SAN BENITO — As the status of the coronavirus pandemic continues to remain fluid, an in-person return to school remains up in the air for the upcoming school year of this school district.
During a school board meeting held Tuesday, plans for the upcoming school year and the school district’s $40 million bond project were discussed.
During the meeting, the board of trustees approved the purchase of 4,400 desk dividers for student desks districtwide.
Additionally, the board approved amending its 2020-2021 school calendar.
Remote instruction will begin on Aug. 26 instead of Aug. 12, which was originally planned.
New teachers will start on Aug. 17 instead of Aug. 3. Other teachers will start on Aug. 19 instead of Aug. 5.
“ Per TEA right now, we know we have three full weeks before we have to provide any live instruction,” Superintendent Dr. Nate Carman said. “Additionally, our county judge issued an order through at least Sept. 8 before live instruction can start.”
Carman said starting live instruction depends on when it’s safe for students to be back in the schools.
“ Beginning here in August though, some of our staff will be in the buildings. So this calendar gives us two additional weeks,” he said. “Hopefully, we can see the trend go down and the infection rate before we start seeing a few more people in our buildings.”
Carman said for the most part, the district can keep instructional staff remote, but that will be addressed through the district’s task force who will bring a plan to the board.
“ There are some positions that I don’t think can be remote, but I think most of our teaching probably can,” he said. “Some hands-on things, they may need to be in the lab or in the appropriate setting to be able to demonstrate, but I think for the majority will be able to be remote as well.”
Board of trustee president Orlando Lopez said the school district is going to do everything they can to keep the students and staff safe.
“ I want to thank the parents for being patient and our staff as well, but this is an unprecedented time,” he said. “So we all got to work together and collaborate to come up with a plan to make sure that everybody feels safe and comfortable. Everybody’s well-being is first and foremost at the top of our list.”
$40 million bond project
The project, which was approved by voters in November 2018, will consist of a performing arts center, an indoor multi-purpose facility and a natatorium.
According to project manager Joseph Palacios, of Brighton Group, LLC, the indoor multi-purpose facility is 68,700 square feet and surpasses Brownsville’s indoor facility.
“ Theirs is 31,123 square feet,” he said. “What we did in the very beginning was to make sure that they didn’t reinvent the wheel and we kind of improved from where their mistakes were.”
Palacios said San Benito CISD’s indoor multi-purpose facility will be inclusive to every sport they have, as well as have other amenities, such as an end zone, a lobby, a storage room and offices.
The exterior and interior design of the facility is planned to implement the school district’s school colors.
According to Palacios, the indoor multi-purpose facility is estimated to be complete in the fall around September or October.
“ Things are moving relatively pretty quick in the project,” he said. “There haven’t been any major issues to it. It’s been running relatively pretty smoothly.”
The indoor multi-purpose facility broke ground in August 2019.
“ Originally, we were looking at May to June to be at some substantial completion,” Palacios said. “During the COVID period, it did give us a little bit of a delay from our suppliers.”
Palacios said another obstacle was an unusual period of rain for a few weeks.
“ That affected us not so much, but we are set to have this building we’re hoping to have substantial completion somewhere within the September month of this year,” he said. “At that time, we’ll start all of the proper inspections.”
The natatorium and performing arts center are currently about 50 percent into the construction document phase, according to architect Mike Allex.
The facilities will be built side-by-side near the school district’s Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy.
Allex said the site plan for the performing arts center hasn’t changed much and will include amenities such as dressing rooms, storage facilities, equipment facilities and mechanical spaces.
According to Allex, the center will have about 1,000 seats. Around 800 will be on the first floor and about 200 more in the balcony area.
The natatorium will have amenities, such as a lifeguard first aid station, offices, a lobby, boys and girls locker rooms, a program pool and a competitive pool.
“ We’ll be under construction within the next couple of months to be able to take care of the utilities,” Palacios said. “Everything is unfolding itself concurrently and right on time.”