SAN ANTONIO – As the surge of novel coronavirus cases in San Antonio subsides, Bexar County schools are now faced with figuring out how and when to return to campus.
In early August, Metro Health issued a directive asking schools to tie their return to in-person instruction to a school safety indicator put together by the health authority. The agency also recommended that learning should stay virtual until Labor Day. All public school districts with campuses in Bexar County followed the recommendations, with the exception of Boerne and Comal ISDs which allowed students to opt for in-person learning at the start of school.
As that holiday nears, the county’s positivity rate has dipped below 10%, allowing the school safety indicator to improve to “moderate,” which allows schools to begin bringing students back on campus.
In the “moderate” level, cohorts of six or fewer students are recommended, but building nor classroom capacity should not exceed 25%, according to Metro Health.
Officials with the Texas Education Agency have said it’s up to the school boards to decide when students should go back to in-person learning. With board approval, schools have the option of staying remote-only for up to eight weeks without funding implications, after that, a district would need a waiver from the TEA to avoid losing state funding which is tied to student attendance.
KSAT 12 News reached out to Bexar County school districts about their plans following Labor Day. The following districts provided information:
- Alamo Heights ISD: Students in Alamo Heights will being phasing in starting on Sept. 8. Teachers will return to campuses to teach and work on the same date as well.
- East Central ISD: In East Central, some students have already been brought back in “an extremely small population” for children with “profound needs” like life skills or special education. The district’s back to school plans are outlined in full here. Most teachers are teaching virtually from campus.
- Edgewood ISD: In Edgewood, school started on Aug. 17, with the district deciding that the first eight weeks will be remote learning. Officials said they are finalizing a transition plan to phase in a quarter of students, with the priority going to the district’s most vulnerable students. Teachers are expected to return to campus on Sept. 14.
- Harlandale ISD: Virtual learning is slated to continue through Sept. 18, when all staff will report to campus. The school board will be voting on extending virtual learning for four more weeks during an Aug. 31 board meeting. Regardless of that decision, officials said the district will begin phasing students in for parents who have opted for in-person instruction. The capacity of their return is yet to be determined, but roughly a third of parents have chosen in-person instruction. If needed, the highest-risk students will be prioritized.
- North East ISD: Students will be phased in gradually beginning Sept. 8. Up to five students will be allowed in each class during the first phase. Special needs students, as well as children of working parents, will be prioritized first, and the rest would be chosen in a lottery system done campus by campus. Teachers have been teaching virtually from the schools since Aug. 17.
- Northside ISD: The district will begin some in-person instruction starting after Labor Day in a transition plan outlined here. The district will continue to monitor the situation and plan to stick to a tiered approach. Teachers who are currently teaching virtually from their homes will remain at home for now, officials said.
- San Antonio ISD: San Antonio ISD will begin “gradually allowing a small number of students” back to campuses after Labor Day if the metrics remain steady. Only 10% of students are allowed to return, and classes will be limited to six students. “For those students whose parents have given consent, we will prioritize student return by focusing on those who will benefit most from in-person learning,” the district wrote in a news release.
- South San ISD: South San ISD previously decided to stick with remote learning until Oct. 9. In a recent video message to parents, Superintendent Marc Puig said they hope to bring some students back as the metrics improve, but that “science will guide the decision.”
- Southside ISD: Officials said they are still monitoring the situation and consulting with Metro Health. Teachers have already returned to teach from campus.