Teachers, students part of task force to advise Metro Health on reopening schools

No in-person lessons until after Labor Day, but some still cautious

The task force has met just once so far prior to Metro Health issuing a new directive keeping students off campus until after Labor Day.

SAN ANTONIO – Students may be off of Bexar County campuses until after Labor Day, but at least some on a task force meant to advise the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District are still wary.

The task force, which a Metro Health spokeswoman describes as more of an “ad-hoc group of advisors,” consists of district officials, health experts, teachers, students and other community members. It has met once so far, on Thursday, the day before Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo issued a health directive for all K-12 schools, public or private, in Bexar County.

The Metro Heatlh spokeswoman says the group will meet as needed, but it has no additional meetings scheduled at the moment.

The new directive Woo issued forbids schools from re-opening for in-person instruction until at least after Labor Day on Sep. 7. That date could be pushed back further, according to the directive, “based on ongoing monitoring and assessment of public health mitigation conditions.”

The Texas Education Agency has said schools can temporarily limit in-person classes for the first four weeks of school. After that, school instruction can remain remote for an additional four weeks, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to the agency.

Melina Espiritu-Azocar, a Stinson Middle School teacher and member of the task force, is concerned about returning to school and wants to see some indicators or metrics put in place that would say when it’s OK to to do so.

“We’re not seeing those, and those aren’t being put in place,” she said.

Joining her on the advisory group is rising Jefferson High School senior Alejo Pena Soto. Out of the 34 members in the group, he is the only high school student -- though another member is a recent high school graduate. A third member is a graduate student.

Pena Soto said he wants to see more students involved in the conversations.

“There’s so many districts in our city. I don’t think it’s enough to only have two students present at these conversations,” he said.

Espiritu-Azocar said that teachers’ and students’ expertise about what happens is schools is important, and she wants to make sure their voices, as well as parents', are heard.

“And so I hope that they continue to allow us to have a voice and they continue to listen,” she said of the city. “And I do think they’re listening. But I think they can listen even harder.”

The list of task force members, as provided by the city, includes the following:

  • Mandy Adkins - San Antonio Sports
  • Dr. Bernard Arulanandam - University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Melina Espiritu-Azocar - Parent and teacher
  • Morgan Brown - Graduate student
  • Dr. Luis Castagnini - Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
  • Natalie Clifford - Teacher
  • Dr. Craig Cooley - UT Health
  • Dr. Lynne Cossman - University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Tom Cummins - Union
  • Karen Freeman - Northside Independent School District
  • Joseph Garcia - ESD & Associates
  • Wendell Hardin - City of San Antonio Metro Health
  • Melanie Harrell - Student
  • Xochitl Hughes - Parent, Nurse, Teacher
  • Becca Hurliman - City of San Antonio Metro Health
  • Dr. Leah Jacobson - Bexar County Medical Society
  • Dr. Ruchi Kaushik - Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
  • Jennifer Krueger - Northside Independent School District
  • Dr. Sean Maika - North East Independent School District
  • Len Miller - Head of School, St. Mary’s Hall
  • David Nungaray - Principal, Bonham Academy
  • Maria Perez - North East Independent School District
  • Dr. Shaylon Rettig - District consultant
  • Adrian Reyna - San Antonio Coalition for Reopening
  • Kathy Shields - City of SA/Metro Health
  • Sarah Sorenson - Our Schools Coalition
  • Alejo Pena Soto - Student
  • Dr. Mandie Svatek - UT Health
  • Connie Swann - City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation
  • Len Trevino - City of San Antonio Metro Health
  • Mandy Tyler - Region 20
  • Dr. Emily Volk - UT Health
  • Dr. Peter Wald - USAA
  • Dr. Brian Woods - Northside Independent School District