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SMCISD changes beginning of school year, moves classes online for first four weeks

Monday, July 20, 2020

The San Marcos Consolidated ISD Board of Trustees approved a request to move the district’s first day of school from Aug. 24 to Sept. 8. 

The district also announced its plans to begin classes remotely for the first four weeks of school with the earliest return to in-person learning beginning on Oct. 5, depending on COVID-19 cases in San Marcos and Hays County.

“As superintendent of schools, it’s my belief that kids are better off in schools but that’s not the reality right now,” Superintendent Michael Cardona said. “It’s not the reality for our staff members and it’s not the reality for a community that has a lot of angst … I’m fairly confident that the plan we’re going to present to you, while not perfect does allow us to be better prepared to serve our kids..”

SMCISD’s announcement came during Monday’s regular board meeting, where Cardona and his staff unveiled the district’s reopening plan. 

The district, which suspended in-person learning for the 2019-2020 school year on March 26 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to gain footing in Hays County, will reopen in three phases. 

Under the first phase, the district will send out a survey to students on July 28, where they will choose whether they would like to return to in-person learning or if they would like to continue learning remotely. 

SMCISD Executive Director of Communications Andrew Fernandez clarified during Monday’s meeting that the district would work to ensure that all students are accounted for in its survey. 

“We will never leave out one of our families and we’ll go to whatever extent we need to to contact every single family in the district and that is our goal for this particular process,” Fernandez said, adding that the district will reach out to families by phone, email or will conduct a home visit to help fill out the survey if they don’t respond online. 

In mid-August, SMCISD staff will return to campuses, unless a staff accommodation request is submitted by July 31 and approved. 

The district will provide all staff masks and will ensure proper social distancing techniques are practiced, according to SMCISD’s reopening presentation. 

Employees will self-screen for COVID-19 each day prior to arriving at a district campus or building, according to the district’s plan. 

Phase two begins with the first day of classes on Sept. 8. Teachers will teach from their respective classrooms and the district will provide all students with computing devices. WiFi hotspots will be provided for increased capacity. 

The third phase begins on Oct. 5 when in-person learning begins for students who choose to return to SMCISD campuses. 

Dividers will be put in place in areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Additionally, face masks will be required when on campus. The district will provide all classrooms with wipes, cleaner and hand sanitizer for students to use to clean their learning surfaces. SMCISD will also clean and disinfect school workspaces and high-traffic areas throughout the day. 

For students taking school transportation, they’ll be required to wear a face covering on a bus, per Texas Education Agency guidelines. SMCISD will provide masks for students who don’t arrive with one. Additionally, all students will be provided with hand sanitizer when they get on and off the bus. On buses, drivers will wear face coverings in the presence of students, and windows will be lowered to provide proper ventilation, if weather permits, according to the district’s reopening plan. 

For meals, SMCISD’s child nutrition staff will use personal protective equipment when working on the job. Students will be released on a staggered schedule. The district will halt food delivery services for the first nine weeks of school. Students will eat in all available areas to ensure proper social distancing, the district’s reopening plan states. Eating spaces will be cleaned immediately after meals are ended. 

While the district moved to start school on Sept. 8, SMCISD’s last day will still be June 3. 

This story has been updated since its first publication. 

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666