By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be at the forefront of many minds as in-person learning for some Hays CISD students is right around the corner on Monday, Sept. 28.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright provided an update for the 2020-2021 school year at the Hays Board agenda workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 21. According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, there has been a total of five staff members and two students, over the course of two weeks, with positive cases.
Parents are able to select either in-person or virtual learning by grading period for the entire year. Beginning the fourth week of school, there is a total of 9,080 students for in-person learning and 11,089 students for virtual.
“I think the more that parents and grandparents have their kids at home, the more they want them to return,” Wright said. “Where we have space, we are allowing that to occur as long as we can still practice social distancing safely.”
According to the back to school plan, the district will be using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. While elementary teachers will not be expected to teach in-person students and virtual students at the same time, Board President Esperanza Orosco questioned what that entails at the secondary-level.
Dr. Wright clarified that secondary teachers will have options for how they want to conduct their lessons.
“Many of the teachers have asked if they could live stream for the synchronous piece while they are teaching their other students in class,” Wright said. “While they are both working on their assignments, then they could help their virtual kids as well as in-person kids.”
An average bus route will hold about 14 to 24 students and the largest route will hold 29, since eight of those students come from the same household. Students participating in extracurricular activities, including sports teams, are the exception and they may be seen on a loaded bus.
Most student athletes are expected to wear their face mask in bench areas but they can remove it while on the gym floor or court. Dr. Wright said fans are expected to wear masks during sporting events though social distancing may be possible.
“As far as spectators are concerned, there was some miscommunication,” Wright said. “UIL says that if you are attending a UIL event, that you are to wear a mask at all times regardless if you can provide social distancing or not.”
Teachers are going to have more on their plate this school year than ever before. Trustee Meredith Keller said that Dr. Wright, along with the administration, should take in consideration that some teachers may not be fully equipped for both the in-person and virtual classroom.
“What I want for you to be able to express, to everybody who is listening, is that if a teacher really doesn’t want to do this that nobody is going to make them,” Keller said.
Dr. Wright said he is open to listening to teacher’s concerns as the school year continues to unfold.
“Obviously, we would love to be able to accommodate the wishes of teachers, but I don’t know because of how the requests for in-person and virtual match up,” Wright said. “I don’t know what that will look like. We will at least listen, explore and see what we can do.”
While many members of the Hays community are concerned about the schedule of in-person learning, Dr. Wright said they will release more information to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 23.