SAN ANTONIO – This incoming school year will be unlike any other in wake of the coronavirus pandemic and schools in and around Bexar County are working to figure out the best way to safely reopen.
To help break down what the new school year will look like, Dr. Sean Maika, North East Independent School District superintendent, joined us Sunday on Leading SA.
“We’ve already had one of our campuses, Castle Hills, that has been in session now for almost two weeks. So they begin, though, virtually. Our plan is to continue them in a virtual environment here for a little bit. As for the rest of our campuses and our school district, all of our campuses will begin the first three weeks in a virtual environment,” Dr. Maika said.
Back in March when the pandemic began in San Antonio, the district had to adjust quickly. However, as coronavirus cases surge in the area over the course of the last few months, school officials have been preparing for the new academic year.
“We spent a lot of time during the spring and this summer listening to our parents, our students and our teachers to make sure that our new platform would be much more robust. So we took all of those lessons and piloted it this summer during summer school. We did get a lot of great feedback from our teachers, our students and our parents, because what we did is a lot more live instruction component,” Dr. Maika said.
The superintendent said although many may want to return to in-person learning, there’s no set date on when everyone can safely come back to the classroom.
“We’ve got to continue to monitor our current community and the spread to make those decisions. And so, in fact, a doctor from John Hopkins was speaking with a group of us the other day and stated that it would be very short-sighted if we started trying to forecast what would happen in three weeks,” Dr. Maika said.
Dr. Maika said NEISD is ready to monitor and adjust as circumstances surrounding the virus dictate.
“We really do need metrics in place in order to help us decide when and how to open our schools. It’s important to note that all of those things are crucial and we will put many safety procedures in place,” Dr. Maika said.
Once faculty and students do return to the school campuses, we asked Dr. Maika, what happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19?
“Transparency is the key, the building trust for our community and our employees. So we, of course, are going to make certain that people are notified,” Dr. Maika said.
The school utilizes a messaging system to help relay information to students and their families. Dr. Maika said it’s important that parents make sure they are part of the messaging system in case of new COVID-19 cases arising during the school year.
“Unfortunately, many parents over the years have opted out of our messaging. So it’s super important now to go in and make sure that you have opted in to those messages to make certain that we notify you because it will be through that digital platform more often than not on how we notify you of a case,” Dr. Maika said.
Although it’s uncertain how the new school year may play out, Dr. Maika said even after the coronavirus pandemic, schools could feel the impact for years to come.
“Moving forward, I really believe things will change forever in school systems because we’ve now seen the possibility that if a child is at home sick in the future, once COVID 19 is gone, that they could virtually log in, never miss a school day. Some now missing days of instruction may become a thing of the past in the future,” Dr. Maika said.