San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees approved to delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year during Monday’s meeting, after concerns for the health of school district employees and internet connectivity for students were addressed.

Board members unanimously approved the recommendation presented by school district administration, thus delaying the start of the upcoming school year to Aug. 26 and pushing the end of the school year to June 4.

Superintendent of Schools Carlos Rios presented the recommendation and stated the delay will consist of the first three weeks, Aug. 26 to Sept. 15, as online only classes.

The week of Sept. 16-18 will be a phase-in week in which students registered for the traditional classroom setting or hybrid model setting will begin transitioning to their physical classrooms.

According to Rios, all extracurricular activities are suspended until Sept. 16.

Ericka Barrera, a teacher at the school district, shared concerns she and her fellow teachers had regarding going back to school.

Barrera stated there are 10,425 students within the school district per the Texas Education Agency’s website, and of those students approximately 3,962 elected to return back to school. Barrera’s count of approximate students returning to campus was based on the previous percentage of parent response to the education models.

Approximately 5,000 lives, including teachers and other school staff would be congregating within campuses, and are lives that would be “on the hands of the school district,” according to Barrera.

“As we all know, we’re (the community) not doing so good,” Barrera said pertaining to the current number of positive COVID-19 cases.

Barrera suggested to board members to keep classes online-only for the first six weeks of school or longer, as she believed the school district is not ready to open and teachers are concerned for their health, the health of their families and students.

“Please make the right decision,” Barrera said.

During the meeting, Board of Trustees Secretary Diana Gonzales and board members Joshua Overfelt and Amy Haynes recommended an extension for the school district to remain online-only for eight weeks.

Overfelt suggested the school district request a waiver from the Texas Education Agency in order to do eight weeks of online courses, and Haynes addressed the school district needed to be more transparent in order to clarify and answer questions parents have.

Board of Trustees President Raymond P. Meza agreed to doing eight weeks of online only classes. “Good common sense is telling us we’re not ready,” Meza said, adding he will make his decisions based on data.

Board member Fred Contreras also agreed with the extension and brought up concerns involving the special education students.

Board of Trustees Vice President Linda Guanajuato-Webb brought up the concern of parents not being present when students need to log in for online courses, and if there was an option to allow a flexible class schedule for students.

Only students within grade levels pre-kindergarten through second grade can have flexible class hours, whereas third grade students and up must be logged during specific hours of the day, according to Rios.

As of Monday morning, 93 percent of parents stated their choice for their child’s education model with 36 percent choosing a traditional model, 49 percent choosing the online-only model and 11 percent choosing the hybrid model, according to Rios.

Of those students, 19 percent need a device and four percent need internet connectivity, Rios said.

Currently the school district has 172 devices available for Pre-K through Kindergarten; 472 devices for second grade through fifth grade; 543 devices for sixth grade through eighth grade; and 519 for freshman through senior grade level students.

More devices have been ordered, according to Rios, and in the meantime the school district will lend out desktop computers to students, with instructions provided on how to connect the device.

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