SAN ANTONIO – With all of the new health and safety protocols that schools must implement given the COVID-19 pandemic and recent guidance from the Texas Education Agency, many students, parents and teachers are wondering what a typical school day will look like.
Recess, lunchtime, parent drop-offs — normal school routines will no longer be “normal” during the first back-to-school season since the coronavirus pandemic hit.
KSAT reached out to 19 San Antonio-area school districts with questions about how they plan to structure classrooms and school days during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on their responses, and the most-recent TEA guidance issued July 28, here’s what we found out about what a typical day may look like in the classroom.
What happens when teachers, students arrive on campus?
Teachers and staff will be required to screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, including taking their own temperatures, each day upon arriving at campus. Employees must report to the district if they have contracted the virus, or if they were in close contact with an infected person.
School systems are not required to screen students for the virus, but may consider implementing screenings, according to the TEA. “Regularly performing a forehead temperature check of otherwise asymptomatic students in school is not recommended, but the practice is also not prohibited by this guidance,” the TEA states, adding that screening in this instance includes questions answered via phone, electronically or in-person.
Visitors must be screened for symptoms before they are allowed on campus, the guidelines state.
How will classrooms and other shared spaces look?
Students will be encouraged to practice social distancing throughout campus. In the classroom, schools should consider placing desks at least six feet apart if possible. If desks are not able to maintain the six feet of distance, teachers should have students wash their hands more often.
Some schools, including IDEA Public Schools, have said they will install Plexiglass dividers at desks.
The TEA does not specifically address installing dividers in classrooms, but states districts shall consider installing dividers between sinks in restrooms.
Schools should consider providing hand washing or sanitizing stations in every classroom, the TEA states.
“Schools should arrange for cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces in classrooms between different class groups, if the same room will be used by multiple class groups,” the TEA guidelines state.
Can students ride buses?
The TEA says school districts should consider requiring students and staff to use hand sanitizer when boarding the bus and keeping windows open as much as possible to increase circulation. Parents and guardians should consider dropping off or walking their children to school to reduce possible exposure on the bus.
School districts should thoroughly clean bus seats, steering wheels, knobs and other surfaces after each trip, the TEA states.
Local districts have shared a variety of protocols for their transportation methods.
The San Antonio Independent School District said students will be seated on every other row and closest to the window, and face masks will be required. Northside, Alamo Heights and Judson school districts have stated that enhancing cleaning protocols will be put in place.
Parents are being asked to check in with their district and register students for bus routes.
Can students eat lunch together?
In an effort to keep students spaced apart, schools should consider keeping students in the classroom for lunch, the TEA states.
“School systems should consider practices that reduce the likelihood that students meet the close contact definition at lunch. This could include having students eat lunch at their desks,” the guidelines state.
In the cafeteria, schools can install dividers on cafeteria tables to help shield the spread of respiratory droplets.
Cafeteria workers should consider packaging individual lunches for students who do not bring their own meals.
AHISD has stated that each student cohort can use the cafeteria together as a group.
Boerne Independent School District is requiring students to pay for their meals online instead of in-line to limit cash and check transactions. Students will be required to wash their hands with soap and water before meals.
East Central and Floresville school districts have stated lunches will be served in the classrooms and Schertz-Cibolo-University City Independent School District says meals will be served in closed containers. SAISD has said students will either eat in classrooms or cafeterias, but meals will be pre-packaged.
How will P.E. classes or recess work?
The TEA states that physical education teachers and coaches should have students interact outdoors when possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
The guidelines do not include best practices for recess.
Many school districts have yet to detail how they will carry out physical education classes or recess. BISD has stated outdoor playscapes will be thoroughly cleaned at the end of the day, and students will be monitored for social distancing during recess.
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