Sulphur Springs Independent School District issued the first communications to community members regarding the fall school term. While there are as yet many unknowns, Superintendent Michael Lamb assures parents the district will have plans in place to educate all students in the 2020-21 school year, including in-person and virtual programs, but capacity on buses as well as on campus will likely be two of the biggest challenges entering the fall school term.
Below is the letter sent via Blackboard notice to students’ families and posted on the district website:
Dear Sulphur Springs Community,
We are excited to welcome back our students and staff to begin our 2020-2021 school year. We know that there is a lot of apprehension about how school will look this fall and how SSISD can meet the needs of all students and families given our uncertain times. Though we do not yet have all the guidance we need from the state to create our complete plan, we do have some guidance, and we want to ensure you that:
- SSISD will be exceptionally well equipped to educate ALL SSISD students this fall.
- SSISD will provide an excellent and complete at-home/SSISD Virtual Academy for any/all students who are not ready to return to face-to-face instruction.
- SSISD will provide the safest and most thorough face-to-face instruction experience possible pursuant to forthcoming regulations that are to be provided by the State of Texas.
One size does not fit all, and we know that many families will choose to have their students educated at home this fall. SSISD staff have been working diligently to create our SSISD Virtual Academy to meet this need. The Academy, available Pre-K -12th grade, will look different from the remote instruction that we provided in the spring. Our design process will ensure that it will be complete, rigorous, and will provide the instruction an SSISD student will need to thrive academically.
We miss our students terribly, and it is our desire to see as many of them as possible in our classrooms, in our hallways, on our playgrounds, and in our athletic facilities. Though it is our ultimate desire to return to 100% face-to-face instruction for every student who is willing, we do not yet have the guidance we need to know what is permissible as far as student/teacher ratios, classroom capacity limits, social distancing guidelines, personal protective equipment guidelines, etc. However, at this time, we are working on multiple plans at every campus level to satisfy a range of possible regulations once they are made available. Regardless, we fully expect to provide an option for at-school/face-to-face instruction that will follow state guidelines, protect our students to the greatest extent possible, and ensure rich and complete educational experiences for all students.
We believe that one of our greatest challenges in the fall will be school bus transportation for those who choose face-to-face instruction, and it is here that we want to start the conversation about asking for your help for a brief time. On a typical school day, SSISD runs a fleet of 50 buses that transport over 2000 students (nearly half of our student population, twice daily). Some of our largest buses hold up to 71 students each at any given time. Though we do not yet have clear guidance on social distancing guidelines for buses, we believe that our largest buses may only be able to transport as many as 12 students at a time as opposed to 71. As you can imagine, this creates a tremendous logistical and safety challenge for transporting our students. As a result, we are humbly asking that, if you choose face-to-face instruction and if it is possible, please work with your family, neighbors, and friends to bring your students to and from school this fall. Ultimately, we know that some families absolutely depend on bus transportation, and SSISD will certainly provide it this fall, though it may likely be limited due to restrictions from the state.
There will be more information to come as SSISD further develops our programs for the fall, in conjunction with state guidance and requirements. We encourage you to visit our new Back to School Website that will be updated regularly with answers to any questions we receive from our community. Additionally, SSISD will soon send out a parent/family survey to assess your desires and opinions with respect to returning to school this fall. Your input will be one of the most important driving forces in developing our programs.
Thank you all for your patience, flexibility, grace, and input as we work on this together as a community.
Warmest regards, and GO WILDCATS!
Sulphur Springs ISD