Local school district to stagger reopening; area teachers fight return to classroom

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 12:18 AM CDT
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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) - The return to learning will be virtual for all students in the Marlin Independent School District--at first.

During a special meeting of MISD's state-appointed Board of Managers Monday afternoon, the new superintendent announced the district is planning to stagger the start of in-person learning for students whose parents decide to send them back to campus instead of continuing remote learning when the school year begins.

"We have a comprehensive look regarding our 2020-2021 re-entry plan," said Dr. Darryl Henson, Superintendent of Marlin Schools.

Schools across Texas were shutdown in March to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Although almost 40 percent of the close to 150 families surveyed (the largest group in agreement) wanted to keep schools closed and continue with remote learning for an “extended period of time,” district officials decided MISD campuses would only be closed briefly, for 1-3 weeks when school starts Aug. 3.

The district will keep all students at home for the first week of school--after that, elementary students will return to campus on week two, and grades 6-12 will return on week three.

District officials say they won't start student assessments until week four, but by week six, they hope to have every student acclimated and learning (and this year, that learning includes free school supplies for every student in the district including iPads and WiFi).

Local teachers are are starting to rise up against districts offering in-school learning off the bat, saying it's not safe and goes against CDC recommendations.

"Right now, the Texas Education Agency, the Governor's Mansion, the Secretary of State's Office are all shutdown because of their fears of COVID, yet they're telling us that it's safe for students to go back in mass," said Jennifer Hartline, a seventh-grade math teacher in Waco.

In response to last week's guidelines from the TEA on returning to on-campus instruction, Hartline founded the Texas Teacher's Safety Initiative (which in less than a week has more than 4,000 members on Facebook) to fight back against districts statewide forcing educators to return to the classroom too early, she says.

"One of the biggest criticisms our movement is receiving is 'it seems like teachers just don't want to go back to work'-- that couldn't be further from the truth," said Hartline. "Virtual learning is more work for teachers."

Hartline says, while districts like Marlin ISD having a week of virtual learning for everyone is a start, it's not enough to keep teachers, students and families safe.

“We want a statewide mandate from the Governor saying that schools will stay closed until the percentage of infection rate in your county has fallen below 0.05 percent,” said Hartline. “There’s just no other way to protect teachers and students unless that happens.”

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