HOUSTON – Sept. 14, 2020 – Thousands of Spring ISD’s youngest scholars were welcomed onto campus Monday as part of the district’s phased return to in-person learning for those families who have selected that option.
“We are very excited to see our Pre-K through second-graders as well as our special needs students as we kick off our three week plan to bring back all the students who have selected Safety-First In-Person learning,” said Superintendent Rodney E. Watson. “This is truly an unprecedented time in our district’s history as we’ll be offering both remote learning and in-person instruction at the same time. We’re ready for the challenge.”
To ensure a smooth transition and maintain a safe environment for everyone, the district is taking several precautions, including requiring all students and staff to wear masks and to attest to not having any symptoms that might indicate COVID-19. Temperature checks are also being done prior to students entering the buildings and social distancing procedures will be in place.
Inside the buildings, students and staff will see reminders about social distancing and wearing masks, and will notice that water fountains are off-limits, at least for the time being. “It’s very important that everyone comply with our health and safety protocols,” said Mark Miranda, the executive chief of district operations. “We know this is a big change for our families but we want to take every step possible to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.”
Miranda noted that about 50 percent of district families are opting for in-person learning so smaller class sizes will also help ensure social distancing within the school buildings. With the phased approach for bringing students back, Miranda also noted that the district will be assessing all the protocols and continuing to look at ways to improve and make adjustments.
On Sept. 21, the district will bring in remaining elementary students, plus secondary students in grades 6,7, 9 and 10. On Sept. 28, the last three grades will return – grades 8, 11 and 12. All high school students will attend in-person instruction on a hybrid schedule while students in grades pre-K–8 will attend on a daily basis.
Griselda Flores dropped off her daughter Melanie on Monday for her first day of in-person kindergarten at Clark Primary. She said the decision to return her daughter to school made sense. “Virtual classes were too difficult for Melanie,” she said. “It was hard for her to sit still and pay attention. I thought it would be a good idea to send her back, especially because it’s her first year in school.”
Under the district’s plan, families will be able to change their minds between the two learning options with the flexibility to always return to remote instruction if preferred. Students who wish to move from remote instruction to in-person learning will also be able to do so at any time but campuses may need up to two weeks to accommodate the request if staffing and transportation adjustments are needed.
At Reynolds Elementary, Kathryn Organ was welcoming back some of her kindergarten students for in-person instruction. “I’m always positive, and I want to do what’s best for the kids,” she said. “I think these kids are going to be real excited today, and a little nervous because we don’t get to have our parents walk in with their kids.”
To ensure health and safety, campuses had parents drop off their students to minimize visitors in the building, where temperatures were being checked.
“I think we’re pretty prepared,” said Reynolds nurse Dayna Gordon. “We’ve got hand sanitizer, thermometers, everybody that comes in has to have a mask and has to have their temperature checked. We’re good to go!”
Over at Smith Elementary, principal Shimona Eason held a prayer circle in front of the school flagpole before students arrived, where she and a few others shared words of encouragement for the school year.
“I feel really confident,” said Eason. “We have a really tight plan as far as safety routines and systems. Of course it’s the first day of school, so there may be a few hiccups – things like that happen. But I’m feeling really confident that my staff is confident, too, and ready for the students to come back.”
In addition to its youngest elementary students, the district also welcomed back this week students enrolled in its Community Academic Structured Education (CASE) classrooms. The CASE classrooms serve students with a range of special needs and exceptionalities, focusing on life skills, along with general education prerequisites.
“It’s just about trying to meet each individual student’s need and help them grow as much as possible,” said Twin Creeks Middle School CASE Teacher J.C. Miceli, noting that about half of his students had opted for a return to in-person learning once the option was available to them and their families.
“With the virtual, I think there can be a little bit of a disconnect there for our kids, and it’s hard for them to sit in front of a computer for a very long period of time,” Miceli said. “They’re a lot more hands-on oriented, so I think the fact that we’re able to come back to school, and to do it as safely as possible, will benefit them.”