San Marcos CISD will require most students to return in-person, with mental health playing large role in decision


(Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Four San Marcos CISD students have died due to mental health-related issues in the past 10 months, according to superintendent Michael Cardona.

Cardona said mental health is the driving force behind SMCISD requiring most students to return to campus for in-person classes starting Monday, April 12 – when virtual learning officially ends.

Cardona said the four students who died were high school students participating in remote learning. He added that asynchronous learning, and the pandemic in general, have taken a toll on mental health for both students and teachers.

SMCISD said those who are medically exempt according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be able to continue school from home.

Students will need an approved certificate documenting that they are exempt.

The announcement was made less than a week ago, and with just over a month of school left, the decision caught some parents off guard.

“It’s so much stress on families right now,” Jennifer Kneese said. “I almost want to cry.”

Kneese’s middle school and high school children both have asthma, and already have approved medical exemptions from returning. 

But Kneese worries they’ll fall behind, with no real-time interaction with teachers.

“They will be on their own,” Kneese said. “With my daughter with dyslexia, that’s especially troublesome, it’s like what do you do?”

In a special school board meeting on Monday, many parents raised concerns.

“How many additional dividers and face coverings will campuses receive, and will they receive these prior to April 12th?,” one parent asked.

Some are worried about more traffic, and being able to get their kids who go to different campuses to school on time.

“[Doris] Miller [Middle School] being under construction…from what I’ve seen, pick up and drop are chaotic at best,” another parent said. “It seems as if these logistical issues were not thought out.”

A number of parents asked why the district is making such a big change at the end of the school year.

“Trying to do this last minute switch, it just seems very unwarranted,” a parent said.

Cardona asked for patience and trust, saying the district will do all it can to keep students and staff’s best interests at heart.

“There’s a lot of programs to meet kids’ needs, and get them through the last nine weeks, but we do agree we need to start checking on our kids before we release them for the summer,” Cardona said.

He said that no campus will ever be at 100 per cent capacity.

SMCISD’s website states, “By April 9, more than 800 staff members will have received a COVID-19 vaccination and every SMCISD employee will have been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

The district said it will maintain COVID protocols that are already in place, and is prepared with enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and dividers for all classrooms. 

Students who aren’t in the classroom will have access to lesson plans and videos online through their school. 

SMCISD is “highly” recommending families to pick up and drop off their students.

For those who aren’t able to do so, the district posted the following instructions on its website:

  1. Starting Monday, April 5th, you can only request school bus transportation by calling the campus your child attends.
  2. If your child(ren) have not used school bus services in the past 10 days they will need to be registered.
  3. If you call by the close of business on April 6th, your child will receive transportation services starting on April 12th.
  4. If you miss the April 6th deadline, then your child will be routed for transportation beginning on April 15th at the earliest.
  5. Once your child is routed, a transportation department associate will call you to provide the bus number, stop location, and stop time for the morning and afternoon routes. Please be aware these calls may happen over the weekend on April 10th and 11th.
  6. Please have your child report to the bus stop 5-10 minutes before the scheduled stop.
  7. Students who previously agreed to a transfer will still need to provide their own transportation.

KXAN asked to what extent mental health played a role in the four students’ deaths. And we also requested information on how the district determined mental health played a direct role and will provide updates as we get them. The district has not responded to those questions.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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