Townhall talks COVID, student return, calendars

Sunday, May 02, 2021

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Felicia Frazar The Seguin Gazette

Seguin ISD is ready to bring almost all of its students back next year for in-person instruction, while helping those who are struggling get a little extra help.

Those were two of the topics Seguin ISD Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez touched on during a recent townhall meeting he held Thursday afternoon on Zoom.

During the half-hour virtual meeting, Gutierrez discussed face-to-face learning, changes to this year’s calendar, the intersession days that were approved for the 2021-22 calendar, and the upcoming vaccine clinic for high school students.

Transitioning Back To Face-To-Face Learning

District staff is making plans to bring all prekindergarten to fifth-graders back to the classroom in August, as well as most of the sixth- through 12th-grade students.

“There will not be an option for virtual or remote learning for our pre-k through fifth-grade students,” he said. “There will be considerations given to sixth- through 12th-grade who are currently excelling utilizing the virtual

learning platform and we have sent out a survey for those parents who are interested in a continuation of remote learning.”

Educators saw students struggle with remote learning and want to ensure that trend does not continue, Gutierrez said.

“We have had students who have experienced great success with virtual learning, but I will be upfront and honest that a majority of students who have engaged in remote learning have struggled,” he said. “There is nothing that equates to that personalization that comes from the teacher and peers in a classroom.”

The hope is bringing the students back into the classroom will help fill those educational gaps, including COVID slide. But for those students who continue to struggle, the district built in six intersession days in the new school year to give them the additional educational push, Gutierrez said.

“This will afford our students who need support to have additional instructional time,” he said. “It will also afford teachers who have track records of growing students and who are interested in earning additional income to teach students during those intersession periods.”

Most of the district’s students and staff will have three free days in the fall and three in the spring, while the students who need additional support can get it.

“The students who participate in the second intersession may not be the same students who participate in the first,”he said. “That is going to be contingent upon student progress at that time.”

The inclusion of the intersession days do not interfere with the district’s start or end dates, as classes begin on Monday, Aug. 16 and end June 2. Prekindergarten students will start on Wednesday, Aug. 18 to help ease them into the school year.

Changes to 2020-21 calendar

When creating a school calendar, district officials are mandated by the state to set it by minutes students are in class. After looking over the 2020-21 schedule, Gutierrez said staff realized some extra time that was built into the year that went unused and are offering a half day of school in May where a full day was scheduled and a earlier end-of-school date.

Students will have an early release day on May 21.

“This is going to give our teachers and opportunity to have that afternoon for a work day to catch up on grading organizing classroom to regroup,” Gutierrez said. “This is a very challenging time of school year during a very challenging school year.”

In that same breath, Gutierrez also said instead of classes ending on Friday, June 11, the last day of school is now Thursday, June 10.

“That last day is going to be dedicated to teachers just having some time that they are going to need that time,” he said.

He reminded the community that graduation is planned for 8 p.m. Friday, June 11 in Matador Stadium.

Student Vaccination Clinic

The Seguin High School is hosting a vaccination clinic for students 16 years and older, who wish to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Parents will have to sign off on allowing their student to get the inoculation.

“I do want to encourage parents to consider having your students be vaccinated,” Gutierrez said. “We did see a lot of students going in and out of quarantine who participated in a variety of extracurricular events. If your students are going to be engaging in those events next year I would highly encourage you to have them vaccinated so we don’t have to worry about students going in to quarantine. I really do believe the vaccinations have played a signifiant role in the decrease of cases.”

Community shares thoughts on district COVID protocols

No plans for COVID-19 protocols were announced, however the community members who participated gave the district their thoughts on how to proceed with the start of school during a live thought exchange.

“As we have seen the trends significantly improve with COVID, we are seeking to get input from our families and in our community on protocols that we need to have in place or not beginning next years,” he said. “It is my hope that we start and begin as normal as possible in August, but we want to make sure and be very sensitive to the needs in our community and to get feed back from as many stakeholders as possible as we begin to plan for the 2021-22 school year.”

The district has already loosened the reins on mask requirements for outdoor events, Gutierrez said.

“Outdoor athletic events where you can social distance, you are not required to wear a mask at this time in Seguin ISD,” he said.

Gutierrez will continue to look at the data before a decision is made on the district’s policies for the start of the year, as well as the upcoming summer camps.

“No matter what the decision is, there is a segment that is not going to be satisfied because there are a lot of protocols, specifically masks, that have become highly politicized,” he said. “But we really do need to look at current data and the great thing about the school system. It is my hope and prayer that next year is as normal as possible.”

View article on SeguinGazette.com

Category: news, Seguin ISD

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