AUSTIN, Texas — Thrall ISD, a Central Texas school district in Williamson County, is reopening its classrooms Aug. 10, one of the first in this area.
Thrall Middle School history teacher Matthew Pokorny told KVUE the week before school started that he's excited to see his students and trusts Thrall ISD's safety precautions.
"You can see them; you can talk them each day. You can ask them how their day is, how the day is going, and you can really tell when kids having a bad day. When they're coming to school and you see their face, you know that, 'I need to talk to this kid because something's going on in their life and they need some extra motivation,'" said Pokorny.
The school district has 750 students and three campuses – an elementary school, middle and high school. Thrall ISD Superintendent Tommy Hooker said 75% of students are coming back on campus and 25% will learn from home virtually.
"Students attend one day in person and the next day they actually stay at home," said Hooker. "We can do our other activities. We continue to still do the playground with elementary, with caution, with social distance, with mask on. We still plan to do things like physical education, where we have very seasoned instructors to handle that."
PHOTOS: Inside Thrall ISD, reopening for in-person learning Aug. 10
According to Thrall ISD's learning option manual, in-person instruction will be two days per week with an A and B schedule. A schedule means students will learn in school on Monday and Thursday, while B schedule means students will learn on Tuesday and Friday. All students will virtually learn on Wednesdays.
Hooker said teachers and students will be screened every day, everyone is required to wear masks in the buildings, social distancing is a must and teachers have to make sure desks are sanitized between classes.
PHOTOS: Thrall ISD students going back to class – in person
"We decided what we wanted for our community and what we wanted for our students was to get them to some sense of normalcy, although that's not very possible right now. We're just going to take this step at starting school in person," said Hooker.
One major concern is what will happen if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19. Hooker said they are finalizing plans this week, but for now, they have a group of school leaders that will respond to a positive case. Thrall ISD plans to align their protocol with TEA's direction.
"We would probably go to the extreme of more so quarantining the entire class and sending that class home, according to protocol, which would be 14 days," said Hooker.
If there is a lab-confirmed case in the school, the TEA guidelines state that schools have to follow these directions:
- If an individual who has been in a school is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must notify its local health department, in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Schools must close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the lab-confirmed case (student, teacher or staff) until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than three days have already passed since that person was on campus.
- Consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, schools must notify all teachers, staff and families of all students in a school if a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate on any on-campus activities.
As for the school district's virtual learning, it will be five days a week with the standard Thrall ISD grading policy. Attendance will be monitored daily and drive-thru meal service will be available. Students learning from home will have the chance to participate in extracurriculars following guidelines and safety measures.
"I think we're lucky here. We are teachers, you know? We're a good group and we get along really well and support each other," said Korie Dutschmann, a Thrall High School English teacher.
Dutschmann said it's been a long summer for teachers, but she is looking forward to the new school year.
"I am excited to see students, for sure. It's been about five months since we've seen them. Mainly, I'm just trying to figure out how to digitize everything that we've done before," said Dutschmann.
For more Thrall ISD COVID-19 updates, click here.
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