“We are on track; we are on pace; and it is going to happen exactly as we laid out for you weeks ago in our ramp-up plan. We are on schedule to make it happen," Superintendent Curtis Null said in an Aug. 24 district livestream address to the district community.
The district's plan developed earlier this summer will bring CISD students in first grade and below back to school beginning Aug. 26—weather permitting—followed by portions of the student body in grades 2 through 12 returning to campuses for one day only Aug. 31-Sept. 3. All district students opting in for in-person instruction will then return to class Sept. 8.
Null said that around 40,000 CISD students opted in for in-person instruction beginning next month, while around 26,000 will remain remote. Despite the differences in learning environments, Null said the district is well-prepared to provide necessary resources for all district students, ranging from in-person safety precautions related to COVID-19 to technology and emotional support for remote students.
“It doesn't matter if you're in person or if you are at home doing work remotely, we care about you and your whole health. And so you’re going to see investment in our curriculum in our social and emotional learning both online and in person," Null said. "We understand that there has been a mental health strain that’s been associated with everything that’s been going on over these last few months."
Null said the district's main objectives for its ramp-up plan are protecting the CISD community and keeping schools opens through the year. Additional COVID-19 measures include the availability of rapid testing for employees—which Null said have already saved 250 staff days due to quickly identified negative results—and masking requirements for all students in grades 3 through 12. Students in second grade and below will also be required to wear masks in common areas and are asked to wear masks in class, a request that will become a requirement as the year progresses as advised by the county health department.
“Wearing a mask is really critical. It’s not just about you; it’s about everyone else in the situation as well; and like we’ve talked about, this is a social contract," Null said. "If we’re going to be in person, all of us have to be all in on in person and willing to do everything we can to keep everyone safe."
As one of the district's main concerns related to COVID-19 is the potential for decreased staffing, Null said CISD is also hiring additional substitute teachers and bus drivers to mitigate absences that may occur. The district will be hosting a virtual job fair for auxiliary staffing Sept. 1-20.
Null said CISD campus closures may occur if staffing falls too low or if COVID-19 hot spots are identified as the year progresses. Student quarantines may also be implemented if children come into contact with others who test positive for the disease, Null said.
District information on COVID-19 cases and related absences is available from CISD's virus dashboard. As of Aug. 25, 70 district students and 90 employees remain quarantined or isolated due to the disease, and a total of 159 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in CISD since May.