Somerset ISD finishes school year with many positives, superintendent says

Pandemic highlighted disparities in student population; students now have Chromebooks with internet access

SOMERSET, Texas – Somerset Independent School District says it will return to 100% in-person learning next school year. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped the district improve its technology by ensuring all students have Chromebooks and internet access.

Somerset ISD parents say the start of the school year was so frustrating because there were so many unknowns.

“(I was) very scared because there’s no vaccinations,” said Tanya Juarez, a district parent.

Juarez says if she could talk to herself last fall again, she would tell herself not to stress so much.

“You can get through this. Be patient. It will be over soon,” she said. Several of Juarez’s kids are doing in-person learning, so they’ll be seeing many more familiar faces in the fall semester again.

Somerset ISD Superintendent Saul Hinojosa says only 38% of students were in the classroom last fall, mainly because the district had internet issues. Now, 83% of students are doing in-person learning.

Hinojosa says grades suffered when kids were participating remotely at first.

“The students who are learning virtually initially were struggling. We had about 70% failure rate of our students who were learning online,” he said.

But having weekly COVID-19 testing available helped keep COVID-19 infection rates down and allowed families to feel comfortable sending their kids back to the classroom, Hinojosa said.

“We started showing the results, being very transparent with their community that positives were at a low rate. We started to see little by little students enter classrooms,” Hinojosa said.

He said that the shift started around February and continued. The district’s largest number of infections happened after the holidays when 54 people tested positive. Since then, the number of infections has been dropping over the last three months, according to Hinojosa.

“Just last week, I believe we had two positives in 2,500 tests. So we have not had more than five or six in the last three months,” Hinojosa said.

All students will return to their respective campuses by the fall. The pandemic helped the district bring students up to speed with technology, as well, and all students now have a Chromebook.

Hinojosa said the pandemic highlighted the disparities in internet access within the district’s student population. The district is currently working with local officials to ensure more rural areas have connectivity.

Two hundred fifty students will graduate a week from Friday. Hinojosa says they should be very proud of what they overcame.

“They’ve persevered, and if they can be successful through a pandemic, they can overcome anything, any obstacles that they face in life,” he said.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

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