Administrators make instruction plans for post-Thanksgiving return to classrooms
With coronavirus cases increasing among some schools and districts and the holidays in full swing, education administrators are having to make decisions quickly about either continuing in-person learning or transitioning to remote instruction.
The majority of Gillespie County Schools have continued in-person instruction as their primary method of education, with only the Fredericksburg High School, Fredericksburg Middle School and Fredericksburg Elementary School temporarily transitioning to remote learning a week before Thanksgiving break after hitting the 2% case threshold.
COVID-19 briefly halted instruction at two of the local private schools in the past week. Ambleside School of Fredericksburg had to close its doors due to a positive case, but it only extended the holiday break instead of doing remote instruction. Heritage School had some cases in adults, which led administrators to close for Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23-24.
Fredericksburg Independent School District Supt. Dr. Jeffrey Brasher said he won’t know his district’s plan until the Monday after Thanksgiving break, which is a teacher-in-service day and a student holiday.
“Principals have opened communication lines to parents, urging them to contact the schools if their kids test positive,” Brasher said. “We will evaluate those case numbers and make a decision on Monday.”
The communication lines Brasher referred to was in a PDF sent to parents, students and staff members, asking them to send a voicemail or email to the campuses as soon as their test results are reported. It had each school’s contact information, which is listed below:
• FES — 997-9595, firstname.lastname@example.org
• FMS — 997-7657, email@example.com
• FHS — 997-7551, firstname.lastname@example.org
• FPS — 997-7421, email@example.com
• SES — 990-4599, firstname.lastname@example.org
• GCHS — 992-4598, email@example.com
Brasher said he’s confident the district would be prepared to transition to remote learning for an extended period of time.
“We’ve done well in the last five days making the transition,” he said. “I’m awaiting feedback from all of our staff and students, but I believe everyone is doing a great job.”
Brasher added the challenge has been that staff has had to prepare for both remote and in-person instruction during this semester. If the district went full remote, then teachers would have more time to build in lessons and instruct students.
Harper Independent School District has been able to evade outbreaks so far this school year.
Bonnie Stewart, superintendent of HISD, said the district plans to continue face-to-face instruction on Nov. 30.
“In the case that something happens during the Thanksgiving break to force us to go to remote learning, teachers and students will know as soon as I do,” Stewart said. “This will only happen if there is a big spike in cases in Harper that will directly affect the school. Or if the governor or other officials force us to close.”
“We have every intention to keep our doors open as long as it is safe to do so,” she said.
The district is still working hard to keep students safe and healthy, Stewart added, and as long as no COVID-19 cases arise, “in-person instruction is the best option for our district.”
Doss Consolidated Common School District will stay in-person after the holiday, as no students or employees have had to quarantine at this point in the year.
“Unless we have students or staff with COVID-19 or quarantined such that it is difficult to manage, we will offer on-campus instruction,” said Pam Seipp, administrative consultant. “We have previously asked parents to choose one format and remain in that for a full cycle.
“With the holiday, we announced a relaxed version of the learning selection and will allow parents to move from on-campus to at-home after the holiday if there is an individual concern, and we will allow anyone to take the 14-day period after the Christmas holiday for the same reason.”
She added this could change at any time, so the district does have a plan to take care of health, safety and education.
St. Mary’s Catholic School will also continue in-person learning after the Thanksgiving holiday, Director of Development Kaitlyn Burg said.
The school has no active cases, as its two previous cases are now recovered.
“We’ve been in-person,” Burg said. “We haven’t shut down, other than that brief period in October, and we will continue to learn in-person until we are unable.”
Nancy Hierholzer, Heritage School’s head of school, said they plan to clean the building with deep sanitizing spray and resume classes on Nov. 30.
No official plans have been decided as yet, but Head of School Russ York said the school board will meet to decide over the Thanksgiving holiday.
If the decision is made to go remote, he said he will try to let everyone know ahead of time to allow for preparation.
“It’s that game you play of waiting to get closer to see what’s happening and to let everyone know in enough time,” York said. “I suspect we will know something by Thanksgiving.”