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SMCISD answers questions at town hall
San Marcos Consolidated ISD held three town halls last week followed by a staff only Q-and-A session to answer burning questions about how students and teachers can safely return to campus.
“I think as far as preparing for the 2020-2021 school year, our teachers are going to be a huge part in preparing a safe school for our families,” said Executive Director of Communications Andrew Fernandez. “We thank our campus teachers and staff and custodians who have done a tremendous job preparing our campus. We are doing our best and we need the help of our teachers to prepare. We are going to prepare the buildings and the staff to the best of our abilities. The safety of our staff and families and students is our number one priority.”
One major cause for concern was whether or not parents would be notified of a positive case from someone on campus, and the answer was yes. Instances of cases will be sent out via the district's mass notification system as well through their website to keep parents informed about any potential outbreak on campus.
Another question from teachers was about the necessity for having teachers on campus for the 22 day training period and during the remote learning period.
“Our main goal is to prepare for students to return. The teachers and staff know our students best,” Fernandez said. “If they can assist us in creating our safety plans, it's going to be a safer school. We have guidelines that campuses must follow but Pre-K will look completely different than high school. We need staff to come back and work together to develop those plans for their campuses.”
As to why teachers are being required to teach in their classrooms during the remote learning period, Fernandez said its about providing the best possible learning experience for the kids with the webcams and huge digital screens in classrooms. “This equipment will allow the remote learning to be even better,” said Fernandez.
Another question was about the potential pushback of the Oct. 5 in person start date. Superintendent Michael Cardona will be working closely with the Hays County Local Health Department to make informed decisions to push back the date another four weeks of remote learning if necessary.
Answers to the questions about capacity in classrooms and on buses will be dependent on the number of students that opt to be taught on campus, Fernandez said.
More information was provided about the survey for students learning on campus or virtually after Oct. 5. While the deadline to submit a response to the learning option survey is Aug. 4, families can change their mind up to two weeks before the first day of school, or Aug. 25.
Then there will be another reconsideration window mid-October for parents to change their method of learning selection for the second nine weeks of instruction, which takes students into January.
SMCISD recognizes this is a particularly anxious situation for everyone, Fernandez said, and as a result they want to highlight that they will continue providing social and emotional counseling services as they normally do for students, families and staff in person as well as virtually.
Thinking about accessibility, in addition to transitioning all learning activities for grades K-12, all resources will be available in English and in Spanish. Accommodations for students with disabilities will be available whether they are learning in person or virtually. They will also be providing faster internet access for their students with hotspots.
Teachers will be using the same lessons, pacing and grading guidelines for both remote and in person instruction options.
For online learning, students will have certain periods of live instruction and independent learning. Teachers will be recording classes for students who may not be able to attend every live instruction period.
Students who select remote learning will be able to participate in available extracurricular activities and sports, according to Texas Education Agency guidelines. Career and technical education certification programs will also be available in virtual learning programs.
They shared more information about how they would safeguard students by wearing masks, distancing students and putting up physical barriers, but there remained a question of enforcement. SMCISD says it will discipline students for not adhering to safety precautions the same way they would discipline students for any other violation. The district will also be beginning the school year with training and presentations teaching students about the importance of these precautions and how they will keep them safe.
SMCISD will be distributing a video in the coming weeks for families to have a visualization of what campus will look like prior to the first day of school. It will be sent out through its mass notification system.