Texas school district sprints to online learning amid virus surge

The superintendent of SFDR CISD said they will still keep campuses open for parents who have to send their kids to school.

DEL RIO, Texas — A recent surge in novel coronavirus cases in Val Verde County has prompted the largest school district in the county to make some swift changes.

District leaders in San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated ISD sent out a mayday call to parents this week, asking them to keep their children at home, if possible, to help stop the spread of the virus.

This comes as the rural border county is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

According to the New York Times’s COVID-19 Tracker, as of Thursday Val Verde County ranks fourth out of all the counties in Texas when it comes to the highest number of cases per residents in the last week.

On Wednesday night, the City of Del Rio reported 1,089 active cases with a six-day positivity rate of more than 35{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1}.

That’s why school district leaders sent an SOS call to parents asking them to keep their kids at home, but still allowing parents to make the decision and keeping campuses open.

“If we do a knee-jerk reaction and just automatically close the schools down without trying to mitigate the situation today, that might expand the total amount of days that the schools are closed and the community shuts down. Because it could very well get more difficult as we move forward,” said Dr. Carlos Rios, district superintendent. 

Over the Christmas break, from Dec. 18 to Dec. 30, the district said there was a confirmed 69 positive cases among the student population. During the same time period, 33 staff members also confirmed positive.

“We have to do everything we can to work with those that need to come to school, but also keeping in mind the safety of our community,” Rios said. 

Rios said allowing parents to decide their child’s route is vital to the community.

“We have a lot of parents that have to work, and they count on the schools being open not only to educate their children, but also to take care of their children during the day,” he said. “We also have a whole lot of businesses that count on their people coming to work.”

The response was staggering. The district reported that out of the more than 1,700 secondary students learning on campus, 773 changed to online instruction. Over 900 elementary school students also swapped to online learning.

The pandemic has had a big impact on the district where over 70{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of students qualify for the Free or Reduced Lunch program.

Rios said when they had to move the entire district to online learning in the spring, they had to dismantle computer labs to find enough technology available for students.

He said they also bussed meals to families.

“The needs are tremendous,” said Rios. “We kind of take for granted that everybody has a breakfast or lunch just because we live in an economically developed country, but that’s just not the case.”

And while the surge could be exacerbated from holiday family gatherings, Rios said that they’re trying to meet an uncertain future with as best a plan for what’s next as they can come up with. 

“There is no playbook for dealing with a pandemic,” Rios said. “The best decision today is only the best decision if it’s planning for tomorrow or the week after.”


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Thu Dec 31 , 2020