Originally published July 22. Updated July 23 to include South San ISD.
At least four of the 19 school districts impacted by the Bexar County Health Directive plan to keep their campuses closed to in-person learning longer than required.
South San Antonio, Edgewood, Harlandale and Lackland Independent School Districts have opted to take advantage of new guidelines issued Friday by the Texas Education Agency, the same day San Antonio Metro Health ordered all Bexar County K-12 private and public schools to delay face-to-face instruction until after Labor Day on September 7.
The state guidelines allow schools to start the school year remotely for four weeks if students have access to the technology needed to learn remotely, and give districts the option to stay remote an additional four weeks if the school board applies for a waiver
Edgewood, Harlandale and Lackland have announced plans to stay remote for at least the first four weeks; South San’s board has approved a waiver asking the state for the full eight weeks.
Lackland ISD starts the fall semester August 17 and is slated to return to the classroom on Monday, September 14.
Harlandale moved its first day of school from August 5 to August 24, with a return to the classroom on September 21 at the earliest, and Edgewood moved its first day from August 10 to August 17, and plans to stay remote until at least September 14.
Leaders at both Harlandale and Edgewood said funding previously approved by their boards to connect all students with technology is allowing them to stay remote.
“If we did not have that avenue of allowing our kids to be 100% capable of logging on, we would not be able to provide this service. We would have to open our doors,” Harlandale Superintendent Gerardo Soto said during his district’s board meeting on Monday.
All three districts also indicated that they may apply for a state waiver to stay in virtual learning for an additional four weeks if the number of active coronavirus cases in San Antonio doesn’t decrease.
South San, meanwhile, will stay in distance learning from August 12 to October 7 if the state grants the waiver trustees approved Wednesday night.
“We have sent a collective message that safety is everything, and that we are desiring local control to make the safe decisions, the wise decisions, the compassionate decisions for our children and teachers and staff moving forward,” South San Superintendent Marc Puig said before the vote.
According to the district’s latest survey, less than 20% of South San parents feel comfortable sending their students back to the classroom for in-person learning right now.
More districts may follow South San, Harlandale, Edgewood and Lackland’s lead after their scheduled board meetings, or wait until closer to Labor Day to make decisions.
But TEA’s requirement that all students have access to technology may hamper some districts. In a Facebook Live last week, East Central Superintendent Roland Toscano said his district does not have enough devices for all students, and as a more rural district reliable access to the internet is spotty.
And suburban districts on the northern edges of Bexar County, including Boerne and Comal ISD, have indicated that they may push back against Metro Health’s authority to close their Bexar County schools to distance learning.
According to a survey Harlandale sent to its parents, more than 70% of the district’s parents aren’t comfortable sending their children back to campus until the coronavirus pandemic is over. Comal ISD, however, said its latest numbers show 62% of their parents want their kids in the classroom.
The surveys are in line with national polls, which show that Black and Latino families are more likely to be uncomfortable with face-to-face learning during the pandemic. Harlandale serves students on the South Side of San Antonio and is 98% Latino. Comal ISD is a suburban district with a white enrollment just over 50%.
The Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
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