SAN MARCOS, Texas — Starting Monday, San Marcos CISD students will be learning from classrooms only.
Friday will be the last day for virtual learning provided by SMCISD. Students who are granted a medical exemption or extenuating circumstance will not be required to come to school immediately.
"Our main goal is to bring students back to check on them mentally, socially, emotionally, academically, and also prepare for next school year," Andrew Fernandez, from the school district's communications office, said in an interview on Saturday.
"I don't know if it's going to be beneficial to have thousands of kids back in the building all at once," Keifer Taylor-Atkins, a senior at San Marcos High School, said.
Keifer and her sister, Beth, a sophomore, have been in the classroom since October.
"I don't think that they think that their mental health was suffering the way it was, but when you're parents, you notice those things," Salana Henderson said. "It's still not back the way it was, but at least there's some, 'Get up, you have to brush your teeth, have to change your clothes, have to leave the house.'"
Salana said she and her husband, Rick, knew the risks of contracting COVID-19 after sending Keifer and Beth back to school. In December, Rick contracted the coronavirus, but none of the other four people in the house showed any symptoms except for a slight headache. After winter break, the girls went back to school.
Beth admits she reluctantly went back to classes in October.
"When we're doing online school, you're spending most of your time by yourself usually like calm, you know – you can listen to music as you work," Beth said. "Then you go back to school in class, and now you have to you have to talk to the teacher that you don't know. You have to be on all the time. You know, we have to be a good student; you can't listen to music while you work and you have to socialize with people who you don't really know."
"If coronavirus was never around, this wouldn't even be a thing," Auguste Couser, whose son started fifth grade at Crockett Elementary this year, said. "There wasn't an option for your kid to stay home before. So the fact that people are stressing out and freaking out that there's no option, that's standard protocol. Your kid is required to go to school. It is good for them. It is good for you. That's where they're going to learn their best."
Couser said she understands her situation may not be best for every family in San Marcos CISD. Her son has been going to class since October as well. He wanted to be there.
"There's seven weeks left. It should still be a choice," Couser said. "Let's just finish out the rest of the year with the choice. Let's keep it like that and then say, 'OK, starting next year, it's all going to be in class.' Why they decided to wait till the end, I don't understand it fully."
San Marcos CISD added the school district does not want to go in blind to the 2021-2022 school year.
"We bring them in, we check on them while also preparing for next school year because we don't know what [Texas Education Agency] is going to offer next year, if virtual is even going to be an option," Fernandez said.
Some parents online voiced concerns SMCISD was bringing students back only for STAAR testing to close out the year. Fernandez said that is not the case.
"Absolutely not. This has nothing to do with STAAR testing, honestly," Fernandez said. "As a district administration, that's the last thing on our on our minds, really. At the end of the day, the safety of our students and our staff is going to continue to be the number one priority."
Fernandez said students coming back to classrooms is the logical next step to prepare for next school year, along with the increase in COVID-19 vaccinations and low coronavirus case numbers within the district. According to the district's COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 12 total coronavirus cases among students and staff since March 1.
KVUE sampled other central Texas districts, asking if students can continue learning virtually or will need to finish out the school year in the classroom. Some responded, others did not.
- Austin ISD: virtual learning option
- Hays CISD: virtual learning option
- Round Rock ISD: virtual learning option
- Lake Travis ISD: virtual learning option
- Leander ISD: virtual learning option
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