The Waxahachie School Board held a special meeting Monday evening, discussing COVID-19 safety regulations for school, the official first day and attainable resources for each student.
The meeting was held to bring clarity to questions the public, staff and parents may have concerning back to school protocols.
Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance, Ryan Kahlden, touched base on the resources available for students. "We filled out a survey with TEA about connectivity issues, devices and hotspots. The state legislator has allocated $200 million in funding for these devices. It should be here at some point in August. I don’t believe that it will be the first day of school, but I do believe that those plans will be put in place by the state. We’ll do our best to get as many devices as we need," Kahlden shared.
Additionally, the topic of face masks for students was a topic of concern, as children under 10 years of age are not required to wear a face mask at school.
"People want masks on our little students. They also wanted a clear plan for the little ones. What’s gonna happen if one of them gets the virus?," said Nurse Coordinator Melissa Bousquet. "We don’t want to make the environment so restrictive that learning can’t take place. We’re hearing more and more about the fact that children don’t tend to get it as often. Now, we’re starting to hear that they also don’t transmit the virus as often.. I think if you add masks in that mix for children that young, it’s gonna be difficult."
Bousquet also stated that TEA has not required surgical masks, allowing any face covering to be utilized.
"The governor’s order makes it a penalty subject to a $250 fine, for anyone 10 or older not wearing a mask. We’re taking a similar stance. We’re not applying this universal requirement to kids 9 years and younger," said Deputy Superintendent Lee Auvenshine.
Auvenshine then went on to say that TEA guidelines say that temperature checks will not be made by the district but should be done at home.
In regards to the cleanliness of every classroom, the plan is to disinfect every classroom daily. "Yes ma’am, we’re gonna disinfect every classroom, every evening," stated Director of Support Services, Raul Gomez.
Gomez clarified that they will have enough custodial staff members and may even look into hiring temp workers if necessary.
The Director of Special Populations, Brandy Pustejovsky, also spoke on the concern of safety and mask wear for special needs students.
"First of all, students that have sensory issues, we’re gonna work on that as well as individualizing what the masks will look like and how they’re gonna wear them. Our goal and expectation will be, if they’re third grade and up, we’re gonna teach that skill [of wearing a mask]. It’s gonna be a case by case basis," Pustejovsky clarified.
About 1,300 face shields have been provided for the district. The state has also provided a number of masks.
Discussed in the meeting, the official start day for the 2020-2021 school year will be Monday, Aug. 17, opposed to the original date of Aug. 13.
The teachers asked for more days to get ready. They extended the start date because of that feedback, not because of COVID-19.
"Most of my teachers want to teach online students. Most of our teachers want to get their students that are currently on their rosters, and they want to have the ability to lead their classes both online and face-to-face," said Tanya Harris, Waxahachie High School principal.
Distance learning is still being planned and worked on. "We have to put together a plan that gives students a full day opportunity and a minimum of 180 hours for elementary to get ADA accountability and a minimum of 240 minutes for secondary. We’re still working everyday to build that up," said Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction Susan Holt.
All students, whether attending in person or online, must be registered via Skyward Family Access. A separate application for online learning (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScxB8Rx2BBy_AgFIo4NTKkLdRabsENjmR4GZRjoI_RcZzUOhA/viewform?usp=sf_link) must be filled out for each student wishing to participate in online instruction by noon Aug. 10.
In regards to students or staff members acquiring COVID-19, Superintendent Bonnie Cain said she’d be in touch with Nurse Bousquet.
"If 10 percent are out for flu or flu-like issues, ... I will speak with Nurse Bousquet, should we close it down just to do some deep cleaning for one day or two days and the same rule the district. If the district gets to 10 percent, that we would then discuss how long it should be closed for," stated Cain.
Additionally, the 2020 fall school year guidance was approved by 7-0, no changes were made to the motion, and the motion to amend the 2020-2021 calendar was also passed by a 7-0 vote.