Back-to-school: What you need to know about returning to school in Van Horn

By Ken Baugh, Superintendent of Schools

Culberson County-Allamoore Independent School District

Hello to everyone. School is really lonely without you. I can’t wait to see everyone. It has been four months since we were all at school. We are getting ready for this school year. Of course, COVID-19 is really throwing a major curveball at us and everyone else in the world.

A constant I have found in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak is that information changes constantly. Everything we are planning could change before we reach our school start date. I have found that many people in the United States seek only the information that supports their personal opinion. That means facts are not being used, but opinions. This is the first real global pandemic in 100 years and there is just not enough factual information to always guide us. It is extremely time-consuming to seek real facts and you can’t always find them. But you can find lots of opinions. We do our best to find real facts to make our decisions. Then, outside agencies play a role in our school plan. We incorporate the directives from the Texas Governor, Texas Education Agency, University Interscholastic League, our County, and our City. I cannot say that politics do not play a role because they do. However, we at CCAISD are absolutely focused on the safety of our students, staff, parents, and community.

The best thing we can do right now is to move our school start date to September 8 in order for the current community outbreak of COVID-19 to come under better control and to give more time for our suppliers to get us the equipment we need to provide a safer school. We have developed a COVID-19 Tracking Chart to help us follow what is happening in our community. We ran the data through July 20 and next we will run the data on Aug. 11. This gives another 20 days of COVID-19 tracking. Then we will review the data.

Here are some basics.

  1. We moved the school start date back in order to have a safer in-person start of school. This will hopefully give our community more time to lower our rates. It also gives us time to get in equipment to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff. In case of a worsening outbreak in Van Horn, we have the option to not start live on Sept. 8 and require the first four weeks to be online learning. If needed, we can seek School board approval for another four weeks of required online learning.
  2. Other than live learning on Sept. 8, we will offer the option of online learning called “asynchronous learning” which is a fancy term for online learning. This is not the learning program that occurred last April and May. It is actual work like in the classroom. Failure to check in daily and turn in the assignments will result in failing the class. A little more about online later.
  3. Parents will be required to choose either at school in person or online learning for the first grading period of our school calendar. If emergencies arise, such as a diagnosed COVID-19 case, a change will be made. 
  4. We will require face masks for anyone entering the building ages 10 years old and up. Certainly, parents with 10-year-olds and down can choose for their child to wear face masks.
  5. We will require a temperature check for anyone entering the building. 
  6. We will follow social distancing to the best of our ability in the classroom and anywhere in the building.
  7. The school will provide the classroom supplies this year.
  8. Restrooms will have dividers between the sinks and touchless soap dispensers. 
  9. Enhanced cleaning plans are in place.
  10. Many have asked about Two-A-Days. We will look at the COVID-19 data on Aug. 11 talked about above. As long as the data is positive enough, we will start Two-A-Days 10 days before the Sept. 8 school start date.

Asynchronous or online instruction involves a far more self-guided student instruction experience. The school is only paid by the state if the student is at school or “engaged” during online learning. This is a requirement of the state. This is how we pay the teachers, pay the light bill, have football games, and have volleyball games. It is how we pay our bills. The state is allowing us to generate full-day funding for each day an “engaged” student is fully engaged. Our staff will check daily for student “engagement.” If the student is “engaged” for the day, they will be marked as “Present-Remote Asynchronous” for their attendance. The student will now be counted present and get credit for being at school. Remember, you need over 90% of the required days present in order to be qualified to pass to the next grade.

Students that are “not engaged” that day are marked absent. “Engaged” means any of these three occur: (1) Progress as defined in the “Approved Learning Plan” (which I submit to TEA for approval) in the Learning Management System (2) Progress as defined in the “Approved Learning Plan” from teacher/student interactions made that day (3) Turn-in assignment(s) that day. Remember, assignments are how a student passes their class and how they pass to the next grade. We are building our CCAISD Learning Plan and submit it to TEA soon. Our teachers are already preparing for both in-person learning and online.

We will also be using the time between now and then to bring in additional safety and health equipment to address COVID-19 possibilities in our school building. We will be giving very detailed procedures on in-person classroom teaching along with a very detailed stay at home educational procedure option. We will also be giving a very detailed plan in case of COVID-19 confirmed cases, direct exposure, or in-direct exposure. Below is an outline of our Health Mitigation Supplies and Staffing Plan.

  1. TEA PPE Purchased Supplies: Disposable Masks, Reusable masks, Gloves, Thermometersm, Hand Sanitizer, Face Shields.
  2. Create Social Distancing: Classrooms, Cafeteria, Gyms/PE.
  3. Athletic Community Attendance Procedures: A. Attendance in Gyms 1. Limit attendance to Social Distance Capacity 2. Face Masks Required 3. Temperature Check 4. Health Questionnaire.
  4. Acquire Student School Supplies: A. Bulk Purchase Teacher Classroom List B. Maintain ½ pallet of bottled water.
  5. Building and Bus Interior Disinfectant: A. Increase Standard SuppliesB. Mist Disinfection Equipment.
  6. Temperature Screening: A. Facial infrared temperature sensors kiosks B. Hand-Held Touchless temperature sensors
  7. Face Shields: A. District B. TEA Supplied
  8. Face Masks: A. 200 School Logo Reusable Face Masks for Athletics B. District Purchased Reusable C. District Purchased Disposable:
  9. Gloves
  10. Additional Staffing: A. Three Additional Classroom Aides B. One Additional Cafeteria Staff.
  11. Increased Online: Abilities A. Canvas B. Zoom.
  12. Glass, Plexiglass, or Plastic Dividers: A. Office Entrance B. All Bathroom Sinks C. Student Desks D. Teacher Desks.
  13. Touchless Hand Sanitizer: A. All Restrooms B. All Teacher Classrooms C All Entrances D. Kitchen Areas.
  14. Touchless Water Fountain Covers
  15. Maintenance Staff Schedule: Shift to an evening schedule with one on days.

We are still building our response plans, but are getting close. All of the charts or forms will still need to go through our school attorney for approval. We thought you would like to know what is going on in preparation for opening a school this year. Of course, just like the first sentence in the second paragraph says, things change. There is more information to come. Be watching our newspaper and the school’s social media.

Remember, be safe, be healthy, and be kind to someone today.