HOUSTON — The Alief Independent School District confirmed its plans Tuesday for students and teachers' return to campus in the 2020-21 academic school year.
Alief ISD students will have a virtual school start on Aug. 6 in order to maximize learning time, school officials said. It's one of several Houston area school districts to opt for a virtual start after the Texas Education Agency loosened its guidelines for school reopening plans.
Following the virtual launch, parents will have the option to continue remote learning or switch to in-person instruction.
The start date for in-person learning hasn't been determined.
In recent weeks, district surveys found that 68% of parents were uncomfortable with sending their children back to school and 41% were willing to return in-person.
Besides interest of parents, Texas school districts are also balancing the demands of government officials and concerns from teachers.
Editor's Note: The above video was published July 14, 2020.
"Although the estimated time for the transition to in-person school is yet to be determined, we will continue to work with local health officials to safely return to school. Everyone deeply wants to have our students and staff back in our schools but until the health conditions improve in our community, we will continue to make decisions that considers students, staff and families health first," Superintendent H.D. Chambers said a statement.
Registration for Alief Learns, the district's virtual learning program, is now open.
The district has decided to give parents the option to switch between learning modes with each grading period.
Most teachers will return to campuses once the the virtual learning period ends, according to the plan.
The district is currently distributing technology and devices to families in need of the support. In the spring, an estimated 65% of Alief ISD families reported having at least some technology or internet issue.
Alief ISD has instituted a re-entry and recovery task force that will meet weekly as the school year progresses.
What safety measures will be in place when in-person learning resumes?
First, staff must do self-screenings daily before coming to campus. Parents must do the same for their children before students arrive at school.
All Alief ISD students and faculty will be required to wear masks while on campus and riding the bus, officials said.
Students with special needs will be given special accommodations and campuses will be able to set defined "mask breaks" for times when social distancing is possible.
Schools will use non-classroom spaces when feasible in order to support social distancing.
Sinks and urinals within less than six feet apart will be blocked off.
Each classroom will be equipped with hand sanitation stations and disinfect supplies for the cleaning of high-touch areas in classrooms during breaks. The custodial staff will be cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas more frequently.
School bus drivers will be required to disinfect their vehicles after each run and at the end of each school day.
However, parents are strongly encouraged to drop off and pickup their students, carpool or walk with their children to school to help avoid COVID-19 exposure.
What if a student or staff member shows COVID-19 symptoms?
The district said if a student becomes ill while on campus or in a classroom, staff members will refer the student to the nurses office to be evaluated. Temperatures of students on campuses will be conducted by the school nurse.
Teachers who test positive or show COVID-19 symptoms must remain off campus until they meet the criteria for re-entry. They must also report to the school system if they have had any contact with persons who've tested positive.
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