Back to school: More than 33,600-plus Lubbock students return to classrooms this week
Washington, August 15, 2020
More than 33,300 students will be returning to public school campuses this week for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
Parents and guardians were given the option to enroll students in online or face-to-face classes to start the year, and according to enrollment information provided by Lubbock’s three largest school districts, 76.5% of students will be taking in-person classes.
Per enrollment numbers provided at the end of the week by Lubbock, Frenship and the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School Districts, 33,648 of the 43,974 total enrolled students will take face-to-face classes.
Schools at Lubbock and Frenship ISD’s open Monday. Lubbock-Cooper begins classes Wednesday.
Private schools in Lubbock are also set to begin classes this week.
Looking at the numbers
Lubbock ISD has the highest percentage of students taking virtual classes — 7,485 of the 26,717 total enrolled students as of Thursday, or 28%, have opted for virtual only classes.
“We’re larger, and we’re also a more urban district,” Dr. Kathy Rollo, superintendent of Lubbock ISD, said this week when asked about the higher percentage of online learners. “We love our diversity, and we have families coming from all different backgrounds and all different thoughts. We just have a larger percentage of families choosing virtual than our surrounding districts.”
Lubbock ISD says 127 teachers have been assigned online teaching this upcoming semester. Lubbock ISD says students can choose to return to classrooms at the end of the nine-week periods.
At Frenship and Lubbock-Cooper, 17% and 16.5% of students have chosen to take classes online, respectively. Lubbock-Cooper is still waiting on decisions from about 350 students, so that number could change.
The numbers are pretty similar between elementary, middle school and high schools. At Lubbock ISD, middle schools have a higher percentage of students taking virtual classes, but only slightly. At Lubbock ISD, 29.5% of middle school students are taking online classes. The lowest percentage is in elementary schools, where 26.4% of students are taking classes online.
At Frenship, the smallest percentage is at the high school, where 15% of students are taking classes online, and the highest is in middle schools, where it’s 19% of students. Percentages at Lubbock-Cooper are about the same.
Frenship and Lubbock-Cooper boards voted to not let virtual students take extracurricular classes requiring the students’ presence. Lubbock ISD’s board voted yes, so some virtual students may be showing up to one extracurricular class a day.
Schools have been hosting open houses and discussed drop-off and pick-up procedures, which have been spread out to avoid crowds, leading up to the start of school. They’ve also discussed who wears a mask (students older than 10-years-old) and extra health measures.
Misty Rieber, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Lubbock ISD, spoke to the school board Thursday about how they’re preparing the classrooms.
“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to educate people on six-feet apart and mask wearing, and right now we’re getting our classrooms ready,” Rieber told the school board. “We’re removing things that can’t be cleaned, that aren’t hard surfaces, we’re spreading out desks, we’re working on tables, we’re looking at what it looks like and sounds like to be ready to have students in face-to-face school.”
School districts have previously discussed the added effort to limiting gatherings, so lunch-times and passing periods will be staggered, along with drop-off and pick-up.
The topic of whether or not students should return to school has been the source of debate for months. So for this month, Lubbock has averaged about 70 new confirmed cases a day.
Throughout the pandemic, 212 children under 10-years-old have tested positive for COVID-19 in Lubbock County. And 708 people between the ages of 10 and 20 have tested positive.
About 550 people have now signed a petition asking school districts to delay in-person classes. Some teachers have signed that petition.
Becoming more flexible
City officials said they are confident schools can open safely next week with proper guidelines in place, though they’ve said they do expect coronavirus numbers to rise. The hope is that the guidelines can keep COVID-19 from spreading inside schools.
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope, health authority Dr. Ron Cook, and director of the health department Katherine Wells have all said they’re in favor of schools re-opening. School superintendents have said schools should reopen, as did Congressman Jodey Arrington and Texas Governor Greg Abbott just this week in Lubbock.
Wells said parents and school districts will need to be flexible. She said masks, social distancing, and cleanliness will all need to be observed, and she believes they will. Wells previously said there will be instances where individual students are asked to quarantine, and sometimes possibly entire classrooms.
“We think that when we have cases within a school, we’re going to end up having to close some classrooms,” Wells said several weeks ago during a weekly news conference. “If there’s a case or transmission within a classroom, we will quarantine that classroom and allow the rest of the school to open. After the quarantine is finished those children will return to school.”
Wells said this week that if guidelines are followed, she believes there will be no need to close classrooms.
“If all the children and teachers are wearing masks, and there’s a positive child, then most likely (the child) would go home and we’ll be watching the class closely,” Wells said. “But, there’s no reason to close a classroom if everyone is wearing a mask.”
Cook said during a news conference last month there’s a great benefit to students returning to classes. He said childhood development slips when children aren’t in classrooms.
“We believe that the benefits to returning to school outweigh the risk,” Cook said Wednesday. “The school districts all have spent many, many hours strategizing how to best serve our students, and keep them safe.”
Lubbock ISD says it will provide virtual learning equipment to every student, which includes a laptop, because at any point a classroom could switch to virtual.