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Abbott says Texas public schools will reopen in the fall but are Central Texas schools ready?

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 20:28:31-04

WACO, TX — Texas Governor Greg Abbott surprised a few people Thursday when he unveiled to a group of lawmakers, a plan to fully re-open Texas public schools this fall.​

Killeen has begun seeking input from parents on a return to classes, while other districts like Waco have begun planning for multiple scenarios.​

Are Central Texas schools prepared, and what do parents think?​

The two Texas teacher's unions have come out against a full return to campus this fall, saying it puts the health of teachers and students at risk.​

The Texas Education Agency won't release its guidelines until next Tuesday, but that hasn't stopped districts from getting ready anyway as they hope to calm fears of anxious parents and students.​

As Malitia Zachary and her family celebrated Juneteenth, their thoughts moved ahead to the fall, the start of school and the danger it poses.​

"I really don't want to catch the coronavirus," she said.​

Schools and other large gathering places pose an inherent risk, and that worries Malitia's mother.​

"My oldest two are in high school and they don't have like the capacity, like room for the new normal," said Bobbie Jean Jackson.​

In other words, how will schools at or over capacity handle social distancing?​

At this point, no one knows what Texas will mandate, so Waco ISD and other districts have begun to prepare for a wide range of options.​

Waco even has a special task force.​

"We have a group of about 50 educators and community members who are working through different options for what school might look like this fall," said Kyle DeBeer of Waco ISD.​

But can school buildings designed for classes of up to 30 students have room to spread them out?​

We picked a typical classroom at Kendrick Elementary to find out.​

Principal Isabel Lozano helped me measure the classroom, which measured 34 by 29 and a half feet.​

The rooms have tile floors with the tiles arranged in large squares.​

Then we measured for 6 feet of social distance for every student, it worked out to roughly one student for every other square.​

About 18 out of a normal class size of 22 will fit, though maybe not in the best arrangement for learning.​

To fit a full class in, you'd have to knock out a wall and add another row.​

School district options include students attending class in split shifts so everybody has social distancing.​

Then, there's the matter of temperature screenings and face coverings.​

"So we really haven't made a decision about face coverings yet. That's something we're gonna work through with local health experts, with feedback from our families and from our staff," said DeBeer.

He says students will have plenty of hand washing stations and sanitizer available.

Those not comfortable with the measures can opt for distance learning via computer.​

But Malitia's mom says her grades suffered with computer learning, so she's considering a more drastic step.​

"We're looking into homeschooling that's what we're looking into," said Jackson.​

A spokesman for the Texas Education Agency told a print publication the T-E-A will not require face coverings or COVID-19 testing.​

Again, look for those detailed guidelines next Tuesday.​