By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY — Hays CISD welcomed some students back to the in-person classroom on Monday, Sept. 28, three weeks after virtual learning began.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright discussed the first day back at the Board of Trustees meeting Monday night, leaving several Board members with pending questions.
While the district had the first football game at Shelton Stadium using the COVID-19 protocol, Wright said it went as smoothly as could be expected.
“Everybody really followed the protocol,” Wright said. “So kudos to Lobo Nation for that because it was outstanding the way that everybody followed that. I think if we continue with those types of practices, we will be able to get in more and more activities for our kids.”
Traffic was a major issue since the district decided to only allow a certain number of students on each bus, creating long lines at each campus.
“I know I had some people reach out and tell me they waited in line for 20 to 30 to 40 minutes,” Wright said. “On further inspection, we found that a lot of the issues were related to traffic lights. So we are going to have to get in coordination and sync with TxDOT.”
Another issue is that more parents want to send their kids back to school in-person, though they selected for them to be virtual learners for the remainder of the first nine-week grading period. Deadlines are stated in the district’s plan yet Wright said they are trying to lend a hand the best they can.
“We still have more and more people that are wanting to come in person because a lot of our employers are starting to call their workforce back,” Wright told the Board of Trustees. “As a result, they need places for their children to go. We are trying to accommodate to the greatest extent that we can while still maintaining our social distancing.”
Board Vice President Will McManus questioned how flexible the district is with the parents’ decision for either in-person or virtual learning.
Wright clarified that the district has designated overflow campuses because they expected some parents would change their mind last minute.
“What we are trying to do is accommodate and maintain the three feet per classroom in between students,” Wright said. “Where we can, we will accept additional students and where we can’t, we will refer them to the next closest campus.”
Desks should be spaced three to six feet apart when possible, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Meredith Keller, Hays Trustee, said the district needs to be transparent with parents about the distancing and other safety protocols in classrooms.
“If we are telling parents that we are going to keep their children three feet apart, then we actually need to do that,” Keller said. “We need to make sure that we say what we mean and we do what we say. If the reality is we have to educate kids and they are coming to school, then we need to say that.”
There has already been an overflow of students in the classroom, leaving some confusion of how many students teachers are supposed to have on their roster. Board President Esperanza Orosco, agreeing with Keller, also said there needs to be more open communication with teachers.
“We need to communicate about what we are actually doing,” Orosco said. “I am getting calls from teachers that have 21 students in the classroom. It is not OK to have 21 kindergarten kids in the classroom when we know that it is already hard enough to social distance with pre-K, kindergarten and first grade and those little primary grades.”
District staff will continuously walk through unfamiliar territory as the school year unfolds. While there will be mistakes along the way, Keller said the Hays CISD community is doing the best they can to support every person.
“We have over 20,000 students,” Keller said. “That’s a lot of moving parts when, in an ordinary year, we already know how to do it. The margin of error is huge for this type of thing. I think our people are doing a fantastic job.”