Premont ISD is making its final preparations for the start of a new school year. About half of the district’s students will be returning to the classroom Aug. 24.
The district, like others in the area, switched to distance learning shortly after Spring Break. But because its calendar year ended in June, it was able to hold in-person classes toward the end of the 2019-20 school year.
The number of local confirmed COVID-19 cases was much lower then. Now, there are several changes to the district’s plan to ensure student safety.
Superintendent Steve VanMatre said the biggest difference for the upcoming school year, and perhaps a challenge to overcome, will be real-time learning.
“We’re going to have live-streaming into the classroom for those students and their families that have chosen to remain at home,” he said.
VanMatre said the district is equipped to handle the real-time learning. Every student older than 5 years old has been given a Chromebook. Meanwhile district staff has also made sure students have Internet access.
“The device and connectivity is not an issue in Premont ISD,” VanMatre said. “The issue is: How we can serve those students with the high level of instructional continuity?”
This isn’t the first time Premont ISD teachers have taught during the novel coronavirus pandemic. When the district wrapped up its calendar year in June, it held in-person classes for about half of its students.
“Fortunately, no one became sick, and we’re proud of that,” VanMatre said.
The district will continue to have precautions in place such as reduced class sizes, with a student to teacher ratio of 11:1, health screens and temperature checks before entering campus, separated desks in the classroom, and hula hoops to help young students social distance.
“It’s really incumbent on us to get this right, that way our families can feel comfortable sending their children to us,” VanMatre said.
Instead of water fountains, each student will be given a water bottle, lunch will be eaten in the classroom, teachers will wear face guards, and there will also be staggered dismissals.