A virtual-only start to the new school year because of the pandemic doesn’t mean campuses in the Santa Fe ISD are without students.

Because a significant number of students attending Santa Fe ISD live in rural areas with either no or spotty internet connectivity, among other issues that would make learning remotely unfeasible, the district is offering learning labs on each of its campuses.

“It’s our employees’ students, it’s our special-needs students who need that extra assistance, it’s some of our students who don’t have someone at home,” Santa Fe ISD spokeswoman Patti Hanssard said.

Although the district has distributed more than 3,000 laptop computers for students to use for virtual learning, internet access in parts of Santa Fe ISD is either erratic or non-existent.

“These are kids who are unable to get internet at home either because it’s a rural situation or can’t get it for other reasons,” Santa Fe High School Principal Rachel Harris said.

About 100 students at Barnett Elementary were making use of the learning labs Tuesday afternoon, spread out in different areas of the school — some in the library, some in common areas, some in classrooms. At Santa Fe High School and Santa Fe Junior High, the number of students in the learning labs was closer to a few dozen, and they were spread out in similar fashion.

Because the virtual learning is being conducted live rather than through recorded sessions, as it was in the spring when the pandemic began, students on campus are there during the hours they normally would be for in-person learning. This is giving those students an opportunity to learn the new social distancing protocols that will be in effect when in-person learning on the campuses resumes.

District administrators hope the students in learning labs already on campuses can help guide other students through the protocols when Santa Fe ISD begins a partial reopening of campuses for in-person learning Aug. 31.

“The beauty of it is they have time to learn to be a model for other students,” Hanssard said.

Already on Santa Fe ISD’s campuses, which began virtual learning with teachers in classrooms Thursday, are signage mandating masks be worn, as well as directions to students on how to walk through the hallways, where they can and can’t sit, and how to maintain proper social distance from one another.

“We instituted a policy this year that we have one-way hallways,” Santa Fe High School Associate Principal Jordan Goldman said. “There’s a couple of different figure-8 patterns that go throughout the school. Some hallways will have to be two-way, but in the academic wings, we just started putting up the sample signs. We’re figuring out the exact placement, but we designated a route of one-way hallways, so kiddos can travel in a circle. Part of that is certain stairwells are going to be one-way.”

Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade students will be the first allowed back on their respective campuses Aug. 31, and, if all goes as planned, the rest of the students are scheduled to return Sept. 8, Hanssard said.

Santa Fe ISD parents have a deadline of Aug. 25 to decide whether their children will learn in person on campuses or remain learning remotely at home, and parents are being asked to make a nine-week commitment to their decisions, Hanssard said.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews


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(5) comments

Bailey Jones

It's unacceptable that there are still places in the US that don't have reliable high speed internet. A century ago, there were rural areas of the US that didn't have access to electricity - 90% of farmers had no electric power. It just didn't make economic sense for a utility company to provide it. And the government stepped in with the Rural Electrification Administration. The REA funded rural electrification cooperatives that brought power to the farm, in exactly the same way that the state created "farm to market" roads so farmers could transport their produce. I still remember Reddy Kilowatt on a roadside billboard advertising the co-op when we would drive to Greenville to visit my grandparents

Today, the idea of running a farm without electricity is absurd. And it's the same with high speed internet. The internet is, or should be, part of our nation's infrastructure - every bit as important as roads and clean water. Our infrastructure needs work - our roads, our bridges, our water supplies. I can't help but think what one of these $trillions we've been spending lately could do to prepare our nation's infrastructure for this new century.

John E Sr. Macrini

Yes Internet is a Constipationally Guaranteed Right.[scared]

Ted Gillis

The problem with Santa Fe is that it is in an area that was originally served by GTE. This area was not as lucrative as League City and parts of Dickinson, so infrastructure improvements were always last. When Verizon (GTE) gave up their regulated land line territory, and turned it over to Frontier, there was little there to work with (Wires on sticks). It will take major improvements to correct this. Comcast and the others basically run on the same backbone, unless you invest in satellite service, but I even wonder if satellite can support the high speed needs of students. Maybe some tech geek can fill us in.

(Or Carlos can correct me.)

Bailey Jones

I've been wondering about 5G. I assume that's what brought Comcast into the phone market - the promise of 5G to replace hard cable and fiber. And then there are the billionaires sprinkling the heavens with mini satellites. The nice thing about satellites is that they're hurricane proof.

Whatever the future is going to be, we need more of it.

Dwight Burns

Infrastructure spending must be on the front burner of Goverment expenditures .


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