In a recent letter, the Marble Falls Independent School District asked families of remote learners who are struggling to consider letting their children return to campuses.
“We’re not mandating they come back; we’re asking to at least start that conversation” said MFISD Superintendent Chris Allen.
The request only affects a handful of families.
Allen said the district is now more than nine weeks into the school year, so teachers and parents have a good idea how things are going for each child. Currently, about 90 percent of MFISD students have returned to campus.
The letter was not the district’s first step toward addressing the issue.
“What the letter doesn’t capture is all the cumulative work our campus principals and campus leaders had been doing before that,” Allen said.
He said the reality is that some students do not do well in a remote learning situation and would benefit from face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers.
But he does not want to make the decision for families.
“There are districts around the state who are sending out letters that basically say, ‘If your child is failing, they have to come back (to campus),’” Allen said. “That’s just now how I operate.”
Allen understands the apprehension about sending children into schools amid a pandemic, especially if a student has health issues that put them at risk. However, he pointed out that after about nine weeks of in-class instruction, the district has not recorded an outbreak or surge in positive cases. He attributes that to safety protocols in place.
Allen qualified the statement by acknowledging that no one knows what will happen in the future.
As of Oct. 20, MFISD has reported 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff and students. This does not mean those testing positive for the novel coronavirus contracted it on campus, just that they tested positive for it and alerted the district. MFISD has more than 4,000 students and over 650 employees.
“I think with the things we’re doing on campus and in the district regarding COVID, it shows we can have school and kids back in class without spreading the disease — to this point,” Allen said.
He hopes this alleviates some of the fears families might have about their children returning to campuses. He also wants the community to see the tremendous effort by the district, school board, and staff to make this school year as “normal as possible” by scheduling some student activities.
“There are a lot of things we’ve allowed to be done that, if you look at districts across the state, they aren’t doing,” Allen said.
He listed the 2020 graduation — on time and in person — recent football games, choir concerts, a National Honor Society induction ceremony, and PSAT testing.
“We’re even still providing afterschool programs at the middle school and elementary schools,” he added. “We’re working hard on how to say ‘yes’ to as many of these things as we can. The credit overwhelmingly goes to our teaching staff. They’ve been working with administration to have school and class that’s meaningful, relational, and — for lack of better term — as normal as possible.”
As for students struggling at home, Allen said the district just wants them to be successful.
“We’re just inviting them to come back or, at least, give us a chance to talk with them about it,” he said.