SAN ANTONIO – As San Antonio school districts scramble to meet the needs of students while trying to keep them safe during a global pandemic, Mayor Ron Nirenberg is acknowledging there will no doubt be “modified” openings.
A task force of teachers, students, teachers unions and pediatricians will meet as soon as Thursday to discuss how schools in the city’s 17 districts can reopen safely, Nirenberg said during two Q&A segments with KSAT on Wednesday.
“One thing I can say for sure is that schools will not be opening at full speed in August,” he said. “That’s pretty clear.”
Nirenberg first announced the coalition during his daily briefing with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. Hours before the briefing, the Texas Education Agency said local public health officials would be able to keep campuses closed for in-person instruction without risking state education funding.
The task force for San Antonio will develop guidelines on start dates, safety protocols inside classrooms for in-person instruction and services provided to students, like meals, Nirenberg said.
Members will meet as soon as Thursday, he said, and guidance could be issued by early next week.
“There’s a lot of things that a school does that go beyond just classroom instruction that have to be meted out to make sure that there’s a safe environment,” he said.
He added the public health authority has jurisdiction over the city’s 17 school districts “by virtue of this new TEA guidance.”
“There’s a lot of people involved in different resources and level of needs that we have to consider. But I think Metro Health and the local public health authority will come up with a uniform set of expectations initially, and then I think as we move further into the timeline, there’ll be some flexibility built-in,” he said.
“But again, this is touch and go. We’re in a pandemic. Things change very quickly.”
He added the main goal is for students and teachers to return to a safe environment.
The developments on Wednesday came amid tension and concern for the safety of students, teachers and staff as the state continues to see alarming COVID-19 case counts, deaths and hospitalizations.
Gov. Greg Abbott this week stated the TEA would ease up on strict guidelines that stated districts would be required to provide five days of in-person learning. The guidance also stated districts had up to three weeks at the beginning of the school year to provide virtual instruction as plans are ironed out.
Abbott on Tuesday said the three-week grace period would be extended, and districts would be provided more flexibility.