Texas public schools will be required to provide in-person instruction for students this fall and Sonora ISD has developed a plan it hopes will provide quality education to students while also keeping them safe on campuses during the pandemic.

On Thursday, July 16, Sonora ISD published an eleven-page plan outlining how the return to school will look this fall amid the ongoing pandemic.

Superintendent Ross Aschenbeck said Sonora ISD will begin in person classes for the 2020-2021 school year on August 17, 2020. He noted that the district will modify its plan for providing students in Sonora a quality education as needed to ensure the safety and well-being of students, teachers, staff and the community, he added.

“It is impossible to determine today what the return to school mandates may be in August, but we have engaged in vigorous planning and procurement of resources required to meet the state’s current guidelines related to reopening schools,” Aschenbeck said. “With direction from Governor Abbott’s office, Texas Education Agency (TEA), and local health authorities, Sonora ISD plans to safely reopen schools and activities for the 2020-2021 academic year on August 17, 2020 aligned with our District Goals and Objectives. In response to anxieties related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, TEA is giving families the choice of either face-to-face or remote instruction in 2020-2021.”

In preparation of the reopening of SISD campuses, the district is taking steps for a clean start.

In an email to school administrators, Superintendent Aschenbeck noted that all of the school buildings will be disinfected at the end of July in preparation for the return of teachers, staff and students this August.

“I am bringing in a company from San Angelo to disinfect our buildings at the end of July using electrostatic disinfectant machines,” Aschenbeck said in his email. “Sometime before school starts, we are getting 5 hand held electrostatic disinfectant sprayers (chemicals provided) for our staff and the custodians to use as needed.”

Routine disinfecting will also take place each day. Bus drivers will spray busses after each use, coaches will spray locker rooms and weight rooms after each workout, band instructors will spray band halls after each band period and custodians will spray all classrooms every day after school, according to Aschenbeck.

Also, all campuses will have hand held forehead thermometers used for daily screening.

As for education, here is a snap shot of what it will look like.

Students and school employees will practice social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. This includes wearing a face covering when indoors. While the district is not mandating that students wear a mask it is strongly encouraged. School employees however, will be required to wear a mask.

Temperature checks will be also required upon entering any school building.

To further limit the risk, informal campus visits will not be allowed, including at meal times. Parents will not be allowed to walk students inside school buildings either. All essential meetings will take place by appointment or via a remote format. The district is not allowing outside food or gift deliveries. Any individual coming to campus during the instructional day will be required to wear a face covering for building access.

At the start of the day, students will report straight to their classrooms. At the end of the day, they will be released from classrooms using a staggered time schedule.

Breakfast and lunch will also be different in the fall. Elementary students will eat in the classroom. Secondary students may eat in the cafeteria on a limited basis as well as other campus locations to maximize social distancing.

Bus transportation will be available to and from school, but families are encouraged to use their own transportation if possible. Students who ride the bus will be required to wear a mask.

As for extracurricular activities, students must be enrolled in face to face instruction to participate in any school activity, including shop classes, 4-H and FFA, according to the district’s plan.

However, there will not be any large student assemblies, pep-rallies or field trips this fall.

While students will be allowed the option of face to face or virtual learning, the district has implemented guidelines and requirements that will apply to students, parents and teachers alike.

Students who are participating in the traditional face-to-face format for the 2020-2021 school year will also be required to use Google Classroom, a district wide platform. This is to ensure that students are familiar with the remote platform in the event there is a need to quickly switch to an all-remote setting, as happened this past spring.

Students who choose to learn remotely, or an asynchronous instruction format, must be engaged daily with class work.

To facilitate remote learning, the district will provide Chromebooks to all students in grades 3-12. Grades Pre-K through 2 will be provided with iPads.
Parents or guardians must also complete the training necessary for using Google Classroom.

Students may transition back and forth between the two learning options, but only at the end of grading periods.

With less than a month until the first day of school, Superintendent Aschenbeck said that having developed a plan doesn’t guarantee certainty for the fall.

It was noted that plans may change at any time between now and then depending upon direction from the state Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local health authorities.

Meanwhile, school administrators will continue to monitor and evaluate circumstances daily, he said.

“The health and safety of our students, staff, families and community is our top priority,” Superintendent Aschenbeck said. “All decisions will be made in consideration of the latest guidance and direction from local, state and federal authorities on operational considerations during the school day.

Sonora ISD will provide the highest quality instruction to all students regardless of the circumstances as well as support the well-being of each student and every program.”