Lytle ISD discusses back to school plans, to survey parents about choices

Lytle ISD Superintendent Michelle Carroll Smith and members of the district’s leadership team met via Zoom to discuss ongoing back to school plans.

Assistant Superintendent Harry Piles discussed the 2020-2021 academic calendar, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, August 13, and end on Friday, June 4. The calendar features four additional instructional days, as well as 25 intercession days.

October 12-16 and February 15-19, 2021, are set as intercession weeks.

“That’s an opportunity basically for all the campuses to select a group of kids that need a little added support in order to move them forward in their academics,” Piles said.

Additional intercession time is built into the calendar from June 10 to June 30.

Piles also addressed information on the Texas Education Agency’s website about remote instruction. Synchronous instruction requires all participants to be virtually present at the same time, whereas asynchronous does not.

“Synchronous would be real-time interaction,” Piles explained. “Asynchronous would be where it can be more self-paced. Students can work as internet is available, or as support is available.”

Smith said the district would work with parents regarding in-person or remote instruction.

“It’s going to be the parent’s choice if they want their child to come in person, or if they want their child to remain at home and be instructed remotely,” Smith said.

William Cross, Director of Maintenance and Operations, spoke about public health and safety in the district.

“Preparing for this upcoming school year, we’ve purchased over $40,000 worth of personal protective equipment and supplies, including over $20,000 on hand sanitizer,” Cross said.

Over 200,000 antibacterial wipes, 30,000 disposable masks, and over 300,000 nitrile gloves.

“Thirty cases of hospital-grade disinfectant has been ordered and will be used to sanitize classrooms and workstations daily,” Cross said. “It’s been all hands on deck. It’s been extremely busy, but we feel that we are head and shoulders above where we were last year at this time as far as being able to keep our schools safe and sanitary and clean for everybody.”

Transportation Director Armando Esquivel said the district’s buses would be sanitized after every trip by trained personnel, which will consist of a spray and wipe down on high-touch areas and student-assigned seating.

“Sanitation will require the bus be secured for at least ten minutes and then released to service,” Esquivel said. “All drivers will be asked to wear a mask and even a face shield if it does not restrict them from viewing their mirrors and any other devices on the bus they may need to look at.”

School Safety and Security Coordinator Cumorah Eldredge said the district was committed to helping slow and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

All students and staff are encouraged to wear face coverings when arriving and leaving school, as well as during passing periods.

“While you’re sitting down in your classroom, the students will be able to take those face coverings off just because we know it’s going to be really challenging, especially for our littles, to have to keep that on,” Eldredge said.

Staff and students will have their temperatures taken every morning before entering school buildings, and hand sanitizer will be in every classroom.

“We also are going to be having a lot more outside spaces for educational learning,” Eldredge said. “When weather permits, teachers can take their classes outside. They can spread out a little bit more, remove their facial coverings, breathe in that fresh air.

Tents and fans will be provided to help mitigate the heat.

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Amie Carrillo, Director of Child Nutrition, spoke about how the district planned to provide meals.

“Starting at the beginning of school, we are working on some plans to serve in the classroom, and also to provide meals for pickup for our remote learners,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo said food service employees always wash their hands and wear gloves and masks during all food prep.

“We also are in line with our local health department,” Carrillo said. “We have two health inspections a year, so we’re ahead of the game on that.”

IT Director Richard Tollett said devices would be issued to all K-12 students. Kinder through 2nd grade will receive iPads, while 3rd through 12th grade will be issued Chromebooks.

“We’re also in the process of expanding our Wi-Fi to accommodate anybody that wants to come to the campus parking lot and access the Wi-Fi,” Tollett said. “We’re also going to be sanitizing all the computers that are in the labs, libraries, all those that are out there for anybody else to use.”

Elementary Principal Wendy Conover said her campus is hosting a migrant student summer school July 21-31.

“In general, our adults will be wearing some kind of face covering or face shield throughout the day when they’re speaking to kids or in front of kids,” Conover said.

Desks in classrooms will be spread apart rather than in groups, and there will be no group teacher tables.

“We’re going to eliminate that for now and keep our kids facing the front to help with that social distancing and keep the virus from spreading as best we can,” Conover said.

Conover said her campus plans on scheduling a lot of time outside to try and less the risk of spread.

Junior High Principal Libby Stewart said that students will go directly to their first period classes once they arrive at school in the mornings in order to try and comply with social distancing.

“We will be staggering our bell schedules, and that will give kids the opportunity to move to classes before all the other grade levels are in the hallways,” Stewart said.

There is also flexibility built into the schedule so that students can take personal breaks if necessary. Both breakfast and lunch will be served in classrooms, and students will be allowed to bring water bottles to school.

“Instead of us picking up school supplies like we’ve done in the past, students are going to be needing to take care of and to carry their own supplies,” Stewart said. “Water bottles will be some of the things they can put in their backpacks, as well as binders and so on.”

Stewart also said that many of the courses will be blended.

“We want to be able to use that blended learning to give kids the opportunity to still work together, but through the use of technology,” Stewart said. “So as students work with their devices, they will still be able to do projects and have that interaction as they’re in their classes.”

High school principal Jose Garza said students on his campus will also go immediately to classrooms rather than congregating.

“We’re going to have our master scheduled really catered to the kids, making sure that we have breaks throughout the day,” Garza said. “And again, we’re going to offer some blended learning opportunities, a lot of online stuff, so our kids have the opportunity to learn in different ways so we can maximize our learning here at the high school.”

Garza said there will be social distancing markers throughout the campus.

“We’re going to really limit the kids in the hallways between classes,” Garza said. “We have to really have a strategic plan, and we are currently working on that plan.”

Primary principal Jammie Fewell said Pre-K and Kinder Meet the Teacher will happen on a one-on-one basis rather than a group setting. Families will not be invited into the building for 1st grade Meet the Teacher, but time for parents and students to drive by, meet teachers, and drop off school supplies will be provided.

“Our first grade teachers do plan on sharing videos that tell a little bit about themselves, giving you and your child a tour of the classroom, just so that they become a little more comfortable before that first day of school,” Fewell said.

Fewell added that all students need to be registered by August 4 in order for parents to pick up a postcard with the name of their child’s teacher on Aug. 5.

“Just like all the other campuses, we’re doing everything we can to come up with things that will keep our staff and our students safe,” Fewell said.

Smith emphasized that the district would be flexible in its plans.

“Each principal and their leadership team are working on plans right now knowing that two weeks from now things could change and their plan might be altered,” Smith said. “But this is where we’re at right now, and this is what we’re planning to do.”

A video of the Zoom meeting is available on LISD’s YouTube page and also features thoughts from Athletic Director Lori Wilson and others involved in central administration.

By Marly Davis

Staff Writer