Fluid situation: GRISD making tentative plans for in-person classes in August
In guidelines issued Tuesday afternoon by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, local school officials across the state learned that students can resume on-campus learning this fall.
But to borrow a line from a famous song, everything can change in a New York minute — especially when it comes to COVID-19.
Ever since public schools were shut down because of the pandemic, starting about the time spring break arrived, the predominant theme has been uncertainty. Now, at least, the TEA has been able to speak in more certain terms about the 2020-2021 school year — with the understanding that more significant spikes in the virus outbreak could force more changes.
Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan spoke to the Glen Rose Reporter just before the Friday paper’s deadline Thursday morning about the ever-changing subject, which depends largely on executive orders issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Basically they (the TEA) told us that the school district and the school buildings are not exempt from the governor’s mask order. They also informed us we would be having in-person instruction in the fall, five days a week, with parental options. Parents can opt for remote learning,” Rotan said Thursday morning.
In earlier surveys of parents within the GRISD, a little less than 10 percent had indicated that they would prefer to continue with remote learning from home for their children, Rotan noted.
The TEA notification resulted in exhaustive GRISD staff meetings that are still ongoing to develop plans across the board for reopening all campuses.
“The GRISD is developing plans for a safe return for our students this fall — as safe as we can make it,” Rotan said. “The GRISD is very diligent in working on a plan to open schools this fall. When we return in person, we’re going to have stringent policies.”
Rotan said that the aim will be to provide an educational format that is as traditional as possible — with the proper safety procedures and protocols in place.
“We’re going to take every safety precaution we can,” he said.
A tentative date for the first day of school for GRISD students has been discussed, but that certainly is not set in stone. The TEA is leaving the decision on when to start on-campus classroom learning up to each school district.
“We’re planning to open on Aug. 12, but that is subject to change, due to the underlying public health issues,” Rotan said, noting that the start date originally had been planned for Aug. 16. “The biggest challenge is, we’re trying to prepare for the unknown. The answers will depend on the amount of spread (of COVID-19). The situation is extremely fluid, and changing daily. We’re always going to do what’s best for our students and staff.”
As for organized school competition in various sports, no dates have been set and no decisions have been made, Rotan noted.
“I think it’s too early to make that call,” said Rotan, who recently announced he will be retiring from his position at the end of December.
Rotan said the TEA plans to have three levels of action — which he is calling “trigger points” — based on the current number of new and active cases in each county.
As an example, the TEA mentioned that the top level, to be labeled as “Substantial,” would be when the number of new local cases reached 10 or more in any given week, or when the number of active local cases reached 20 or more.
For areas with lower numbers of new and active cases, the levels would be either in the category of “Moderate” or “Minimal.”
Additional restrictions and changes would be implemented when a school district reaches the higher levels.
Rotan said that in the next week or so, the GRISD will release a comprehensive document with details about those different levels, or trigger points.
But even now, no one can precisely predict all of the details of what campus life will be like for the 2020-2021 school year.
“We’re prepared for everything, and we’re going to have a great plan,” Rotan stated. “It’s just too early to make those plans.”