San Benito CISD discusses reopening plan

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SAN BENITO — In light of the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, school districts are continuing to make adjustments and preparations for the upcoming school year.

San Benito CISD Board of Trustees reviewed and discussed the school district’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year during a meeting held this past week.

A task force comprised of the school district’s principals, head nurse, directors and assistant superintendents helped make the plan.

“Each of them was instrumental in putting this together and it is quite a plan,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman said. “It currently stands at 69 pages in length.”

The Board of Trustees has a week to review the plan and will vote whether or not to approve it during a regular board meeting that will be held on Aug. 11.

Safety measures

Section one of the plan addresses the safety of students, staff and visitors.

“We’ve established some phases and timelines that we believe will help in keeping our students and our staff safe,” Carman said. “Currently we’re in the planning phase.”

Phase one kicks off on Aug. 26, which is the district’s first day of school and will run through Oct. 20. Carman said the timing for the end of phase one is pending a Texas Education Agency (TEA) waiver of four additional weeks or could be longer, pending TEA and the local health department.

“During that phase, we’ll implement social distancing protocols and open our facilities with limited access and use by employees,” Carman said. “That’s when we will initiate our remote instruction for students.”

After eight weeks, unless there are any changes, the school district would begin to expand the use of its schools in phase two, per recommendations and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC), TEA, governor and applicable state and local agencies. Live instruction would be provided as an option in this phase.

According to Carman, the date for phase three is to be determined.

“At that point, we would open schools fully, expand full operations based on recommendations and data from the same entities,” Carman said. “They determine some guidelines and restrictions that would have to remain in place.”

Procedures and protocols for visitors is provided within section one of the plan. Visitors of buildings will be limited to try to keep a safe environment.

From what they must do each day before entering the building to if they take a trip out of the area, section one also addresses travel restrictions on staff for work related trips, as well as student procedures and protocols.

“Including in that are if they become COVID positive or if they start to exhibit symptoms or if they’ve been in close contact with an individual who is positive,” Carman said. “We have all of this very well delineated on what the steps are before they can return to the school building.”

Section one also outlines COVID-19 symptoms and provides guidelines for mask and facial coverings, personal workspaces or classrooms versus shared work spaces, cleaning facilities, transportation and meals.

Carman said the plan for meal distribution is to open curbside meal pickup once daily at every campus to provide a hot meal and one ready to heat meal.

“We’ll also provide drop-off on our bus routes with ready to heat meals,” Carman said. “They won’t be hot while we’re taking them out on those routes, but parents will have an option.”

Curriculum and instruction

Section two of the plan addresses curriculum and instruction. Carman said the plan is to provide asynchronous remote instruction.

“In a nutshell, what it means is that our teachers don’t have to provide 100 percent live instruction to our students,” Carman said. “In our plan, we do have minutes per day that we want our teachers to be reaching out live for their students.”

Teachers will also post videos, lessons and assignments. Learning management systems for each grade level will be used to disseminate the work and to collect it. Carman said this will allow for more flexibility rather than using synchronous instruction.

“At some point, we will provide face-to-face instruction in adherence to CDC guidelines,” Carman said. “We cover that here about students wearing a mask or face covering unless they’re eating or speaking and maintaining a social distance of six feet or more while seated at their assigned partitioned desk.”

Pre-kindergarten through first grade will use Class Dojo or Google Classroom. Second grade through eighth will use Google Classroom. Ninth grade through 12th will start instruction with Google Classroom and the plan is for them to transition to Blackboard Learn.

“Talk about the technology with our recent order, we should have hotspots available for every family who needs internet access and we should be at or above the number needed for Chromebooks and laptops for each of our kids,” Carman said.

Section two of the plan also addresses school populations, special, bilingual and migrant education, gifted and talented program, After School program grading and attendance.

Carman said there are three ways the school district can claim attendance for a student.

One, is if they participate in the work assignments via the grade level identified learning platform. The second way is if they interact with the teacher virtually in live sessions. Lastly, is if they complete and submit their assignments via email, submit a photo, phone conference or other form of documentation.

Final sections

Section three addresses sports and extra curricular planning, based on information from the University Interscholastic League.

The last section of the plan addresses communication methods and platforms that will be used.

“We want our community and our parents to be aware of how we’ll communicate to them during this process,” Carman said.

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