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Safety updates and campus-led student interventions - Nov. 11, 2020
Dear SAISD Staff: 
I want to express my gratitude to all of you. Because of your efforts to follow the daily health and safety protocols we have in place at our schools and in our offices, we are doing our part to keep COVID-19 from passing between people as much as we can. As a testament to your diligence, our case count numbers and the number of people in quarantine have been lower in our District than in others locally. Although we cannot eliminate COVID-19 entirely, through controlled measures and our testing pilot programs, we can help reduce a silent spread. 

While we are not yet adjusting our safety matrix, we are increasing our flexibility on a campus-by-campus basis as early as next week.

Throughout this pandemic, we will continually assess the delicate balance of student and staff safety and student academic growth. It is a balancing act that every school district in the nation is experiencing right now. 
As you may have seen in the news, there has been recent coverage of a national trend in students losing academic ground during this crisis through lack of attendance and failing grades. We, too, are keeping an eye on decreasing student engagement and performance, and although we are holding our own compared to our urban peers across the country, we still have work to do. 
We have been trying to determine the right timing for increased interventions, keeping all factors in mind. And, we agree with what we are hearing from school leaders that the time is now to introduce measures that mitigate a backward slide. School leaders are working with their teachers – using student performance data as their guide – to propose ways to ensure our students are learning the material well enough to earn passing grades this semester.

We realize that some students may need a little support, and others may need intensive support. Looking ahead to the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter breaks, or next week in some cases, schools are requesting flexibility to offer measures that span the spectrum from tutoring and Saturday or Twilight school, to targeted in-person instruction and instituting an A/B schedule for high school students – whatever it takes to help our students perform better. We are reviewing these plans this week and next, so that we are ready for implementation as campuses are ready. 
As we have with every plan, we’ll continue to include school leaders and teachers in the conversation. Just like teachers assisted the District early in our re-opening strategy, giving us feedback on our safety protocols and phase-in procedures, we want to keep teachers in the forefront of this ongoing dialogue. 
As a District, we are ready to support teachers with their instructional approach, while staying focused on safety. Masks will be mandatory, social distancing will be enforced, and hand-washing protocols will remain frequent. We also are looking at providing more staff support to assist teachers working from home, ordering more personal protective equipment (PPE) for our campus staff, and installing more plexiglass barriers. Again, we will look to teachers to let us know what they need, and we will address these needs. 

As always, we’ll work with families based on their comfort levels for intervention strategies for their children.
If more in-person instruction is part of the campus-based recommendations, we would be more comfortable with that now versus earlier in the semester as a result of the COVID-19 testing strategies we are employing in partnership with the Texas Education Agency and Community Labs. We would look into using our testing resources for the staff and new students on campuses as early as Monday, Nov. 30 – the week we return from Thanksgiving break.  
You may recall we already are implementing two pilot programs funded locally and through the state. These testing initiatives are helping us stop a silent spread through asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. 
The first pilot program through the Texas Education Agency is being implemented with the staff and students involved in extracurriculars such as varsity athletics, fine arts and JROTC. The second pilot program with Bexar County and Community Labs is being employed in the San Antonio community with the highest positivity rate. Benefiting from this pilot program are the staff and students at Lanier High School, Tafolla and Rhodes middle schools, and the elementary schools J. T. Brackenridge, Margil, and Rodriguez Montessori. 
SAISD continues to actively advocate for additional testing for our broader District community, and if it becomes available, we will notify all staff and students to the opportunity. All testing is voluntary, and if exercised, is an additional layer of assurance beyond masking and social distancing. We want to do what we can to maintain as safe an environment as possible. 

Our safety precautions will continue into next calendar year, and we are working to relaunch our safety matrix as we prepare to begin our spring semester on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
Most importantly, we want you to know that we are approaching both student achievement and ongoing safety with a lot of care and thought. We want both our staff and our students to be safe, and we want our students to be successful. Balance is difficult. But we have the best teachers and leaders in all of San Antonio who will rise to this new challenge. This teamwork, coupled with stringent safety protocols, will guide us safely forward.   

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