In late June, the district asked parents, staff and students how they would like to proceed in August, when school begins. The results returned split, with one-fourth saying they would send their kids to school regardless of any health and safety precautions, one-fourth saying they would send their child to school only if there were precautions taken, another one-fourth saying they would not send their child to school at all, and the rest remaining unsure.
Dana Martin said she is one of the undecided, particularly because so far the district has yet to release any plans or protocols in case there was to be an outbreak or shutdown.
“I do not feel comfortable sending my school aged kids back in the fall, but I also know that Distance Learning is not an option for us either,” she said in an email.
Martin said one of her children is autistic, dyslexic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Before school closures, he received “top notch, hands on, special education services from an unbelievably supportive staff,” she said. However, during the shutdown, she said her child received little to no assistance and services.
“There is absolutely no way that our children and teachers will remain safe, during a pandemic, all while providing and receiving a quality education,” she added.
Robin Eissler said her three children, all juniors in high school, will definitely be returning to school in the fall. They will also adhere to any mask wearing or social-distancing requirements, she said in an email.
“The impact of the loss of socialization has been very hard on them,” she said of her children. “I think it’s important that districts give the option of returning to school. If COVID[-19] outbreaks occur they will need to be managed.”
As an educator and mom, Ashley Huey said she has mixed feelings about returning to her classroom, saying she missed being with her students but did not want stringent regulations such as being required to wear a mask.
“I feel like masks should be a choice. I have a hard time breathing and talking in them for an hour personally and know I am not alone in that after many conversations with my co-teachers,” she said in an email.
She added as a high school teacher, she is most concerned about the future for students if they do not return to school as normal and what it could mean for their academic and mental health.
“These kids need sports, clubs, their friends and teachers. If you stop doing all the things that you could die from, you’ve stopped living already,” she said.
Nonetheless, Huey said she believes attending school or staying home should remain an option for families.
“There are some teachers, students and their families who do not need to be back in the classroom yet mask or not for various reasons,” she said. “For those of us who are comfortable and ready, I hope we can move forward with caution and learn to live with life’s challenges while respecting and honoring peoples different opinions.”
Sarah Wilson, a mom of two GISD students, said in an email she feels strongly that school should start virtually for the safety of students and staff. She added she would feel more comfortable sending her kids to school when the number of daily positive cases and hospitalizations decreased significantly.
“I feel that if we start school we will regret it quickly as we start seeing a spike in COVID illnesses and deaths in our community. It is simply not worth the risk to Georgetown,” she said.
Similarly, Amy Waring said in an email she too will not be sending her kids to school in August.
Instead, she recommends the district remain closed for an additional two months to allow teachers to plan accordingly instead of being on “standby” as things frequently change. She also said during that time, employers should also accommodate parents with children at home.
“Our teachers and our students need the community to stand up and say no. They are not medical case studies,” she said.
Even as area districts such as Round Rock ISD, Leander ISD and others have decided to start the school year online until hospitalization numbers decline, Georgetown ISD said it has not yet made that decision. Instead, it has offered a second survey to get stakeholder feedback on what they would like.
GISD Superintendent Fred Brent said in a July 14 message to the community that the administration did not want to make a decision before receiving community feedback.
“We can always expect things to change; we know that in this experience,” Brent said. “We want to make sure to get your feedback before making decisions that would have the implications of going full remote learning for the first few weeks of school.”
The first day of school is Aug. 20.