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The best interests of our students come first - Sept. 14, 2020

Dear SAISD Staff: 

We are officially operating under Level 2 Yellow on our safety matrix, and last week we saw our first students back in classrooms. It was an incredible moment to see some of our children face-to-face again! I enjoyed visiting each of our comprehensive high schools and speaking with both staff and students. These conversations seemed to confirm that both teachers and children prefer in-person instruction and are feeling comfortable with the safety procedures in place.  
We already are seeing more students who want the in-person option. This week, campuses will be reaching out to families again to bring in another small cohort of children on Monday, Sept. 21.  
Overall, we had a successful first week of classroom learning. We are proud of our employees and students who are following the new protocols and processes in place to stay healthy. Our principals will continue to check in with staff to hear their feedback on these safety procedures and will make adjustments as necessary.  
Currently, the local positivity rate for COVID-19 is less than 7% – a decrease from just one month ago when the rate was 11.3%. The local positivity rate is lower than the national average, and if this decline continues, we may be entering Level 3 Green sometime in October.  
Our Green level will begin when local health data shows a positivity rate of 5% or less. We already meet the two other criteria for our Green phase, which includes a doubling time of more than 18 days and a downward trend in positive cases. Once we enter the Green level, we will slowly phase in additional students until we have up to 50% of our students back in the classroom, if that is the type of instruction their parents prefer for their children. 
We will be giving employees and families a week’s notice before we transition to the Green level, but know that it may be coming soon. I will be sharing all of this information with our parents, too, during the next virtual Parent Town Hall tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. 
It has been quite a journey since we closed campuses in March and launched our remote learning plan – both in the spring, and now into the fall. We came up to speed quickly during this process, and together we are continuing to forge our path forward with everyone’s safety in mind.  
It will be an extraordinary school year in many ways. For the first time in our history, we will address a pandemic for an entire academic year. Yet, throughout these next two semesters, we will ensure our students receive a high-quality education whether they attend classes in person or virtually. We have strong school leaders and talented teachers showing us the way. 
I would like to recognize one of those teachers now. Lanier High School math teacher Adriana Abundis has been named one of three state finalists for Secondary Teacher of the Year by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA). Texas Teacher of the Year is the highest honor Texas can bestow upon a teacher, and we are honored that Ms. Abundis is being recognized throughout the state. 
You may remember from a previous letter that on the second day of school, Ms. Abundis was recognized at the regional level when she was awarded the 2020 Secondary Teacher of the Year by Education Service Center, Region 20. Fast forward to the second day of in-person instruction, and she has been named a statewide finalist! We are fortunate to have her, and teachers like her, on our team. 
Before I close, I want to address some negative news coverage we received last week surrounding a devastating loss of food inventory due to a system malfunction. There were implications that the food should have been salvageable and this disposal was done in a secretive manner, which was not the case. 
We openly consulted with the local health department and Education Service Center, Region 20 to ensure we were compliant with local health codes regarding food safety as well as state and federal guidelines around disposal. We saved as much of the perishable inventory as was safely possible, and this included an emergency donation to the San Antonio Food Bank. 
While the news report points out that the disposal was conducted “early in the morning while it was still dark,” it’s important to know that warehouse hours start at 5 a.m., so it is always dark when warehouse employees begin their work.  
This was an incredibly sad situation to have to dispose of some food. Yet, there isn’t a monetary value that would ever take the place of the food safety and security standards we have for our students. 
The best interests of our children – from safe and healthy meals to high-quality academics – will always come first. 

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