Mineral Wells ISD Superintendent John Kuhn briefed school board members this week on the districts plans to combat COVD19 for the upcoming school year. Kuhn has been working with a task force of 22 people to develop several programs to ensure the safety of students.
Three documents will outline the district’s plans including a MWISD Prevention and Response Protocol, Remote Instruction Guide and an Athletics Protocol.
Prevention measures for the district will include emphasizing proper hygiene, disinfection of the schools, placing plexiglass shields in common areas such as receptionist areas, bathroom sinks, urinals and in the library. Social distancing will be in place on all campuses. Teachers will be provided with masks and/or face shields. All students, regardless of age, at Travis Elementary, the junior high and the high school will be required to wear masks at school and the district will not be providing them for students.
“We will have a supply of disposable masks to give to a student if their mask is lost or is broken but we are not going to have enough masks to be the provider of masks for all of our students,” Kuhn said.
Masks will be required indoor and outdoor when students cannot maintain six feet of separation as long as Gov. Greg Abbott continues the statewide mandate. Kuhn says that because of limited space, students will be wearing masks in classrooms on campus.
Other prevention plans in the district will include daily self-screenings as well as limited campus visitors. Parents will not be allowed to eat lunch on campus but will be able to drop lunch in the office for their child only. Kuhn also says no large gatherings on campus such as pep rallies, musicals/theatrical plays or group meetings will occur. The Travis Cadets and band classes will be moved to after-school practices for the time being.
Kuhn emphasized the district’s plan is not air-tight, nor “perfect,” but said they are adjusting constantly to fluidity of the data and monitoring the local situation.
Under the new guidelines, Texas schools could hold online-only instruction for up to the first eight weeks of the school year, potentially pushing a return to campus in some cities until November. That includes Dallas and Houston, where school leaders concerned about the surge of new COVID-19 cases have postponed the first day of class until after Labor Day.
“Any student in Mineral Wells ISD that wants to learn from home, we will accommodate that and we will provide them an education at their house,” Kuhn said.
Parents who choose remote learning for their kids will notice the learning plan looks very different from the one they experienced when schools closed last spring. Remote learning will be asynchronous and will require daily interaction from the student. While a student may not be sitting in a classroom, they will be required to engage every day in one of three ways — daily contact with their teachers, turning in assignments online or progressing in Google Classroom will be mandatory to receive attendance credit.
“If you choose remote learning, you will be held to the same requirements as kids in class,” Kuhn said. “You will have attendance requirements and we will be reporting truancy.”
Kuhn also said there will be a level of responsibility for parents choosing remote learning and grades will not be a pass/fail system as before. Grades received from online instruction will count towards GPA as well as promotion and retention of students for the following year. Parents will need to commit to either in-person or remote learning and are able to change at the end of each grading period. However, if a parent feels like they need to change to at-home learning because they feel it has become unsafe, they will be allowed to switch and are not required to wait until the end of the grading period.
Regarding student athletes who decide to learn from home, remote learners will be able to participate in UIL extracurricular activities but will be required to be on campus for any practices or meetings their organization schedules, according to the district.
Kuhn said parents have big decisions to make but will have two weeks before the Aug. 18 start date to choose. He also noted that date is a “soft start” and could still change as the situation is ever-changing and TEA has offered school districts a transition period.
“There is still the possibility of going to a full remote learning plan during the transition,” Kuhn said, adding that some districts have early August start dates and MWISD will be monitoring the situations in those schools closely to make final decisions.
Some school districts in Dallas and Houston announced earlier this week that students wouldn’t have in-person classes until at least Sept. 7.
At Monday’s meeting, the MWISD board also voted to spend over $300,000 from federal money offered from CARES Act to purchase laptop computers that will allow for every student in the district to have the technology needed for remote learning if necessary. Kuhn said roll out will not be before the start of school and some students will still need to utilize paper packets from teachers until the computers can be delivered.
Other changes discussed by the district included:
• Parent pick up at Lamar and Houston campuses will be 30 minutes earlier than bus riders.
• No vending machines or self service in cafeterias.
• School meals will be available for pick-up remote learners.
• Teachers will have access to a new leave policy if they get sick or need to quarantine
• The annual chamber Breakfast for Teachers has been postponed.