CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Corpus Christi Independent School District students, parents, and teachers wake up for the second day of classes for the 2021-2022 school year, the threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant looms.
The Corpus Christi Independent School District has a chart on the district's website that includes all test-confirmed positive COVID-19 results that have been reported to the district since the beginning of the school year on August 10. On the first day of school Monday, the district reported 55 total COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Forty-nine of those cases were among students and six were among staff.
On Tuesday, those numbers grew. There are now 112 total cases in the district, with 106 being students and six being staff members. It is unclear if all of these students and staff attended school on the first and second day of classes.
CCISD Director of Communications Leanne Libby said right now virtual learning is not an option because the state hasn't given the district funding for it. They are also not requiring masks or vaccinations in students age 12 and up, but are highly encouraging them.
Sandra Rodriguez is a grandparent of students at Houston Elementary School. She said while she prefers that they stay physically in school, she prefers that the district require vaccines for kids that qualify to get it.
“Let’s pray and let’s wear our mask, wash our hands, we’re all family here," Rodriguez said.
The district is also using protective shields around desks and encouraging social distancing in eating areas and classrooms.
“We’re certainly going to work with families. We know that these are challenging times and we certainly would not want to do anything to encourage someone to send a child to school sick, so I’m sure we would work with those families on a case by case basis, help them remain in school and help them stay on track," Libby said.
However, some parents like Joshua Reyna who has kids that go to Houston Elementary School, are pushing for virtual learning. His kids have asthma and are immunocompromised, and he said protective shields were not put up for his kids.
“Because my kids, their immune systems are weak. My daughter has asthma. She was born premie so yes that’s why I want virtual," he said.
Vanessa Rojas also has kids that are immunocompromised, and although they go to Robstown ISD schools, she is promoting her virtual learning petition to get the attention of state legislators.
“It’s crazy how our city leaders can have virtual meetings and other people higher than them that are having meetings with the state that are virtual but our kids don’t have that choice," she said.
On the first day of school, Corpus Christi Independent School District Deputy Superintendent Kimberly James told KRIS 6 News that 34,939 students physically checked in on their home campuses. James said this is a testament to the resilience of the district's students, staff, and campus leaders and the faith of parents in CCISD campuses.
KRIS 6 News anchor Katia Uriarte spoke with CCISD Superintendent Dr. Roland Hernandez about the return to school during the ongoing pandemic.
When asked about whether CCISD would consider taking actions similar to Houston and Dallas and enforce mask mandates despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates, Hernandez said they would consider it.
"If we saw that there was a situation where even what we have in place is not addressing it like we need it to, then we certainly would move closer to the consideration of doing what they have done in Houston and Dallas," said Hernandez.
Dallas ISD officials announced Monday morning that they will require students and teachers to wear masks on campus. Houston ISD’s superintendent, Millard House II, has said he wants to issue a mandate, too.
Hernandez said last week that virtual learning would be among the options if there was a COVID-19 outbreak in the schools.
This statement is important because most districts – including CCISD – have rejected a remote option for all students to start this school year due in part because the state will not compensate schools for virtual learning. Today was also the first time Superintendent Dr. Roland Hernandez or the district has addressed virtual options beyond that. For example, the only mention of remote learning in CCISD’s proposed reopening plan is for field trips, which will be virtual this year.
Speaking outside the CCISD convocation at American Bank Center earlier that day, Hernandez said the district discussed virtual learning as a standard option to start the year, but when it didn’t pass the legislature they abandoned the idea.
“What I would say that if it came to a point that the numbers were that alarming and we would need to re-evaluate we would certainly take a look at it at that time,” he said.
As all students are welcomed back to campus for in-person instruction Tuesday, Corpus Christi ISD said it has plans to keep students and staff safe.
The school district posted a return-to-in-person-instruction and continuity-of-services plan on its website last week outlining COVID-19 protocols for students and staff displaying COVID-19 symptoms, self-screenings, social distancing, and wearing a mask.
Many students, teachers, and parents thought returning to school this year would be a return to normalcy. But with the Delta variant spreading at record rates, especially among the unvaccinated, many are looking for safer options for schooling this fall.
Luckily, there are options in Texas.
The Texas Education Agency has a list called the Texas Virtual School Network, which includes seven fully virtual schools that are accredited by the TEA and open for enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year.
All these options are fully accredited by the TEA and required to participate in state testing like the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, STAAR exams, and End of Course Assessments (EOCs), whenever applicable.