NEWS | Aug. 20, 2020

JBSA schools to start school year with online instruction

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio schools have started the first few weeks of the 2020-21 school year with remote learning before planning to reopen campuses to students under directives issued by local health authorities and the Texas Education Agency.

Online instruction for students in the Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Independent School Districts started Aug. 17. Students in the Randolph Field Independent School District begin remote learning Aug. 24.

Since March, JBSA school campuses have been closed to in-person classroom instruction because of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Students completed the remainder of the 2019-20 school year with remote learning.

JBSA school districts are implementing phased plans to reopen campuses to students based on a health directive issued by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, which covers the city of San Antonio and Bexar County.

The directive provides guidance to school districts on reopening campuses based on several health indicators and metrics, including the positivity rate, doubling rate and a two-week decline in cases of COVID-19 in the community.

Only children with special needs, those who are deemed at-risk and students without resources to conduct their studies at home should go into schools and in extremely limited numbers as districts started the fall semester in August, according to guidance issued by Dr. Junda Woo, medical director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Even still, special needs services for the students should not involve prolonged close contact, defined by Woo as within six feet and 15 minutes or more.

In addition, JBSA school districts are following guidelines for reopening campuses established by the Texas Education Agency, or TEA, that allow districts the option of offering remote instruction for the first four to eight weeks of the school year before transitioning to on-campus, in-person classroom instruction.

Once school districts decide to reopen their campuses to in-person classroom instruction, parents of students in all JBSA school districts have the option of having their child continue online learning or start on-campus face-to-face classroom instruction.

As of now, Lackland ISD plans to reopen campuses to face-to-face classroom instruction Sept. 14, although Lackland school board trustees will meet Aug. 25 to consider extending online instruction. Randolph Field ISD schools are planning to open campuses to in-person classroom instruction on Sept. 21, while Fort Sam Houston ISD is scheduled to open its schools for in-person classroom instruction Oct. 13.

Due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19, school reopening dates are subject to change.

The JBSA school campuses will be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing and will require students, teachers and staff members to wear face coverings, including masks and/or face shields.

In classrooms, desks will be six feet apart and students will practice social distancing in cafeterias and other public areas when possible. On school buses, bus drivers, school staff members and students will be required to wear masks.

Students who plan to attend on-campus instruction are encouraged to bring multiple masks or face coverings to school. The JBSA school districts will provide face masks and other personal protective equipment, including face shields, to students on campus who need them.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, custodial staff members at the schools will clean and disinfect public areas and classrooms regularly, especially at the end of the school day. Buses will also be cleaned and disinfected after each use.

The JBSA school districts will also provide health screenings for students, teachers, staff members and visitors at campuses, and protocols will be in place for students in school who show symptoms of COVID-19.

For the students who will be learning remotely, JBSA school districts will provide equipment and online resources so they will have access to their lessons, whether by live stream or a recorded lesson from their teacher.

Districts will continue to provide meals for students who are learning remotely and qualify for reduced and free lunches by providing designated locations, such as schools, where meals will be available for pickup.

Dr. Gary Bates, Fort Sam Houston ISD superintendent, said the goal of the district’s plans for the upcoming school year is to provide a quality education for students, whether they are learning remotely or in a classroom, while ensuring students, teachers and staff members are safe and healthy in the midst of the pandemic.

“We are looking forward to hopefully getting back to a sense of normalcy,” Bates said. “We want our students back here in the district. We miss them extremely, and we’re looking forward to the day when they can come back so we can see those smiling faces.”

The safety of students, staff members and teachers is also a priority for Dr. Burnie Roper, Lackland ISD superintendent, as he makes plans for the start of the school year.

“In terms of safety, we are going to have all the things in place that we know of based off those CDC and local health requirements in terms of social distancing, wearing of the mask, encouraging students to wash their hands frequently, and having plenty of hand sanitizer at all of the schools; just really encouraging kids to be safe,” he said.

Dr. Brian Holt, Randolph Field ISD superintendent, took over as the school district’s leader July 1. He said since he has arrived teachers, students and staff members have acted exceptionally in how they have approached the start of the school year during challenging times.

“While the transition (to becoming superintendent) has been tumultuous because of COVID-19, it’s been wonderful because of the people that I’m around and that I’m working with,” Holt said. “I just can’t say enough about the school and the willingness of people to get in there and work and make it better.”

Updates and information on the start of the school year at JBSA, including registration and other information about schools and COVID-19, can be found on the JBSA school district websites: Lackland ISD, https://www.lacklandisd.net/; Fort Sam Houston, https://www.fshisd.net/; and Randolph Field ISD, https://www.rfisd.net/.