Other districts promote remote learning for first two weeks of semester
In the week that local students ended their semester for the Christmas break and district administrators in Pearsall and Cotulla offered a respite from the first two weeks of in-class tuition in January, Dilley ISD announced that it invites all students to return next Tuesday.
Dilley ISD Superintendent Dr. Emilio Castro wrote in a statement mailed to all staff and parents on Tuesday, December 22, that rapid COVID-19 testing will be offered to teachers Monday, Jan. 4, and that he hopes campuses will be able to reopen for class the following day.
Dilley ISD is taking the position that students are considered to be in a safer environment when they are at school.
“As districts across Texas are all doing their very best to keep students and staff as safe as possible, decisions are being made to slow down and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Supt. Castro wrote, adding that Dilley ISD is aligning its decision to reopen with recommendations from and consultation with the Centers for Disease Control, the Region 8 Texas Department of State Health Services, the Region 20 Education Service Center, the Texas Education Agency, and Frio Regional Hospital.
“Our medical professionals state that since schools enforce mask wearing, social distancing, frequent sanitizing, disinfecting and hand washing, as well as provide every student a desk shield, they believe schools are the safest place for students and staff to be in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Castro wrote.
Dilley ISD has equipped its student desks with acrylic screens to separate class members from each other and from their teachers, requires everyone to wear a mask at all times, and is recommending that teachers also wear protective face shields in front of their masks. The school district has employed what it calls COVID custodians to make continual rounds of all buildings with disinfectant and other cleaning materials, targeting high-use and common areas throughout the school day, and clean all buildings at night.
During the pandemic, Dilley has matched its policies with those of Cotulla and Pearsall ISDs, allowing parents to choose whether to send their children back into the classroom or to opt for at-home remote learning by internet. Those who stay home must wait until the end of a six-week grading period before announcing a decision to return to campus for live tuition. Students who stay home are provided with internet hotspots where needed and are expected to log in each day for their coursework, interaction over a live-feed platform, and to submit work for grading. Parents are subject to citation on charges of contributing to truancy if they allow their children to miss remote education.
Dilley ISD’s superintendent said that while he hopes teachers and students will be clear of the coronavirus in the first week of the new year, there is a contingency plan for an alternative start to the semester.
“Hopefully, everyone tests negative,” Dr. Castro wrote, “If we determine that we have too many positive COVID-19 tests and cannot safely hold school with limited teaching staff, we will issue an update on January 4, advising parents, guardians and students that we may go to remote instruction.”
Dilley ISD has switched to completely remote instruction once during the current academic year, sending all students home and closing campuses during a surge in coronavirus cases among students and staff in November.