Thousands of McAllen ISD students and staff returned to campus this week and another wave is expected to return next week.
At a board meeting on Nov. 9, Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez updated trustees on a transition back to class he says will return a little more than a third of the district’s students to classrooms by Monday.
“Today was a big day for us, we had over 3,000 employees come back to work today and they did a tremendous job, every division did their part to make sure that we did our very best to provide a world class education to our students that chose face-to-face or those that remained remote, and even those that are choosing a combination,” he said during the meeting.
About 2,000 kids returned to campus that day, among them his own three children, he added. According to the superintendent, most teachers had a smooth transition back to campus.
The students who returned to campus were primarily younger students from transition grades, Gonzalez said, including pre-K, K1 and K2, sixth and ninth grades.
According to a district spokesperson, third, fourth, fifth, seventh eight, 10th, 11th and 12th graders will be allowed to return that day, although parents will still have the choice to keep their child learning remotely or in a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction.
“On the 16th, we’ll have a whole different population. We’re expecting approximately 35% of our student body to be coming in, so that number will be larger,” he said. “That’s why, by design, this gives us an opportunity for our little ones to get a head start, kind of get their feet wet, and then also for our teachers to have a smaller population and work through logistics.”
The pandemic has not spared campus populations across the state.
The Texas Education Agency has recorded thousands of COVID-19 cases among teachers and students. Cases at Hidalgo County districts number in the hundreds so far.
As of Friday morning, McAllen schools reported 12 cases on campus, 15 cases among employees on campus and six cases among employees off campus. The district employs 3,403 people and has 21,625 students enrolled.
District principals briefed the board Monday on how they intended to mitigate cases and prevent the spread of the virus.
A presentation from Melvin Benford, principal of Cathey Middle School, informed the board that about 71% of that school’s parents had chosen to have their students continue remote instruction, 277 of Cathey’s students will be taught on campus and 690 will keep learning from their homes.
Safety measures implemented at that school include signage for classroom capacity and personal protection requirements, socially distanced desks and desk shields, hand sanitizer stations and directional arrows in hallways.
Benford voiced his confidence in the measures taken at the school to transition students and teachers back to in-person education.
“Our teachers have been trained. Our staff is ready. Our community is ready,” he said.