While students entering classrooms is still weeks away at the earliest due to the decision to use distance learning through Sept. 8, Katy ISD is preparing to provide a safe environment for students …
While students entering classrooms is still weeks away at the earliest due to the decision to use distance learning through Sept. 8, Katy ISD is preparing to provide a safe environment for students attending classes in person through extensive purchasing of personal protective equipment – also known as PPE.
“We were already buying that type of material,” said KISD Emergency Management Coordinator Ruben Martinez. “We just upped our game.”
School is set to begin Aug. 19 and teachers returned to campuses Aug. 7 to prepare their classrooms for students to return. The prep time includes training on keeping students compliant with the district’s safety protocols put in place to protect campuses from COVID-19 outbreaks, Paetow High School Principal Mindy Dickerson said.
About half of Katy ISD’s roughly 84,000 students will return to campuses in September while the other 50% or so will attend the Katy Virtual Academy, KISD staff said.
The district began ordering PPE during the spring semester shutdown, Martinez said, but with classes approaching, they’ve also continued stockpiling supplies needed to keep everyone on campus safe, he said.
Since then, the district – which had already purchased PPE for nurses and the athletics departments, as well as for the Miller Career Center which has an EMS training program – tapped into its suppliers to get the needed PPE. In addition, the Texas Education Agency stepped in and helped to distribute protective gear to school districts across Texas, which was helpful, Martinez said.
Supply lines for PPE are strained, Martinez said, but through partnering with the TEA and the district’s suppliers, Martinez said he is confident the district has what it needs to get started for the first month and a half.
“And now the state is saying there’s going to be a second issue (of PPE, so) we feel pretty confident that we’ll make it through the rest of the semester,” Martinez said.
While safety protocols are what one would expect such as having children wear face coverings, sanitize their hands and desks and socially distancing – the district is also encouraging teachers to utilize campus spaces in a way that promotes social distancing and getting parents to prepare their children for a return to class, said Dickerson.
“A lot of this is training, and a lot of this is training parents to do self-checks in the morning,” Dickerson said.
Parents are being asked to check their students prior to sending them to school to make sure they aren’t showing symptoms, Dickerson said.
Dickerson said resupply of PPE will be processed by each campus’ school nurse and administrative staff who will tap into supplies the district keeps on-hand in its warehouse.
“Our nurses and nurse aids are going to keep a running total and when they need a resupply then they will work with our financial clerk to make sure that they get a resupply,” Dickerson said.
Parents of special needs students have said they are concerned about the impact returning to school will have on their children who have developmental disabilities such as Autism or Down Syndrome.
Dickerson said campus administrators understood parents’ concerns for their special needs children and will be working with them to find solutions that are right for each child. Face coverings will still be required, but the type of face covering can be identified by the parent and student so long as the method chosen covers the nose and mouth fully, she said.
“We’re also really looking at our specialized classrooms to make sure that we have (solutions),” Dickerson said. “We’re looking into some plexiglass partitions and we do know that there are some children that aren’t going to tolerate a mask well and we just want to make sure that we keep them safe.”
Parents should reach out to their child’s campus for assistance in identifying the best solution for their special needs student, she said.
Dickerson said she has missed seeing students on campus after an extended break from it.
“I am absolutely excited to see the students. I haven’t seen the kids except one day at graduation since March and … I’m excited to get them back in the building.”