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Safety, recognitions, and self-care - Oct. 26, 2020

Dear SAISD Staff:


SAISD remains in its Yellow safety level this week. The local COVID-19 positivity rate is above 5%, and we will not transition to Green until positivity rates are below the 5% threshold for two consecutive weeks. Because safety is our top priority, we will stay the course on social distancing measures and following our safety matrix, which currently allows a student occupancy rate of only 25%.

As an additional safety measure, we will be participating in a testing strategy with local and state partners. According to public health officials, testing – particularly of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals – is key to interrupting the disease through quick identification of silent spreaders, quick treatment for reduced severity of infection, and immediate isolation to avoid spread. Testing is an additional layer of assurance beyond the social distancing measures and the four levels of the safety matrix that guide our re-opening plans.

SAISD is collaborating with the Texas Education Agency on our first testing initiative. TEA is providing our District a limited supply of rapid COVID-19 tests, and we will pilot a testing program beginning with students and staff who participate in or support varsity athletics, including football, volleyball, and basketball; fine arts students who participate in game-related activities such as band, dance, cheer and pep squad; and JROTC students prior to their competitions. 

We are starting with these targeted high school groups because it is less straightforward to maintain social distancing and masking protocols during some types of events. We want to limit the risk of exposure during extracurricular activities as much as we possibly can without holding students back from participation. Rapid-testing, which begins next week, will be provided for any student who wants to participate in these extracurricular activities and who have parental consent to be tested.

In this first pilot program, we plan later to phase in testing across campuses, making them available to staff who are interested. Testing will continue throughout the school year.

Additionally, we have received a limited grant from Bexar County to begin a separate pilot program for testing at campuses. We are still working out the details, such as timing and logistics, but you can expect to hear more about this second pilot program soon. 

These COVID-testing pilot programs will allow us to maintain an even safer environment.
For both initiatives, testing will be provided for asymptomatic students and staff, and positive results, if any, will be addressed following Metro Health protocols. It is important to note that there is the potential for false negatives. Also, we want to remind everyone that no one should report to work or school who is experiencing symptoms. We already have protocols in place to address individuals with symptoms, and we will continue to follow those, which includes quarantine. 

Please know that we have been able to – and will continue to – implement social distancing and masking in all educational settings including classrooms, cafeterias, libraries and labs for our learners and teachers. These protocols have been determined by the medical community to be the best way to limit exposure. Testing is just an extra precaution.

SAISD is actively advocating for additional testing for our broader community, and if it becomes available, the District will notify all staff and students to the opportunity.

This week wraps up National Principals Month, and I am proud to announce that one of our principals received a special honor – and her accomplishments are indicative of the many great school leaders who steer the course of this District. Brackenridge High School Principal Yesenia Cordova, who piloted our first dual language program at the high school level, has been recognized as the Education Service Center, Region 20 World Languages Administrator of the Year. Please join me in congratulating Ms. Cordova on this recognition!

Board President Patti Radle and I also received an Education Champion award on behalf of SAISD, and the District’s extraordinary rise in student achievement over the past five years. We know – and you know – that we did this as a team. We have a lot of talent that has brought us this far this quickly. We have dedicated Trustees, impassioned educators, and strong employees throughout the entire District. We are changing the landscape of what it means to serve children of color and children who live in poverty. And I want to thank you all for helping us make a difference in our students’ lives each and every day.

Another organization that helps us achieve the levels of innovation we do is the SAISD Foundation. Judy Geelhoed and her team pursue major grants such as the Valero Energy Foundation grant that furthers our college readiness initiatives and The Greehey Family Foundation grant that expanded our dual credit opportunities for high school students. These major sources of funding are in addition to the innovative grants, mini-grants and new teacher grants that support our educators and students in the classroom. 

Please keep this in mind as we kick off our annual United Way campaign within the District. Between now and Thanksgiving break, take a moment to login to SAISD’s United Way portal to see how contributing to the campaign and to organizations like the SAISD Foundation will impact those in our own community. 

As a reminder, Tuesday, Nov. 3 (Election Day) is a student holiday and a staff work day. I hope everyone has the opportunity to share their voice in this year’s elections. 

Early Voting continues through Friday. For a list of Early Voting locations within SAISD boundaries, and to learn more about the two SAISD propositions that will be on the ballot, please visit our Bond 2020 website. For the list of polling sites on Election Day, which includes more than 40 SAISD locations, please visit the Bexar County Elections website

In closing, I want to stress the importance of taking care of yourselves and your loved ones. We know this pandemic has created a school year like no other, and I appreciate your continued hard work despite a lack of normalcy. This is a marathon, and not just a sprint, so I encourage everyone to take time for yourselves. Take a breather. Read a book. Enjoy a special meal. And most importantly, know that we are all here for each other – no one has to get through this alone. 


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