Classroom Confident: Huntsville ISD superintendent says ‘about half’ of students are choosing to mask

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:54 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Huntsville ISD Superintendent Scott Sheppard says the first three days of school in Huntsville’s district have “gone extremely well.”

School began on Thursday for those students, and according to Sheppard, it began with masks for many of them.

“Certainly in the elementary schools there are more masks,” said Sheppard on Brazos Valley This Morning on Tuesday. “We know that as kids get older, they kind of control their destiny a bit more, so that’s less effective with our high school-aged students. But across the district, I would say about 50% of the kids have masks on most of the school day from what I’ve observed as I’ve visited schools.”

Sheppard and his teaching staff are “encouraging” masks: the district is abiding by Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mandates. However, staff are set to help parents’ rules be followed in the classroom.

“We have asked our parents to let our teachers know if they would like their student to keep their mask on during the day, so that we can help monitor that,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard says the district is continuing enhanced sanitation and cleaning and “social distancing where we’re able and where it’s appropriate.” Daily self-checks and self-screenings are expected as well. As for contact tracing, per Texas Education Agency’s changing guidelines, Huntsville ISD will not conduct contact tracing as they did last year.

“We will continue to notify parents, so if we have a positive case--definitely a confirmed positive case--then we will notify parents via email,” said Sheppard. “We will also put our dashboard back up on the website so that parents can check statistics there, to see what’s going on at their campus for their kids.” For elementary students who do not change classrooms throughout the day, Sheppard says the district will be able to notify specific classes where the case occurred.

Learning loss will be a challenge this 2021-2022 school year, Sheppard says, but one that his faculty is prepared to handle.

“Remote platforms were what we had to launch, but we know kids don’t learn best in that environment,” said Sheppard. “So we started in the summer with a more robust summer program for our kids. Now we’re using high-impact tutoring during the day, having designated time during the day for opportunities to catch kids up.”

See the full interview with Huntsville ISD Superintendent Scott Sheppard in the video player above.

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