CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Corpus Christi Independent School District is gearing up to accept the last of its in-person students on Oct. 5.
In order to accommodate those students, the district will adjust its social-distancing rule from 6 feet apart to 4.
CCISD’s Executive Director of Educational Support and Counseling Services Jennifer Arismendi said the district’s transition plan has been in place for some time. When it comes to making changes to those operations, she said the district has been keeping up-to-date with experts.
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says 6 feet is ideal,” Arismendi said. “However, schools, and opening, if you’re not able to maintain your 6 feet of social distance, and you have to start shrinking your social distance, put up a physical barrier in place as a way to mitigate transmission or spread.”
According to the CDC's FAQ last updated in July for school administrators on reopening schools, in areas where it is difficult for people to distance themselves 6 feet from one another, schools can consider additional strategies like installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions.
Arismendi also points to guidelines put into place by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states, in the absence of specific guidance, school desks should be placed at least 3 feet apart — and ideally 6 feet apart.
“I think it’s important for viewers to know that the guidelines for opening schools, whether it’s put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or the CDC, are different than say, non-school guidelines,” she said. “As long as that school has a strict mask requirement, meaning everyone wears a mask, and that we have protocols in place for handwashing and hand sanitizing.”
Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers President Nancy Vera said she believes there need to be more precautions in place.
“Four feet between the students, without any Plexiglas, and that the students have to wear a mask only?," she said. "What about the shield? There’s not enough.”
The district plans to have desk shields for students — not Plexiglas — and currently is refining its Phase Three reopening plans.
The district has an inventory of just over 20,000 shields and plans to utilize those in settings where the 6-foot distance cannot be maintained and in additional areas as needed, said district spokeswoman Leanne Libby.
Vera also has concerns about the upcoming intersession week. While it’s a break to some, Vera said students will be able to use this week to catch up on missed assignments, something that Vera thinks is making it too easy for students.
“Some students have not turned in a thing,” she said. “And so when people say that teachers are failing students, that’s not right. That’s incorrect, that’s an untruth. The fact of the matter is we’re trying to help students as much as possible and we’ve stepped up to the plate."
Vera is also concerned that allowing students to catch up will force teachers to work through the intersession.
"Many of us who are supposed to be free to relax after this hard six weeks, and give more work to the students and grade those assignments before the school day on Tuesday, and that’s a lot of work.”
The decision to allow students to catch up during this week was made by a task force within the district, Arismendi said.
Arismendi said that teachers will not be asked to work during the intersession.
"It’s the first six weeks of a school year," she said. "Of a very trying school year, with many challenges and barriers. We’re just trying to afford our students the opportunity to not — at the first six weeks — be failing. You know, to give a positive outlook for the rest of the year. Hope is a powerful thing, so we want our children to feel successful and then, to be able to carry that momentum through the year.
“We’re not asking teachers to come in and work during this week off," she said. "We’re just opening it up for students to have, you know, one extra week to be able to submit assignments.”