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Harlandale, San Antonio ISD Push Back First Day Of School

Students in Michelle Olivarri's third grade class celebrate getting the right answer on a computer game in January 2019.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Students in Michelle Olivarri's third grade class celebrate getting the right answer on a computer game in January 2019.

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Bexar County, two San Antonio school districts announced plans Tuesday to delay the start of the upcoming school year.

The Harlandale Independent School District will change its start date from August 5 to August 24; San Antonio ISD will switch from August 10 to August 17. Trustees for both districts are slated to vote on the schedule changes on Monday, July 20.

Starting one week later will enable SAISD to keep all students learning remotely until after Labor Day. Under current state guidelines, districts are allowed to phase-in the return to in-person learning during the first three weeks of school.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said a survey completed Monday shows that about 31% of families in the district want to return in person.

“We would like to accommodate between 25 and 50% of our families to come in person after Labor Day,” Martinez said. “If we can do that, I can have a team of teachers that are focused on working remotely and working from home, and I will also have a team of teachers that are focused on supporting our children in person.”

Martinez said he will use the first three weeks of school to put protocols in place to keep students and staff safe and show families model classrooms with plastic desk shields and other safety measures.

“Many of our children do not live in ideal living conditions, so for us to have a long-term remote plan does not work for our community,” Martinez said.

A coalition of San Antonio groups that represent teachers and community members is advocating for the ability to keep instruction completely online for at least the first nine week grading period.

The current Texas Education Agency guidelines require districts to offer in-person learning five days a week to any family that wants it, but TEA may remove that requirement soon.

In an interview with Houston television station ABC13 on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said that “in the next few days” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath “is expected to announce a longer period of time for online learning at the beginning of the school year.”

Harlandale district leaders sent a letter to families Tuesday asking them for patience while they wait for state and local officials to act.

“We are awaiting the approval of additional guidance from state and local authorities in order to proceed,” the district’s trustees and Superintendent Gerardo Soto wrote, indicating that they believed “100% virtual instruction from everyone in the district” was needed.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter at @cmpcamille.

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