As families struggle with their local school boards to offer in-person classes this fall, one private school in North Texas is offering a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes.

“We’re going to start school on August the 12th, and we are offering our families an in-person option or an online … virtual option,” Dr. Misty Overman, head of school of Fort Worth Christian School, told Texas Scorecard.

When government mandates came down in March in response to the Chinese coronavirus, in-person classes came to an end and education was rushed into a virtual-only format. Now, with the support of the parents the school works with, FWC is offering in-person classes again, with safety as their first priority.

“The extra layer of the health safety component of this … the disinfecting, the wearing of the mask, social distancing—we like to call it ‘physical distancing,’ actually—we’ve taken all of those precautions,” Overman said.  “We are going to screen our kids, and we’re trying to follow the CDC [guidelines] for opening schools.”

This wasn’t a last-minute decision, either; as with most decisions made at this school, it was part of a deliberative, methodical process that involved parents. “We’ve had several webinars, we’ve had Zoom meetings with parents, we’ve had health professionals … helping us,” Overman explained. “Through all of that, our families have [said], ‘We want to come back.’”

“We want to come back safely, of course, but we want to come back.”

This resonated with Overman, whose “battle cry” is “I don’t want to do school to you, I want to do school with you.” FWC has a collaborative approach to education, making it a process that involves the family and the school working together.

This was seen in how they handled the rapid transition to all-virtual learning earlier this year. While we hear of issues within public education, FWC had its challenges, but the school adjusted well.

For example, FWC saw very little drop-off in student participation after the transition to virtual learning. “You have the occasional child who, for some reason, was unable to attend,” Overman recalled. “But there was quick follow-up with those kiddos, and we did not have anywhere close to what our friends in public school had to deal with. Our administrative team and our counselors were right on that, just checking with families to make [sure] that we were able to provide as much as we could for them to be successful.”

Overman said this was possible because of the strong relationship between the teachers and their students—thanks to smaller classroom sizes—which enabled teachers to pick up on a problem and take the steps of involving the school counselor, the parents, and administrators to address the issue.

FWC also took steps to address students who feel disconnected, like having “online recess” and family game nights on Fridays. Meanwhile, FWC teachers have adjusted their teaching styles in order to continue delivering quality education. “Our faculty and staff have spent the entire summer reworking what they do in the classroom, not only for in-person but especially if we have to go virtual again,” Overman said.

“Engagement, student assessment, things like that … our folks have taken a real long and great look at this summer through the lens of a book called ‘Marching off the Map’ with Dr. Tim Elmore.” Overman explained how different things are in today’s digitized world, so education needs to adjust. This year’s events only highlighted this issue.

“If we do not take the lessons we have learned through this and move forward, shame on us,” she said. “I know here, at Fort Worth Christian, that’s what we’re going to do.”

“We are living in a world we all knew [was] coming; we knew that this was a reality … [having] a mixture of learning opportunities, of learning platforms, and that’s not going to go away.”

Overman’s motto of engaging in education with students and their families seems grounded in FWC’s overall goal of equipping their students to become who God created them to be.

“We want them to know their purpose in life, and we want them to be figure-outers. We want them to go into the world knowing that it’s not pre-packaged, that they are able, they have the skills they’ve been taught to think for themselves so that they can go out and do whatever it is that God intended for them to do.”

Families interested in FWC are encouraged to visit their website, contact the school, and begin a conversation to see if they offer what you’re looking for.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.