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Expanding opportunities for our students and appreciating staff - Sept. 28, 2020

Dear SAISD Staff:

The local COVID-19 positivity rate increased slightly to 6.4% last Monday, which is not the direction for which we had hoped. We are remaining at Level 2 Yellow on our safety matrix, and we will be very strict about limiting in-person students to no more than 25% of student enrollment. Although this can vary by classroom and campus because of differing capacities, in every circumstance, we will only allow the number of students for which we can ensure social distancing measures.
We continue to be grateful to school staff members and parents who have been cooperative and judicious in the number of students returning to classrooms and in following our health protocols. We are seeing safety in action! The care and caution being demonstrated has permitted us to keep the number of cases low. Even when out of an abundance of caution and protocol we have quarantined staff and students, we are thankful that these individuals have remained healthy. 
We will continue to be very gradual in the numbers of students we phase in. Our measured approach allows small numbers of students to become acquainted with the health and safety protocols in place without the added confusion of crowded hallways and classrooms. Our phase-in process may be slower than some of the other districts, but safety will remain our focus. Even when we are able to transition to Level 3 Green, we will continue to add small groups of students every two weeks until we reach up to 50% of our student population. We believe this is the safest approach for our district.
In addition to paying close attention to the needs and best interests of our students today, we also are looking ahead to their futures. 
Last week, we announced a partnership between SAISD and Trinity University. The “Trinity Community Investment” partnership will allow our high-achieving students the option to stay close to home and attend a top-tier university. If students qualify for admission, Trinity will meet their full demonstrated financial need, allowing them to graduate with minimal debt.
These types of collaborations create a safety net of attainable and affordable college options without compromising college quality. We already partner with Austin College, UTSA, and the University of Houston-Victoria on similar programs. Expect to hear about us engaging in more of these partnerships in the near future to continue expanding college opportunities for our students.
New prospects for our students continue within our district, too. We have several developments to announce at the high school level.
One of our college-readiness initiatives is to increase the number of dual-credit courses available to our students – an effort funded in part by a Greehey Family Foundation grant. In these courses, students simultaneously earn both high school and college credit. Research has shown that high school students who take dual-credit courses are more likely to persist in earning a college degree.
One of this year’s dual-credit opportunities is engaging 15 Brackenridge High School juniors in a brand new dual-credit, dual-language course through UTSA as part of the Texas Mexican American Studies curriculum. The Latino Cultural Expressions course, which is mostly taught in Spanish, is part of the Brackenridge dual-language program in which students take core academic and advanced courses in Spanish. The students who complete the UTSA course will earn three college-credit hours. 
Also new this year, Edison High School has been credentialed as an EMT campus, and this new offering is part of the school’s First Responder Institute within Health Professions. We are one of the very few districts to offer EMT, firefighting, and law enforcement at the same school.
Beginning next school year, Edison also is launching a Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Business Administration. This will be one of three new P-TECH programs starting next fall – bringing our total number of these programs to five in 2021-2022. Highlands High School will initiate a P-TECH in Manufacturing, Engineering, Aerospace and Welding; and Lanier High School is creating a P-TECH in Construction Science.
This year, we launched H-Tech at Fox Tech High School for future registered nurses and other healthcare workers, and tomorrow, our original program – Cyber P-Tech USA at Sam Houston High School – will induct its second cohort of students. It’s an exciting time to be a high school student in SAISD!
We have a long-range vision for all of our students in the District, too.
We are pleased that our Trustees called for a school bond election to seek voter approval of a $1.3 billion bond, with two separate propositions. On Nov. 3, voters residing within the District boundaries will be asked to consider two ballot items: Proposition A would provide for security upgrades for all SAISD schools, significant renovations for 36 schools, and the replacement of all aging chillers more than 15 years old (benefiting another 30 campuses); and Proposition B would provide new technology for every school.
The law now requires that general construction and technology be two separate ballot items.
If approved, taxpayers would not see a tax rate increase from the bond, based on District projections. Continued downtown development, paying down of debt, and low interest rates have combined to make this possible.
To inform voters about the bond and to answer their questions, we have produced a websitevideo, a Bond Overview, and soon arriving in mailboxes is a special Bond 2020 edition of our Vision community newsletter. Video tours of each of the 36 campuses also are available to view. Additionally, we have been hosting campus and community meetings, and we will continue to do so throughout October.
Early voting begins Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 30, and these early-voting sites were recently added to the Bond 2020 website and the Bexar County Elections website.
Also in October, we will continue to celebrate our staff. This Friday, look for well-deserved recognition of our custodians as we acknowledge their contributions on National Custodial Worker’s Day. And the following Monday, we will honor our educators’ talents and dedication on World Teachers’ Day. October also is National Principals Month.
These are three key employee groups that make up our district that we could not do without. Please join me in applauding them – not only on their days of recognition, but year round. Thank you for all you do! 

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