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Waco ISD: School year will start, campuses will reopen after Labor Day

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 12:30 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - McLennan County’s largest school district is headed back to school the day after Labor Day.

The Waco Independent School District's Board of Trustees reached a decision Thursday night, but it wasn't unanimous.

"The September 8th start date weighs very heavily on my heart," said Norman Manning, WISD board member.

At 6-1, Manning was the dissenting vote in approving Waco ISD's calendar for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year saying it was unsafe to send students and teachers back to campuses that early amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Who in the McLennan County Health Department is going to guarantee that three to four weeks after we start there will not be an uptick and surge in COVID-19 cases?" Manning asked Superintendent Susan Kincannon during the board meeting.

She responded by saying "I don't think anyone can guarantee anything for the cases for September 8th, or any other date for that matter."

While there's been much debate over 'when' students should be allowed to return to the classroom, the Waco-McLennan County Health District issued an order this week, mandating all public and private K-12 schools in the county stay closed to in-person learning until after Se;t. 7 due to recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

"The calendar I'm proposing is fully consistent with the order issued earlier this week by the local health authority," said Kincannon. "That order does not impact the plans we'd already been formulating."

Kincannon said, if the county's coronavirus situation worsens in the next six weeks, they would consider starting the year off with all online learning.

While the district's plans could still change, Thursday night's board vote aimed to provide some consistency for the district's 17,000 students and staff which was lacking when the virus forced them to switch to online learning in the Spring.

"At least now, in my opinion, folks can plan and make some decisions," said Angela Tekell, President of WISD's Board of Trustees.

Decisions like in-person versus remote learning: district officials are urging parents to soon choose between the two options they're going to provide.

"It impacts our staffing, and we want to be able to match up our students with our teachers who might need to, or prefer to, work remotely," said Kincannon.

Parents can register their kids for either in-person or remote learning starting Monday, July 27-Aug. 25.

Breaks and holidays for the school year will remain the same, however, by approving the calendar, each school day will now be extended by 15 minutes.

What you need to know about the new coronavirus and its impact on Central Texas.

“It gives us a buffer in case they have to close school for any reason,” said Kincannon.

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