JBSA schools to start school year with online instruction

  • Published
  • By David DeKunder
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio schools will start the first few weeks of the 2020-21 school year with remote learning before being allowed to open campuses to students under directives issued by local health authorities and the Texas Education Agency.

Students in the Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Independent School Districts are scheduled to start online instruction Aug. 17, while students in the Randolph Field Independent School District begin remote learning Aug. 24.

Since March, campuses in all three JBSA districts have been closed to students and teachers because of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Students completed the remainder of the 2019-20 school year with online instruction.

The 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 weeks of the school year before transitioning to on-campus, in-person classroom instruction. Under the guidelines, districts can seek a waiver from TEA to extend remote learning for another four weeks if needed.

The earliest JBSA schools will be allowed to reopen their campuses to students is not until after Sept. 7, under a directive issued by San Antonio Metro Health, the health authority that covers the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. The directive applies to schools within the city and the county.

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

If the directive from San Antonio Metro Health, which is subject to change, stands, Fort Sam Houston and Randolph Field school districts are hoping to reopen their campuses Sept. 8 for those students doing face-to-face classroom instruction, with Lackland schools planning to open campuses Sept. 14 for students choosing in-person classroom instruction.

School reopening dates could change if districts chose to extend remote learning for another four weeks as allowed by the TEA school reopening guidelines.

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 livestream 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.

Under the directive from San Antonio Metro Health, school-sponsored events and extracurricular activities, including fairs, exhibitions, and academic and athletic competitions, are prohibited until school campuses are allowed to open after Sept. 7.

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/.