School districts across the state have been planning for months to reopen their doors in August after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close.
While others continue to plan, Premont Independent School District was one of the first schools in South Texas to open its doors in June.
Since their calendar year didn't end until the first week of June, the Governor allowed more than 175 students back on campus. One of the ways the district was able to follow CDC safety protocols was with the use of hula hoops.
“We had hula hoops for the elementary kids, and that was kind of unique because they like having a hula hoop. The hula hoop sort of reinforced the social distancing when they were outside the classroom. When they entered the classroom, it was an 11-1 student/teacher ratio,” said Premont ISD Superintendent Steve VanMatre.
The school doesn't look the same; signs are everywhere to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Outside the classroom, they had to wear masks. Every adult in the school had to wear a mask. Each kid was given water because there is some contamination that occurs at the water fountain so we wanted to eliminate that. There was no lunch in the cafeteria; the food was all brought to the kids,” said VanMatre.
It’s a new challenge for teachers and students, but change has always been part of education. One of those changes will give students an option to wear a face mask or one of the 700 face shields the district will provide.
“There is also an instructional advantage to the face shield with the lower-age children. When you are teaching a child to read, it is very important, particularly with phonics, that you see the speech movement of their lips, and you can't do that with a mask so we are going to offer options to our students and our staff,” said VanMatre.
As for the students who choose to stay home for remote learning, Premont Independent School District will have live streaming classroom instruction to help its students stay connected.