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From the Desk of
RISD Interim Superintendent
July 23, 2020- Coronavirus Update
We have been busy planning and making difficult decisions about the 2020-2021 academic year. The safety and education of students is the primary responsibility of a school district. The current pandemic, has presented an abnormally complex situation in preparing for the safety of our students, staff, and families. We appreciate your patience during this time. Please read the information presented here to understand some important elements of our plans moving forward.
Decisions based on COVID-19 in Texas and TEA
As coronavirus cases rise across Texas, Rocksprings Independent School District’s administration is planning what school is going to look like this fall. Amidst a highly publicized spike in reported coronavirus cases in Texas, the state still ranks near the bottom of the pack nationally when it comes to deaths. It’s no coincidence that the media suddenly shifted from reporting deaths to reporting cases.
As of now, Governor Gregg Abbott said, “he will not be closing down the state and we’re starting school in Texas.” RISD is starting on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 because Edwards County has not had very many positive coronavirus cases, and the few Edwards County has had, are out of self-quarantine baring any new cases.
In a news release laying out new guidelines for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Education Agency Commissioner, Mike Morath, said the focus of these guidelines is on the health and safety of students, teachers and staff. “The guidance laid out (on July 7) will provide flexibility to both parents and districts to make decisions based on the ever-changing conditions of the public health crisis,” Morath said.
Interim Superintendent Taylor and the new RISD Principal, Matt Head, are planning remote-only learning as an option. However, it’s important that parents of junior high and high school student-athletes understand that Mr. Taylor and Mr. Head are recommending to the school board that students whose parents choose remote-only learning will not be able to participate in University Interscholastic League-sanctioned sports.
You may want to know why the decision was made to not allow UIL sports participation for remote-learning students. The answer, from a medical standpoint, is that it would only make sense for a student to not participate if he or she opted out of in-person learning. If parents keep students home for education, why would one choose to send student-athletes to football practice with 30 other athletes in close contact or run in a cross country meet with a 100 athletes?
On-Campus Learning with Safety Provisions in Place
Principal Head and Interim Superintendent Taylor know the district’s focus is to open school while ensuring the safety and security of all students, teachers and staff. The state will require districts to have daily on-campus learning available for parents who feel comfortable sending students back to school.
In an effort to keep coronavirus out of schools, districts are required to screen visitors, staff, teachers, and students daily before entering a campus. If Governor Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order is still in place, then masks will be required in school buildings, with certain exceptions. Schools must also follow any new executive orders issued by Governor Abbott. Superintendent Taylor, Principal Head, and Dean of Students, Byrom plan on having masks available for those who need one.
Social distancing will be possible in some classrooms while posing a challenge in other classrooms. Schools are not built to social distance but for teamwork and collaboration. RISD is a small school district and in classrooms where the class size is small, social distancing will be practiced. The district will do its best to practice social distancing on the playgrounds and in gyms too. Where social distancing is possible, in places like buses and some classrooms, it will be done. That’s why students will constantly be health screened and required to wear masks if needed. Hand sanitizer will also be readily available.
RISD has purchased mobile handheld temperature readers which will be used by bus drivers to check students temperature before they load on the bus. Students who are dropped off for school will have their temperature taken before the parent leaves. If a student has a temperature of 100 or more they will be required to stay home. We encourage all parents to take their child or children’s temperature before allowing them to come to school on their bus or before bringing them to school. The same for the teachers and staff. Remember 100 hundred degrees or higher is the guideline. If kids, teachers, or staff are running a temperature, feel bad or sick, they need to stay home.
RISD will be sanitizing all buses, classrooms, gyms, dressing rooms, restrooms, playground equipment, the library, any other buildings where students, teachers, and staff have been each evening after school. The District will be using hand-held fogging machines every evening after all are gone. The solution to be used in the foggers will be a non- allergenic solution designed to kill the coronavirus as well as other viruses and germs.
Remote Learning, Same Standards
If parents do not wish to send their children back to school, they will have the option to choose remote learning. Students will be required to continue with whichever type of learning method they choose for the first six weeks.
Remote learning will be similar as it was in the spring with improvements. It’s important for parents to know that when you choose remote learning, then your child is going to be held to the same standards; testing standards, participation, and the 90% attendance rule.
Where possible the most health-vulnerable teachers will be doing the online instruction. Mr. Taylor, Mr. Head, Mr. Byrom, Mrs. Satterfield, Mr. Mario Gonzales, and others will be working to set up online learning with parents. To help deliver remote instruction, the state will offer free online learning tools aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Teacher training will also be provided at no cost to districts.
RISD Principal Head, Mr. Byrom, Mrs. Tucker, Mrs. Satterfield and others will be working to collaborate with teachers, staff, and community on a new instructional plan. We want to make sure that our plan is going to meet the needs of RISD students. The plan will go live sometime in the first of August. We hope to have a true 1 to 1 with Google Chromebooks in place before school begins on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. If not, as soon as possible after school begins.
The RISD plan is consistent with other districts in the region. RISD will do its best to communicate up front the plans which are to be in place even if a student, teacher, or staff member tests positive. The district plans to have a positive test communicated to parents as soon as possible, but it may be challenging. There may be a COVID case, but we may not even hear about until two days later. Or, someone might not even be tested for the virus, but rumors say someone is positive. Communications will be posted on the RISD Webpage and Facebook page, so please check those daily.
Flexibility and Support from TEA
Districts will be allowed to establish a phased-in return to on-campus instruction, but only for the first three weeks of the school year. Right now, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Head, and Mr. Byrom are planning on opening school normally with safeguards in place so all students, teachers, and staff are educated in a safe environment.
To help districts start strong, TEA is providing additional resources. For example, districts can be reimbursed for extra COVID-19-related expenses from the 2019-2020 school year. The District is receiving face masks, hand sanitizer which is 60% or higher alcohol, and other personal protective equipment from the state of Texas at no cost to schools.
Timing of Parent Decisions
The TEA guidelines state parents don’t have to make a decision about in-person learning until more than two weeks in advance of the beginning of school, giving them a chance to review the latest public health information. In the coming weeks, forms will be available in the high school and elementary offices for parents who wish to have their child or children do online instruction. These forms will most likely be available online as well.
Updated 2020-2021 School Calendar
Let's Continue to Build Our Angora Team!
Back to School Updates
In the coming weeks, RISD will be planning for our students to return to campus. RISD will be following TEA and CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and faculty. Updates will be provided as decisions are made. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together as a community in these uncertain circumstances. We are anxious to see smiling faces back on campus and get back to the business of educating our future!