AUSTIN, Texas — Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter saying religious private schools can determine for themselves when to reopen, free from any government mandate or interference.
Many of them are choosing to let families decide whether their kids return to school or learn virtually from home.
Outside Round Rock Christian Academy, construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the brand new campus, while teachers work to get everything ready on the inside.
“We're excited,” said math teacher Andrea Cermak.
“I am ready to get back to school. This has been the longest summer break ever,” said science and math teacher Jessica Weatherman.
The teachers we spoke with are parents too and every one of them can’t wait to get back to work.
“I'm super excited about having kids in class because this is where teachers shine. We shine with kids in class,” said science teacher James Brennan.
Private schools are different. The typical small classes will be even smaller this year – on average between 12 and 18 students with desks spaced 6 feet apart. Cup holders and file folders will keep the movement to a minimum.
They also have another advantage – technology. Each student gets a Chromebook and the new classrooms include smart boards.
“This is going to change education. Perfect for this with our online classrooms that we're going to have. This is going to be great. This is going to be able to bring in the kids that are not going to get the actual experience of a classroom to get the actual experience of a classroom,” said Brennan.
Spring taught these teachers and students a lot.
“Some of them did even better, you know, because they not only could watch the lesson with me live and I could help them, but they could watch the lesson over and over as many times as they wanted, since there was an on-demand lesson that we made,” said Cermak.
But everyone know things will be different come Aug. 17.
“I think even the parents that are sending them, I think they're still nervous. I mean, everyone's a little bit nervous, but we have to let our kids be kids,” said Brennan.
It's a lesson in life from someone concerned about more than just COVID-19.
“My wife is diagnosed with cancer at home, so she is one of the high-risk populations. I'm not worried about bringing it home to her,” said Brennan.
We asked him why.
“Trusting in God is one thing, but also we're taking the precautions that we need to take. We're wearing masks. We're going to be washing. We're going to be sanitizing. So I think we're going to keep our students and our staff safe,” he said.
Only 40 of the 528 students at the school are choosing virtual learning.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the school will shut down that classroom and ask students who were exposed to quarantine at home.
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