San Benito schools prepare for on-site instruction

San Benito CISD announced this week its high school, three middle schools and Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary School are currently piloting temperature screening thermographic cameras. Courtesy: SBCISD

SAN BENITO — School district officials and leaders are continuing to make preparations for a return to on-site instruction.

During San Benito CISD Board of Trustees committee meetings held on Tuesday, a variety of current implementations and plans for returning to in-person instruction were discussed.

“The current plan gives us the first four weeks in a four week waiver, and by Nov. 3, we would then have to invite students back if they would like to come back,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman said during the meeting.

According to Carman, the students would still have a choice to have remote instruction.

“The commissioner did indicate that because of the rate of infection, actually, the hospitalization rate in this area, that we could be eligible for an additional four-week waiver,” he explained. “So we have a dashboard that we follow daily and if we’re over the 15 percent, we would be eligible.”

Carman added that Cameron County is currently under that percentage so he is not certain the school district would be eligible for an additional four-week waiver.

“Certainly, if there’s another spike, we would apply for the four week waiver, but if it continues to die down as it has been doing, we would go forward with Nov. 3 for inviting all students back,” he said.

According to Carman, the school district is currently surveying pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and second grade with the thought of bringing them back to the schools on Oct. 20.

He said the reasoning there is based on a couple of things.

“The department of health services, the state tells us that students in that age group don’t seem to be as susceptible nor do they seem to be as severe if they do contract COVID,” he said. “Then from TEA, they have pointed out that that age of student has difficulty learning remotely.”

He said the school district has students who are learning letters and numbers in pre-kindergarten. Additionally, he said the district has emerging readers through kindergarten.

“They will benefit from that face-to-face interaction,” Carman said. “So if it’s safe, that would be the earliest that we would bring them back, would be the 20th of this month.”

San Benito CISD announced this week its high school, three middle schools and Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary School are currently piloting temperature screening thermographic cameras. Courtesy: SBCISD

Hybrid instruction

Campus hybrid instruction for grades ninth through 12th for the 2020-2021 school year was discussed during the meeting.

Sara A. Alvarado, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services, said the school district is currently sending surveys to see how many students want to return to face-to-face instruction.

Alvarado explained that hybrid instruction would consist of alternating weeks for students.

She said there will be weeks labeled “purple” or “gold” and “A” or “B.”

“For example, purple week, approximately half of our students ninth through 12th will be receiving face-to-face instruction and we’ll use last names A through Julian,” she explained. “So we’ll have week A will be designated as the purple week and then week B will be our gold week and so purple students are purple week and A students will stay home while gold week will come on.”

Under hybrid instruction, students would receive breakfast and lunch in the classroom.

Carman said the district put a lot of thought and debate into whether they wanted students to move from classroom to classroom for face-to-face instruction.

He said once they believe it’s safe, they will transition over to the model of switching classes.

“We’ve had whole campuses in the state of Texas, including high schools, who have had to shut their doors for two week because their students were changing classes,” he said. “They had one or two kids who test positive. It’s very difficult to trace the close contact, so they’ve shut down the entire instruction and then you’re back to ground zero.”

WiFi buses

Starting Wednesday, the school district began offering internet support for its students through WiFi buses.

The WiFi school buses will be parked in select locations Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Buses will be located in neighborhood areas near the following schools — La Encantada, Rangerville, Angela Leal and La Paloma.

For questions or more information, visit www.sbcisd.net or call SB CISD’s Technology Department at (956) 361-6924.

Thermal cameras

On Tuesday, the school district announced that its high school, three middle schools and Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary School is currently piloting temperature screening thermographic cameras.

The cameras are designed to rapidly detect the skin-surface temperature of a person via a non-contact measurement.

According to school district officials, the use of these cameras serves as an additional safety measure that’s intended to help safeguard the health and well-being of its staff and students.

San Benito High School Principal Rudy Ramirez spoke about the cameras during a school district “Insider Short” video.

Ramirez explained that when individuals pass by the camera, it immediately picks up their surface temperature and can spot when an individual isn’t wearing a mask.

“What it does is it allows us to expedite the process so folks that are coming into a building don’t have to bottle up and wait in a line,” Ramirez explained. “Essentially, folks get to walk by really quickly and we’re able to get that reading effectively without them having to be around other folks and potentially raising the risk for infection.”

He said there will be two cameras that will be placed in areas where there’s high traffic to ensure the kids and staff are safe throughout the entire day.

During Tuesday’s meeting, SB CISD Accounting Director Vicki Perez discussed the purchase of thermal IP cameras for schools districtwide.

“We currently have one at the high school that was installed,” Perez said. “We saw how effective and how seamless it was just getting individuals by so we wanted to install those to the rest of our campuses.”

She said a quote for the purchase is $46,325.

“They are very quick. They’re exceptionally accurate,” Carman said. “We think they’re going to help out in identifying students with fevers and this would put these at the other 10 elementaries and at the VMA.”

ahernandez@valleystar.com