SAISD parents nervous about sending children back to school in person

First-grader Isabella Polasek stepped into a classroom for the first time on Thursday at the Advanced Learning Academy back-to-school party.

After a year of virtual learning, Isabella’s parents are ready for their daughter to attend school in person, but they will drop her off Monday for the first day of school with a mixture of terror and uncertainty so as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to increase cases and hospitalizations in Bexar County. They trust the staff at the Advanced Learning Academy and other students, who are not of age to be vaccinated, to do their part to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“It’s always a concern, not just at school but everywhere,” said Isabella’s mother Sabrina Macal-Polasek. “As a parent, our # 1 concern is for everyone to do their part and show the same courtesy.”

For educators in Texas, doing their part is limited to encouraging everyone in schools to wear masks. Unlike last school year, districts cannot force students or staff to wear masks, nor impose COVID-19 vaccinations under the last Greg Abbott government Executive Decree. Only children 12 and older are eligible for any of the coronavirus vaccines.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called Abbott’s executive order “callous and heartless” at a press conference on Friday. He said the city will continue to work with school systems to encourage mask wearing, as recommended by health officials.

“There is a danger ahead,” added Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

The Texas education agency on Thursday added to some parents’ fears of guidelines that schools do not have to notify school staff or families if a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Only local and state officials should be informed.

Many parents feel the state has crippled school districts by preventing them from carrying out what health officials and the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention let’s say that are the two main protections against the coronavirus: vaccinations and face masks. Additionally, districts that wish to offer virtual education will not receive state funding to support distance learning after Texas lawmakers fail to pass a bill to fund virtual education during the course. of the ordinary legislative session. House Bill 1468, who was strongly supported by both Democrats and Republicans, has died after House Democrats walked off the floor to block passage of a controversial ballot bill.

Lawmakers could revive virtual education funding bills during the second special session Abbott called Thursday, the governor’s press secretary said. Abbott has listed several educational priorities for the session, which is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, but it is not clear whether a virtual option would be considered by the Legislature.

Some school districts plan to use their federal stimulus funds to cover virtual education for certain students. The Northside Independent School District, the largest district in San Antonio, will offer distance learning to about 300 elementary students who applied in the spring to receive it, said district spokesperson Barry Perez. The NISD expects to lose around $ 2 million in public funds this year by educating these students at a distance.

Even though virtual education was available at San Antonio ISD, where Isabella attends school, Macal-Polasek said she likely would have sent her daughter in person again this year. Isabella now understands why she has to wear a mask and how to properly wash her hands, and it just wasn’t possible to keep her and the couple’s 3-year-old son at home with both parents working on time. full, Macal-Polasek said.

Carolyn and Abraham Guerrero kept their three SAISD students at home last school year, and they likely would have kept their youngest Isaiah, 8, learning remotely again this year because he’s not old enough to get vaccinated and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases worries them about his health. Isaiah doesn’t like to wear a mask, his mother said, so they bought him a face shield with dinosaurs, hoping it will protect him.

“We’re a little nervous, but we’re going to be confident that they’re going to take all the necessary precautions,” Carolyn Guerrero said of the staff at the Advanced Learning Academy. “I know it’s better for him to be in school.”

Students and their parents walk past a sign asking them to mask themselves during a back-to-school event at the Advanced Learning Academy on Thursday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

As part of their security plans, the two SAISD and NISD authorities are encouraging students and staff to wear masks. SAISD asks parents to sign a form if they do not want their child to wear a mask. The North-East ISD plan Student states and staff members can choose to wear a mask and “that no one should be bullied or harassed at school or at school sponsored events of their choice.”

“We’re not going to get into the politics of that,” NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said. “We will make them optional and respect everyone’s decision. “

the Public health guidelines 2021-22 from the Texas Education Agency released Thursday bolsters Abbott’s executive order that schools cannot impose masks, but also states that students and staff should be allowed to wear them if they choose. The guide also states:

  • Staff do not have to test for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to campus
  • Students with COVID-19 can’t go to school, and schools can offer distance education to students while they are sick at home
  • Districts may provide COVID-19 testing to staff and students with written permission from parents
  • Districts are not required to trace contacts, but they ‘should notify’ parents if their child is in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19
  • Students are not required to stay home if they are close contacts, but if they do, they must stay home for at least 10 days unless they receive a negative test result.
  • Districts may offer distance education to students who choose to stay home because they have come in close contact with someone who tested positive

Dr Charles Hankins, chief medical officer and president of the San Antonio Children’s Hospital, told a recent San Antonio city press conference that the delta variant has more impact on children than the previous strains of the coronavirus, and the risk of the virus spreading will be greater with more students attending school in person. He and Metro Health officials are working with school systems to establish layers of protection against the virus, such as vaccinations for those who are old enough, masks, physical distancing and ventilation.

“We can beat the drums to death, but if parents and children over 12 get vaccinated, it will protect those 12 and under in school until they are eligible,” said Hankins.

And although schools cannot require masks, “every parent can mandate it for your family,” he said.

The absence of this requirement is still a major concern for Kristen Miceli, who has two daughters at Euclid’s Advanced Learning Academy.

“It is difficult for us to know what percentage of children in their classes will wear masks. They will both be wearing masks to school. It is a family decision that we made, ”she said. “We’re nervous as the school year approaches because we just don’t know what it’s going to look like, and it’s really different.”

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