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San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez said he plans to open the district’s 100 campuses on time Aug. 10, with appropriate social distancing rules.
It was already the earliest start date in Bexar County for a public school system. By then, school buildings will have been closed for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the 48,600 students in SAISD are finishing this school year online, while a small number are completing assignments on paper.
“For many of our children, they just need to be in classrooms,” Martinez said during a Tuesday meeting with the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. “I just think it’s the best environment for them.”
Martinez said he expected children to attend school in smaller groups during the fall semester at least, so they can be properly spaced out to avoid spreading the virus. SAISD has ordered thermometers for temperature checks and there will be more protections for staff, including acrylic barriers in offices, he said.
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Schools that would otherwise be too crowded might have to accept students in shifts, either for half days or alternating days, Martinez said. Staffers at every school are being asked to solicit feedback from parents and come up with a plan.
The rest of the time, he said, students will be expected to work remotely according to a “blended learning” model.
Students will likely eat in their classrooms and won’t congregate in gyms, said Martinez, who predicted fall contact sports would be canceled. Social distancing measures might be relaxed in the spring, he said, especially if vaccines start to become available.
Experts have said remote learning exacerbates inequities for students who don’t have adequate work environments — including privacy and reliable internet — at home. Some high school students have gone to work after family members got laid off. Parents who’ve kept working might not be able to adequately supervise their children’s remote learning.
Martinez said he wants to open summer schools in July for students who’ve fallen behind in these challenging circumstances.
Check back to expressnews.com for updates on this story.
Alia Malik covers several school districts and the University of Texas at San Antonio. To read more from Alia, become a subscriber. email@example.com | Twitter: @AliaAtSAEN