Schools in North East Independent School District and San Antonio Independent School District will “absolutely” open in August, the superintendents of those districts said Friday. But what that looks like still must be determined.
NEISD Superintendent Sean Maika and SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez joined the mayor and county judge at a Friday night briefing on the pandemic. They spoke about the many elements that could play a role in schools reopening this fall and about summer school, which will help catch up students who have fallen behind on academic work. Martinez added that one of his district’s biggest concerns is losing touch with a portion of their student population.
“There’s still about 1,900 students that we have not been able to contact,” Martinez said. “So we’re going to be doing home visits – no-contact with masks and gloves, and just find these students over the next several weeks. But for us, one of the things that I’m asking families is, please register so we can plan for next year.”
The two school leaders commented on a TEA proposal to the calendar of the 2020-21 school year to build in additional weeks of instruction should coronavirus cases increase and schools need to be closed. Martinez said decisions could be made by individual districts. SAISD’s start date is Aug. 10.
NEISD’s start date is Aug. 17 and Maika said he is not planning to change the start date at this time. NEISD has more than 64,000 students, and changing that date would impact thousands of families’ work and childcare plans, he said.
Both superintendents emphasized that there will be options for families who don’t feel comfortable sending their students back to in-person instruction this fall. The SAISD superintendent noted that the online learning systems in place now will still be in place this fall with even more resources available.
“We know there’s still going to be fear,” Martinez said. “And so for parents who can take advantage of distance learning platforms, those will still be there. They’ll actually get stronger.”
Neither superintendent was sure how or if face masks will play a role should students and faculty return to schools in-person in the fall. All employees currently working onsite are required to wear masks at both districts.
“Even the people that we’re bringing back like our teachers, we’re asking them to wear masks as well,” Maika said. “So as far as what August will look like … that’s a real potential that may be one of those things. At this point we have not made a definitive decision in our school district.”
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Three more people died from COVID-19 complications, bringing the local coronavirus death toll to 62. One woman in her 70s died at a Baptist Health Systems hospital, while two other women in the Methodist Healthcare system died – one in her 90s and another in her 60s. All three had underlying health conditions, Nirenberg said.
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Coronavirus cases in Bexar County continue to increase, with 79 new cases reported Friday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. Of those, 22 were from the community while 42 were from the county jail where a total of 457 inmates and detention officers have contracted the virus. Two cases came from other congregate settings, while 13 cases are still being investigated.
Seventy COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. Thirty-four of those patients are in intensive care while 25 are on ventilators.
Education reporter Emily Donaldson contributed to this report.