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Local school districts plan to open on time

Joshua Baethge,
The Van Alstyne Leader
Van Alstyne High School, as well as other Van Alstyne ISD campuses, are scheduled to open Aug. 13. Parents will have the option of selecting in-person or at-home instruction for their student.

With COVID-19 numbers in Grayson County low compared to much of the state, local school districts are proceeding with plans to start classes on schedule in August.

Students in both Van Alstyne and Howe will have the option of choosing remote or in-person learning. Classes are scheduled begin in Van Alstyne Aug. 13 and in Howe Aug. 19.

Van Alstyne ISD Superintendent David Brown said the district considered all options. Since Van Alstyne is averaging fewer than eight coronavirus cases per month, district officials decided the best chance of ensuring students finish the school year by next summer would be to begin classes sooner rather than later.

“We might as well start, and then if we need to do something along the way, we will make adjustments as we go,” Brown said.

VAISD will send a questionnaire July 27 asking parents to decide between virtual or in-person learning. Those who choose at-home instruction for their student will be expected to continue with that option through at least the first nine-week grading period.

Online learning will be different than last spring. Attendance will be enforced, and grading requirements will be the same for at-home students as for those attending classes at school campuses.

Those attending classes in person, as well as teachers and staff, will be required to self-screen for COVID-19 every day. Schools will also enforce daily temperature checks of students when they enter the building.

Those with elevated temperatures will be sent to the school nurse for a second evaluation before returning to class. School visitors will be limited, with temperature checks and COVID-19 screening strongly enforced.

The district plans to take a situational approach when dealing with the virus.

If one student tests positive for coronavirus, minor modifications will be made so that classes can continue. If there are multiple cases that indicate a potential hot spot, additional action up to and including temporarily closing school facilities will be considered.

Brown has been in regular contact with the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management to ensure that the district has the most up-to-date information.

He said that teachers reviewed the district’s plans before they were released and did not voice objections.

While some may accuse the superintendent of not putting safety concerns first, he reminds that the decision is a personal one for him: Brown’s wife is a VAISD teacher, and the couple’s two children attend school in the district.

“Everybody has concerns because it’s a virus we don’t know anything about, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure our teachers are safe, our kids safe and our community as a whole are safe,” he said. “I think our plans are pretty good and that we are going to be able to keep everybody safe.”