BISD readies for new school year; Classes will start with distance learning

Parents, students, teachers and staff in the Brownsville Independent School District know this much about the 2020-2021 school year: It will begin on Aug. 25, but instruction will be 100% via distance learning until BISD determines it is safe to reopen the district’s 54 schools.

On Monday, the BISD Board of Trustees met to discuss the district’s action plan for the coming year. Even though schools won’t open for in-person instruction until later, teachers have the option to teach from their classrooms or from home. Thus, healthy hygiene procedures are being put in place at the campuses so that teachers and others who work from the schools can safely do so.

Procedures are being put in place now so that when students do return things are running as smoothly as possible, Dora Sauceda, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and accountability, said.

Notably, plexiglas shields are being installed in various locations at each campus to assist in maintaining safe social distancing when students return. In addition, frequent monitoring of restrooms will be an established norm, as will hygiene protocols on how to wash hands effectively. Also, plenty of bottled water will be available districtwide, since water fountains won’t function because they are a potential point of virus spread.

In the event a campus needs to be closed due to COVID-19, closure protocols will be in place, with only Superintendent Rene Gutierrez authorized to order such a closure, from one to five days if a positive case or cases are detected, she said.

Meanwhile, teachers will deliver instruction via distance learning for the time being. A survey and pre-registration are ongoing on the BISD website.

Maria V. Gonzales, an early childhood specialist, reported that more than 800 parents have completed the survey, and 500 in the pre-k grades. She went through a bell schedule for the district’s youngest students, 3- and 4-year-old pre-k students.

Gutierrez said the district has an at-home educational plan in place for all students, from elementary through the high school grades. More information is available on the BISD website. He also said BISD will provide Personal Protective Equipment, including washable and disposable masks, gloves, thermometers, face shields, disinfecting gel, disinfecting wipes and towels to all campuses and personnel.

Sauceda said the first eight weeks of instruction are in the process of being posted online.

Usually at this time of year parents are in the process of purchasing school supplies for their children. This year BISD is distributing school supplies to all students.

Rosalva Larisquitu, the administrator for Parental and Family Engagement, said this year it is especially important for schools to renew or establish contact with their students. She said schools are in the process of reaching out to parents through School Messenger, a smart phone app BISD adopted several years ago, the Home Access Center grade monitoring app, as well as through text messaging and phone calls.

She urged parents to update their information with their children’s schools as soon as possible.

Here is a timeline for the coming year, provided by board member Prisci Roca Tipton.

>> Aug. 10-14: Distribution to parents of technology devices such as Chromebooks, hotspots and district-purchased school supplies to all students at no cost. Daily class schedules, and introductory letters from teachers distributed.

>> Aug. 21: Transportation Department resumes operations. Drivers and monitors will be assigned to buses with hotspots at different locations based on seniority, to deliver learning packets and provide other support services at all 54 campuses.

>> Aug. 25: First day of classes and curbside meal distribution resumes.