This year’s back to school preparations will not resemble anything Texans have seen before. As the school year creeps closer and infection rates soar, Hays CISD is requesting parental input for a clearer attendance census on school year 2020-2021.
The district dispatched a survey on whether parents need to send their children to campus, cannot send them back to school, or prefer a sort of hybrid model. Thousands of parents responded, a shock to the district’s Chief Communication Officer Tim Savoy. The amount of rapid responses may seem immense, but parents have been sitting on the edges of their seats since Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state’s plan to reopen schools in August. Savoy said they have many obstacles to overcome, like addressing how to handle bussing, seating students in the cafeteria and more.
Overall, parents expressed three general opinions on the governor’s school order; a hard no, an excited yes, and a hesitant audience who thinks it may be too soon to tell given the extreme rise of infections.
“In my opinion,” wrote Susan Beyer on a Facebook post about the governor’s decision, “it’s really too premature to make a decision that will happen in August. I’m a teacher and at first was elated because it means I can interact with my students again! I’m all for it because teaching online was not my specialty. I want to be back in school only if it’s safe for teachers and students, but who can really say what will happen?”
Julie Parsons, a 62-year-old educator, commented on the post saying she does not feel comfortable going back to campus.
Some of the parents made comments on the post worried not only about student health but teachers’ health as well. So far, data shows that children are far less susceptible to feeling the symptoms of COVID-19 or dying from it, but there have been recorded children’s deaths and they can pass on the virus.
Educators who cannot make it to class have the option of teaching online.
Since some people must resort to staying home, Hays CISD plans to expand its technology outreach. Some students living in the same household had to share electronics toward the end of the school year, but the district is more prepared this time around to send each student his or her own device, Savoy said.
According to Savoy, the district officials did not want to put out a survey until they knew they were financially prepared to handle the mix-matched school year. Besides funding for technology, they had to find the budget for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
After district officials knew they could handle the budget, they sent out the first survey. Eventually, Hays CISD will have to ask for a final decision from every parent for the model they want their child to follow.
It’s pertinent that the district knows which students cannot stay home due to parents working who cannot take days off. Melissa Sanchez commented on the Facebook post about why she needs to send her child back to school, to which several parents agreed.
“I’m probably going to be the unpopular comment so please don’t be too mean to me, but I can’t be a teacher,” Sanchez wrote. “I can’t pay for a roof over my kid’s head without my job in order to teach her appropriately. I had severe health issues the last two months of school trying to juggle both. My daughter is special needs and I’m already seeing regression with lack of structure and not pushing her hard academically. I need her to go to school for age appropriate educated interaction with teachers and peers. She needs it.”
One parent agrees that students should have the option of going back to school because to some, that is the only safe space they have in their lives. Some students and teachers cannot make it to school due to immunocompromised family members.
In certain instances, parents and the district had similar questions and concerns. For example, what will happen when a coronavirus case is detected in school? How often will these scenarios play out?
“We know going into next year we will have a situation where a campus will have a case, or two or more,” Savoy told the Hays Free Press. “We know we will have to make quick adjustments. Getting that information out quickly will be one of the best ways to alleviate concerns.”
Savoy said there have to be safety protocols in every school, from wearing face masks, to frequent hand sanitizing and washing, to social distancing. The district also believes giving parents the flexibility to make a decision on their child’s type of attendance is a key component. He said schools will be fogged and disinfected. Finally, Savoy emphasized the importance of communication between parents the district.
Regardless of the measures put in place and whether students attend school a few days a week, no days a week, or all days of the week, school will not look or feel the same.
Students will lose a lot of their precious face-time with each other and school staff. Many will also miss the hands on experiences like athletic activities, cosmetology courses, lab work and more.
“This will definitely be a generational shaping event,” Savoy explained. “At least in the sense of defining how social interactions will occur in society. While it’s a difficult experience to go through, I think the kids will come out with a better appreciation for global interactions and global health issues; it will probably shape the rest of their lives. This generational challenge for the kids will lead to characteristics that will be strengths for them as we move forward.”