Struggling local school district forced to reopen under unprecedented guidelines

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:53 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 5:37 PM CDT
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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) - Marlin ISD was already struggling to stay open--now, they'll have to re-open with more struggles than ever before.

“Every single thing has been rewritten and reconsidered,” said Niki Edwards, the new Principal at Marlin Elementary School. “Our new Superintendent has brought in experts that have come in and looked at the curriculum and analyzed the curriculum and what that looks like in an online format and what it looks like face-to-face.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Education Agency this week released guidelines requiring public schools to provide both at-school and remote learning options for students, leaving the decision up to parents.

“We’re writing and testing new curriculum and determining what that looks like in the safest environment so students are still enriched and still learning,” said Edwards. “Safety and health is our number one priority of course, we’re considering that with how do we deliver the highest quality instruction to our students.”

While safety is the goal, could all the restrictions that come with it hurt learning, especially for under performing districts like Marlin ISD?

Mom's like Markia Muckelroy, who graduated from Marlin ISD, say it's too soon to tell.

"I can't say yes, and I can't say no, what I will say, is we'll see when we get there," said Muckelroy. "As a parent I have concerns, but it's one of those things--you gotta roll with the punches."

Wednesday was the Pre-K and Kindergarten Round-Up at Marlin Elementary School where families are walked through the registration process.

"We're making sure our kids are ready to start learning on the first day," said Edwards.

Edwards says everything from enrichment, to group work, to playing with blocks will have to change under the current pandemic with new mask, social distancing and sanitization requirements for campuses.

"It's going to be easier with older students, teaching younger ones about the distancing is more challenging," said Edwards.

In addition to upping the frequency of cleaning and hand washing, she said they're looking at varying drop off/pick up, recess, and lunch times for the 500 students at Marlin Elementary.

She also said there will be more one-to-one teaching and less group learning and sharing of objects in the classroom.

"We're working on getting every student their own learning tools so they don't have to share," said Edwards.

Despite the challenges, Edwards was optimistic about the upcoming school year.

"I'm excited for our Marlin family," said Edwards. "We've taken the precautions and we're going to have an amazing year."

TEA officials say, while the pandemic will make it a challenging budget year, the legislature is promising to fund in-class and remote instruction for every child.

"The state is and remains committed to providing a high-quality education to all Texas students, while ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and families," said Mike Morath, Texas Education Commissioner.

When registering for Pre-K Wednesday, Muckelroy opted to have her three-year-old taught at school.

"Although I don't completely agree, 100 percent, that kids have to go back to school inside the classroom, I do also agree that our kids need the education," said Muckelroy. "Life has to continue, we need our kids learning."

Marlin ISD was already facing major challenges before the pandemic broke--it's failed to meet state accountability standards since 2011, longer than any other school district in Texas.

Even with all the changes under COVID-19, the Marlin mom says she feels more confident about the education her child would be getting this year because they have new staff coming in who are more passionate and eager.

“I do foresee teachers and other administrators around making sure that our kids are getting exactly what they’re needing,” said Muckelroy. “I have no problem at all sending my child here.”

TEA guidelines for safe return to 2020-2021 school year.

What you need the virus and its impact on Central Texas.

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