.
Recently, we asked families to log into Skyward to let us know if they prefer for their child to attend virtual learning or continue in-person learning on campus. The deadline to make your selection is Wednesday September 15, 2021. For those who select “Virtual Learning,” we will cross-checking their student records to determine their eligibility status. Those selected will be notified by their home campus soon and given further directions on how to begin online learning.
For those not selected for virtual learning or who wish to remain in-person learning from campus, Harmony will continue to offer its “remote conferencing” option on an as-needed basis. Under this program, students can learn from home for up to 20 instructional days if they have a pre-existing medical condition, or are forced to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. Additional days may be granted upon TEA approval with required documentation.
Harmony thanks you for your ongoing support and patience as the situation regarding virtual learning unfolded these past few weeks. Whether your student is attending virtual or in-person, we look forward to a great school year with you and your family.
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La semana pasada, el gobernador Greg Abbott promulgó oficialmente una nueva ley de financiación de la educación que permitirá a las escuelas públicas como la nuestra ofrecer aprendizaje virtual completo para hasta el 10 por ciento de nuestros estudiantes.
En consecuencia, Harmony Public Schools se complace en anunciar que comenzará a ofrecer una opción de aprendizaje virtual a partir del lunes 4 de octubre para los estudiantes elegibles, según lo permitan los límites de inscripción.
Según la ley, para ser elegible para participar y permanecer en el aprendizaje virtual, los estudiantes deben cumplir con todos los siguientes criterios:
- Los estudiantes deben haber aprobado los exámenes STAAR más recientes (si corresponde al nivel de grado). Si el estudiante no hizo STAAR, se requiere competencia de nivel de grado de NWEA, Y;
- Los estudiantes deben haber obtenido una calificación “C” o superior en los cursos del “plan de estudios básico” hechos de forma virtual o remota en el año escolar anterior (por ejemplo, matemáticas, lectura), Y;
- Los estudiantes no deben tener más del 10% de ausencias injustificadas durante el año escolar anterior y mantener menos de 10 ausencias injustificadas en un período de seis meses.
Recientemente, les pedimos a las familias que inicien sesión en Skyward para informarnos si prefieren que su hijo asista al aprendizaje virtual o que continúe con el aprendizaje presencial en el campus. La fecha límite para hacer su selección es el miércoles 15 de septiembre de 2021. Para aquellos que seleccionen “Aprendizaje virtual”, verificaremos sus registros de estudiantes para determinar su estado de elegibilidad. Los seleccionados serán notificados por su campus de origen pronto y se les dará más instrucciones sobre cómo comenzar el aprendizaje en línea.
Para aquellos que no hayan sido seleccionados para el aprendizaje virtual o que deseen seguir aprendiendo de manera presencial desde el campus, Harmony continuará ofreciendo su opción de “conferencias remotas” según sea necesario. Bajo este programa, los estudiantes pueden aprender desde casa durante hasta 20 días de instrucción si tienen una afección médica preexistente o si se ven obligados a ponerse en cuarentena debido a un diagnóstico positivo o exposición a la COVID-19. Se pueden otorgar días adicionales con la aprobación de la TEA con la documentación requerida.
Gracias por su continuo apoyo y paciencia mientras se desarrolló el aprendizaje virtual estas últimas semanas. Ya sea que su estudiante asista virtual o presencialmente, esperamos tener un gran año escolar con usted y su familia.
Dear Harmony Families,
Today, we would like to share some important news regarding a potential virtual learning option at your child’s school.
This weekend, a new bill to fund virtual learning in Texas public schools like Harmony cleared a major hurdle in the Texas Legislature. In its current form, schools such as Harmony Public Schools would be allowed to provide virtual learning for up to 10 percent of its student body throughout the remainder of the school year.
While the bill has not received final approval and specific details may change before being signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, it now appears very likely that schools like ours will be able to offer virtual learning in some form to students in the near future and we are looking forward to offering comprehensive virtual learning to our student population during 2021-2022 school year.
Currently, in your child’s Skyward account is a form asking your family’s interest in virtual learning. We ask that you please complete this virtual learning application form as soon as you are able. While we may not be able to accommodate every request due to potential new legal restrictions on the number of students who can participate, by understanding your preference we will be able to more quickly assign students to virtual learning should it become an option.
We will continue to share important updates with you as new information becomes available.
Estimadas familias de Harmony,
Hoy, no nos gustaría compartie algunas noticias importantes sobre una posible opción de aprendizaje virtual en la escuela de sus hijos. Este fin de semana, un nuevo proyecto de ley para financiar el aprendizaje virtual en escuelas públicas de Texas como Harmony eliminó un obstáculo importante en la Legislatura de Texas. En su forma actual, las Escuelas Públicas de Harmony podrían proporcionar aprendizaje virtual para hasta el 10 por ciento de su cuerpo estudiantil durante el resto del año escolar.
Aunque el proyecto no ha recibido la aprobación final y unos detalles específicos pueden cambiar antes de set convertida en lay por en gobernador, Greg Abbott, ahora parece muy probable que las escuelas como la nuestra puedan ofrecer aprendizaje virtual de alguna forma a los estudiantes en un futuro cercano y esperamos ofrecer un aprendizaje virtual integral a nuestra población estudiantil durante la escuela 2021-2022 año.
Actualmente, en la cuenta de Skyward de si hijo o hija hay un formulario que pregunta el interés de su familia en el aprendizaje virtual. Le pedimos que complete este formulario de solicitud de aprendizaje virtual tan pronto como pueda. Si bien es posible que no podamos atender todas las solicitudes debido a posibles nuevas restricciones legales sobre la cantidad de estudiantes que pueden participar, al comprender su preferencia, podremos asignar estudiantes más rápidamente al aprendizaje virtual si se convierte en una opción.
Continuaremos compartiendo actualizaciones importantes con usted a medida que haya nueva información disponible.
On Saturday, the HPS executive board approved a recommendation allowing all regular employees 10 additional days of paid leave should they test positive for COVID-19 or be asked to quarantine due to close contact with another COVID-19 positive individual.
The benefit is available retroactively to August 2 (first day of 2021-22 school year), and extends through December 31, 2021.
Employees with additional questions or who need to request leave for any purpose should contact email@example.com.
Dear Harmony Families,
From its beginning, Harmony Public Schools has held onto two strong beliefs.
First, that by focusing on STEM, we could help our students better understand their connection to the world around them, and prepare them to help tackle the challenges of our collective future.
Second, that schools work best when parents, teachers, and school leaders are all working together to do what’s best for our students.
Few issues have put those two core beliefs – following science, and doing what’s best for kids – into sharper focus than the issue of protective face masks at our schools.
At Harmony, we firmly believe the preponderance of credible medical evidence proves that masks are a simple and effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, communities, and homes. This is why we frequently and publicly advocate for their use by students and team members – because it’s good science, and it’s what is best for kids.
Today, we would like to share a new Harmony Public Schools mask policy that we believe is strongly based on science and student safety, while also taking into account the legitimate reasons some families may prefer for their child not to wear a mask. We also believe this policy can remain consistent regardless of the outcome of current legal decisions related to mask “mandates” in schools.
Harmony Student Mask Policy
- All Harmony staff members are asked to wear a mask on campus, unless there are medical, religious or other specific reasons that is not possible.
- All Harmony Public Schools students are asked to wear masks on campus. If a student does not have a mask, one will be provided.
- The parents of children who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other specific issues, including difficulty breathing while wearing a mask, may submit a formal exemption request on Skyward. (This is consistent with our long-standing student Dress Code exemption policy, which can be found on page 22 of the HPS Student & Parent Handbook).
- We are asking that all employees, students, parents and visitors voluntarily comply with this mask policy.
When it comes to masks, there may be no perfect policy for all families. Masks have become one of the more hotly debated issues of our time. The one thing we can all agree on, though, is that we all look forward to a day when no one needs to wear a mask.
In the late spring and early summer, many of us believed that day was close. Unfortunately, it’s not quite here, yet. But by working together, we will get there – hopefully soon.
For now, we’re asking for Harmony to mask up.
It’s good science, and it’s what is best for kids.
Dear Parents and Guardians:
Today, we would like to inform you of important education option for your family if you believe your student may have experienced significant academic losses during the 2020-2021 school year.
This summer, the 87th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1697, which allows parents and guardians to elect for a student to repeat a grade or retake a high school course.
This gives parents or guardians the right to opt for their child to:
- repeat pre-kindergarten or enroll in pre-kindergarten if the child was eligible to enroll in pre-kindergarten in the previous school year and has not yet enrolled in kindergarten;
- repeat kindergarten; or enroll in kindergarten if the child would have enrolled in kindergarten in the previous school year and has not yet enrolled in first grade; and
- for grades one through three, repeat the grade the student was enrolled in during the previous school year.
For the 2021-2022 school year only, parents or guardians have the right to opt for their child:
- for grades four through eight, repeat the grade the student was enrolled in during the 2020-2021 school year; and
- for courses taken for high school credit, repeat any course in which the student was enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year.
When determining whether these options may be right for your student, here are some things which may be helpful to consider:
- For children in grades 1-8, repeating may be right for your child if he/she struggled learning while remaining virtual most of the year.
- For students who took high school courses, repeating one or more courses may be right for your child if he/she struggled in a foundational course (e.g. Algebra I or computer science) and is worried about being successful in higher-level courses.
- If a high school student received a passing grade for the course they are requesting to repeat, they will keep their original grade on their transcript.
- For children interested in high school interscholastic competition, parents and guardians should review eligibility rulesbased on student age.
According to the new law, parents or guardians are required to notify the district in writing (letter or email to school principal) if they elect for their child to retake a grade level or course.
By law, if a district disagrees, the district must convene a retention committee and meet with the parent or guardian to discuss the proposed retention.
After the parent/ guardian has participated in the retention committee meeting, the parent or guardian will decide if the student will be retained.
For more information or to request retention for your student, please contact your campus administration.
- Harmony Public Schools
The following is a message from Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay.
Dear Harmony Families,
Like many of you, we at Harmony Public Schools are greatly concerned by the rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant.
At Harmony, we are working diligently to keep our schools safe and provide families the tools they need to keep their child protected from COVID-19.
Today, we would like to share with you several important updates regarding Harmony’s COVID-19 policy and procedures.
First, we would like to announce that we will be offering a TEA-approved “remote conferencing” option that will allow students a limited ability to attend classes from home if they are sick, have been exposed to COVID-19, or in a COVID-19 high-risk group.
Per TEA requirement, the total amount of time for remote instruction may not exceed more than 20 instructional days for the entire 2021-22 school year. In order to be eligible, students must meet one of the criteria below:
- The student is unable to attend school because of a temporary medical condition that is documented by a physician licensed to practice in the United States.
- The student’s healthcare provider is required to complete and sign an HPS COVID-19 High Risk Exemption Medical Certification form. Parents need to submit the form to the school health aide to confirm eligibility. Failure to provide the completed form will disqualify a student from participating. Here is the link to download exemption application form: https://www.HarmonyTX.org/medicalrequest
- The student has a positive test result for a communicable condition listed in state regulations at 25 Tex. Admin. Code §97.7. Parents need to provide test results to the school health aide listing the communicable condition. This includes a positive test result for COVID-19.
- The student has been identified as having been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual as confirmed by the school, the student’s health care provider, or local health agency. Parents need to provide written notification or send email to the school health aide.
Next, we would like to share an update regarding contact tracing and reporting of potential COVID-19 cases on campus.
Although it is not required for schools to conduct contract tracing and inform parents if someone in their child’s class had tested positive for COVID-19, we believe families have the right to know what is happening at their child’s school. That’s why we will continue to implement the following measures.
- Inform parents if a child or team member tests positive for COVID-19 in their classroom.
- Conduct contact tracing to determine the potential spread of COVID-19 in our schools.
- Provide transparency to the public about our schools by continuing to update our COVID-19 “case count” dashboard, which can be found at www.HarmonyTX.org/coviddashboard.
- Continue to work with local pharmacies and community health organizations to host on-campus vaccination clinics for team members and eligible students age 12 and older. (Please follow your campus Facebook page and parents newsletter for more info about upcoming campus clinics near you.)
Finally, we understand that a full remote learning option is something some of our families are highly interested in. Currently, state leaders in the Texas Legislature are convening in Austin to vote on whether they will allow districts to offer full virtual learning.
We don’t yet know what the decision of the Texas Legislature will be, or how long it may take to reach that decision.
What we do know is that an option for virtual learning is an important issue to our Harmony families across the state. That’s why, despite the challenges schools across Texas have faced in offering virtual learning this fall, we are fully prepared to quickly move to a virtual option for those families interested, should state leaders approve this option.
We will continue to keep you updated as new developments occur.
Thank you for your support and collaboration throughout this process, and for being a part of our Harmony family.
Fatih Ay | CEO, Harmony Public Schools
The following is a list of questions commonly asked by parents and students about the start of the 2021-22 school year at Harmony Public Schools.
For more information, visit https://www.HarmonyTX.org/playbook.
Harmony Public Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Will Harmony Public Schools offer virtual learning this year?
A: No. Harmony will return to face to face instruction at all campuses for the 21-22 school year as mandated by the Texas Education Agency. We are excited to have our students back in the classroom and will continue to support their social, emotional, and academic growth.
Q: What will on-campus instruction look like for this year?
A: Just as before the pandemic, students will attend in-person learning according to the academic calendar. This calendar can be found on your campus website. Teachers will provide in-person learning, which includes hands-on activities, small group projects and intervention, station rotations, teacher one-on-one support, etc.
Q: What COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place for students and teachers?
A: Face masks are optional for both students and Harmony team members, but are strongly recommended. Physical distancing may be maintained to the extent possible. Hand sanitizer will be provided, and students will be encouraged to practice frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and physical distancing. Teachers will sanitize high-touch areas in the classroom when necessary. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, we may update protocols as the situation dictates.
Q: My child struggled with virtual learning, and I am concerned they are academically behind. How will Harmony help my child regain academic progress?
A: We understand that some students struggled last year. Our educational teams are here to diagnose learning loss and provide an intervention plan to address it. This will include regular Response to Intervention (RTI) system implementation, after school tutoring, small group instruction, Saturday school, and summer school options.
Q: My child excelled with virtual learning last year. Will they be academically challenged this year?
A: Yes! We will continue to provide rigorous instruction with differentiated options for students including emphasis on college and career readiness.
Q: Will extracurricular activities resume this year?
A: Yes! We anticipate all extracurricular activities to resume for students, including academic clubs, athletics, fine arts, UIL, competitions, etc. Check the Clubs page of your campus website throughout the year for new clubs and extracurriculars.
Q: After a year out of the classroom, how will students and staff be supported in transitioning back to a social setting?
A: Harmony will provide mental health support to our students and staff during and after the back to school transition period. Each campus will utilize a Behavioral Counselor and implement support systems to ensure all students and staff receive the help they need.
Q: Where can I apply for free or reduced price meals?
A: All students eat FREE this year at all schools! Your child will automatically receive their free meal(s) each day in your campus cafeteria. You may, however, still be asked to complete a Free & Reduced Meal eligibility form once the school year starts, as this plays a crucial role in determining the amount of federal and state funding your child’s school may receive.
Q: What safety protocols will be in place during breakfast and lunch?
A: Cafeteria teams will continue to clean and sanitize dining areas. Physical distancing will be maintained to the extent possible. Students will sanitize their hands before and after eating, and will not be allowed to share food or utensils. Harmony will maintain adult supervision in the cafeteria to reinforce mealtime safety measures.
Q: Will water fountains be available for students?
A: Students will have access to touchless water fountains and are encouraged to bring their own reusable clear water bottles to use throughout the day. Water bottles should be taken home daily to be cleaned.
Q: What if my child displays symptoms of COVID-19 while at school?
A: The teacher will immediately call the Health Aide, who will pick up the student from the classroom and place the student in isolation to minimize interaction. The school Health Aide will communicate with the parent/guardian, and the student will be sent home. The student may not return to school until clearance is given by the school Health Aide. Additional guidance on the criteria that must be met prior to the student’s return to school is located in the Harmony Public Schools Back to School Playbook, 2021-2022.
Q: Should I notify the school if my child tested positive for COVID-19 or was in close contact with someone who tested positive?
A: Yes, families will self-report within 48 hours to the Health Aide if their child(ren) tested positive for COVID-19 or if they believe the child(ren) has been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Q: How will I be notified if my child is exposed to COVID-19 at school?
A: If classroom exposure occurs, families will be notified via letter home, call, or school messaging services and the classroom will be sanitized.
Q: May I visit my child’s school?
A: Harmony always welcomes visitors to campuses and district offices, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will implement some limitations to minimize risk. Visitors will check in through the front office security system, and we will continue utilization of temperature checks. All visitors should complete a self-check before entering a school building, and visitors with COVID symptoms should NOT enter school buildings or offices.
The following is a message from Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay for HPS students, families and team members.
Hello … and happy summer vacation!
We hope you are having a fun and relaxing break. Here at Harmony, we’re already hard at work preparing for another exciting and engaging school year for our students and team members. With the first day of classes just a few weeks away, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide our students, team members, and their families a little more information on what to expect in the coming school year.
Here are a few highlights, but expect more details along with our annual Back to School Playbook in the days ahead:
We can’t wait to see you this fall!
The Harmony Public Schools Executive Board unanimously approved a systemwide compensation increase for its 4,000+ teachers and team members across Texas.
Harmony teachers and other education professionals will receive between $4,000-$7,500 per year in additional compensation beginning the 2021-22 school year for a total annual system investment of roughly $15 million.
“The obstacles our schools have overcome the past two years have shown the profound impact that highly-qualified, highly-dedicated teachers can have on positive student outcomes,” Harmony CEO Fatih Ay said. “Opportunities like this are just one way we are showing our appreciation for all that our team members have contributed the past two years and for all the hard work still to come.”
The compensation increase comes in two parts:
A $2,000-$5,500 base pay increase for teachers and education professionals. The exact amount varies by community based on local market pay scales (see chart below).
A $2,000 across-the-board “Acceleration Stipend” for all teachers and professional employees.
All non-exempt (i.e. hourly) employees also will receive a raise of at least $1/hour, with some employees receiving $2/hour or more increases depending on position and location. With these increases, no full-time hourly worker in the Harmony system will earn less than $15/hour.
The increase was the third occasion in the past two school years in which Harmony announced a major improvement to employee compensation and benefits.
In January 2021, Harmony announced a sweeping upgrade of its employer-paid benefits that provided free vision and dental plans to all full-time employees, introduced matching retirement plan contributions for 403(b) and (457(b) participants, and increased life insurance payouts from $20,000 to $100,000.
In Summer 2019, Harmony also announced statewide base pay increases for employees ranging from $3,500-$5,000, as well as additional stipends for teachers working in hard-to-staff subjects.
Harmony also was selected by the Texas Education Agency in 2020 among its first round of Teacher Incentive Allotment recipients, which provided annual bonuses for a select group of high-performing educators.
“Our teachers are always looking for new ways to invest in their students, so it’s important to Harmony as a school system to always find new opportunities to invest in our teachers,” Ay said. “Whether its compensation or benefits increases like these, or professional development opportunities that help team members grow their personal skillset or advance their careers, we believe that an investment in our people is among the best investments we can make.”
Harmony Public Schools is a Texas-born, Texas-wide public charter school system with campuses serving PreK-Grade 12 students in 23 cities across the state, including Greater Houston, DFW, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Lubbock, Odessa, Bryan, Beaumont, and the Rio Grande Valley. Harmony’s curriculum places a heavy focus on STEM skills, Character Education, project-based learning, and college readiness.
Harmony Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year for both students and team members.
About Harmony Public Schools
Harmony Public Schools are 58 high performing PreK-12 college preparatory charter schools throughout Texas. Harmony blends the highest standards and expectations, with a rigorous math- and science-centered curriculum and dedicated and engaged teachers and families to cultivate excellence and prepare students to succeed in college, careers and life. At Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can succeed, and we are committed to helping them realize their full potential. To learn more about Harmony Public Schools and our 58 campuses across Texas, please visit: www.harmonytx.org, and follow us on Twitter at @HarmonyEdu and ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyTexas.