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Education

San Antonio Metro Health Says Small Groups Of Students Can Return To Class

SAISD students practice the district's new safety protocols.
Courtesy of SAISD
SAISD students practice the district's new safety protocols.

San Antonio Metro Health has downgraded the risk of reopening schools. Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo said the city's school reopening indicator is now in the yellow zone.

That means the public health metrics support small groups of children in person.Woo said the shift in risk is because Bexar County's positivity rate is now 9.9% — down from 11.3% last week and 12.7% the week before.

“For the whole community we’re in the green zone. For schools we are now in the yellow zone. And that means we can open up a little bit," Woo said.

Overall, the goal is for the rate to be less than 5%, but compared to the nearly 25% positivity rate in July, Metro Health sees the decrease as a positive indicator.

“We know that a positivity rate of 5% is really good, but we were at 20-something and now we’re at 10% — well 9.9 — we’re under 10%, so we’re very happy about that," Woo said.

As for other indicators, Metro Health is considering them stable.

"As far as cases declining for 14 days…we are at a stable level. We went down and then went back up a little bit and then back down — so we’re calling that stable," Woo said.

Woo also said the area's doubling time is in the green zone, at 40 days.

For now, Metro Health recommends small classes of no more than six students in the yellow zone. Woo spoke Monday night during a virtual town hall hosted by San Antonio ISD.

SAISD plans to bring 10% of its students back to campus Sept. 8 if health metrics continue to move in the right direction. Northside and North East also plan to start a gradual return to the classroom after Labor Day.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said students with special needs will have first priority, followed by students who are struggling in remote learning and pre-K through 2nd grade.

“This is out of just an abundance of caution. In the yellow level our maximum that we’re allowing us up to 25% of our children," Martinez said.

If these conditions remain positive, Martinez said SAISD will continue with their reopening schedule, bringing another 10% of students to in-person learning on Sept. 21.

“Our plan is to be very measured; to be very gradual. We are studying what other districts around the country are doing, what other countries are doing around the world and what we’ve seen is that when we phase in and we’re gradual that maximizes the safety for all of us,” he said.

SAISD is using the two weeks in between the two phases to ensure there are conversations with  families about the safety procedures and to allow time for adjusments if necessary.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.

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