Thousands of Austin and San Marcos teachers, students adjust to a different life on campus

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Another wave of Central Texas students are now attending classes on campus.

Both the Austin and San Marcos school districts made the transition Monday to in-person learning, with the Austin Independent School District at a 25% capacity limit.

Some teachers and families say they’re glad for the shift, but it’s an adjustment.

“I will tell you, I am very tired,” laughed Ricardo Pallanes, a San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District music teacher.

Floor markers remind students at Mendez Elementary School to stay six feet apart. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

He helped welcome back about half of all San Marcos CISD students.

His lesson plans now not only include in-person instruction but virtual posts as well.

“For the in-person kids, they get a little bit more, I would say, sadly, because you know they do get that tangible like in-person view, they see my face, and they can hear my emotion even though I do that in my videos, but you know when you’re remote, you do have that sort of disconnect,” he explained.

But he encourages his virtual students to share videos of their lessons, too.

“I just try my best to make sure that they, you know, they feel that they’re getting all of me, even if they’re at home,” Pallanes said.

Students on campus are still primarily learning through online software.

“Technology is a huge part of our classroom on campus, so that the transition from remote to in-person is not a huge gap,” said San Marcos CISD spokesperson Andrew Fernandez.

It’s the same concept for those on campus at Austin ISD.

Bill Worsham says he explained to Lee, left, that in-person learning would be different than what he’s used to. The Worshams also have a sophomore who has not yet begun face-to-face classes. (Courtesy: Bill Worsham)

“Classes without all the people, you know, and just a select group are a little less fun than classes with all your friends,” said Lee Worsham, a 7th grader at AISD’s O. Henry Middle School.

Lee says he was looking forward to being with people again the most.

“What we’ve really been advocating for is to be able to go back to school in person and have teachers teaching kids,” said Lee’s dad, Bill Worsham.

Bill is part of AISD Kids First, a group advocating for a full return to campus for families who choose to do so.

“We understand there’s a transition time; we just want it to happen just as quickly as possible, and if it does, we’ll be thrilled,” he said.

Still, the Worsham’s say phase II is a good first step.

“It was basically just online school, except in class with other people and in school. So I think it was more fun than online school,” Lee said.

Absent teachers

Austin ISD said 104 teachers were absent Monday after some pledged not to show up.

About 1,000 of the district’s 5,500 teachers applied for medical accommodations because of the virus. 713 of those requests were granted and one was denied.

Officials are still processing another 65 requests from teachers.

KXAN asked San Marcos CISD for those same numbers. We are still waiting to hear back.

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