WOODSBORO – Just as other school districts across the state — and the nation — are grappling with how to begin the school year even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Woodsboro Independent School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Janice Sykora are also working to help make a smooth start during rocky times.
While plans remain fluid, the current schedule is for WISD staff to report to campus on Aug. 3, and for students to begin online education Aug. 12.
A $40 Google Chromebook fee that the district has charged previously will be waived, although there will be a charge if a device is damaged or lost.
Because the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is frequently monitoring and amending plans for the school year, the plans for WISD might change as well.
“Safety and health is the top priority, and we are getting a lot of information from the TEA and the health department,” Sykora said.
Once students do return to school, things will look far different.
Because of classroom sizes, the amount of social distancing that is possible once in-class instruction begins will be limited, but other solutions are being devised.
“There can only be 11 desks in a room if the desks are kept 6 feet apart,” Sykora said. “One of the things we are going to do is place trifold clear barriers in rooms that kids will work within.”
To limit contact between students the TEA is recommending that students do their work at their desks, as well as eat lunch in their classrooms rather than in a cafeteria.
“TEA is also trying to discourage people from riding the bus because of germs, but we understand that some students will have to ride the bus,” Sykora said. “The school board spent a lot of time discussing these concerns. Of course we want things to go back to normal, but that’s not possible right now with COVID.”
Under current WISD plans, the first four weeks of the school year will serve as a transition period with remote learning, which will consist of online lessons via Chromebooks. After that four-week period, the school board will decide whether to extend remote learning for another four weeks or begin on campus instruction.
“We want the kids to be back in school, but we also want to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Sykora said. “We will slowly bring the students back to campus. For example, one possibility is to bring the kindergarten students back first and give them lessons on handwashing and social distancing in the school. Then, we will start to bring back the older students.”
One unfortunate effect of COVID-19 is that where parents were once welcomed to campus, they will be limited from visiting their children during the school day in order to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
“We have always welcomed parents, but because of this disease parents won’t be able to come to campus like they have in the past,” Sykora said.
“This is a hidden, mysterious virus that has resulted in a lot of fear in our country, but we want to minimize that and prioritize health while also focusing on education. We want to be in school, but we also want what is best for the students and to protect them, staff and families. It’s definitely a different world.”
Jeff Osborne is the editor of the County Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397 or at josborne@mySouTex.com.