SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — More than 8,200 students in San Marcos CISD headed back to school last week with new precautions against COVID-19 in place, but also the requirement that they be on campus in person.

It comes as the district reports 17 cases of COVID-19 within its student population, and another four reported by staff members.

But Superintendent Michael Cardona said eight of those 17 cases in students were from kids who never stepped foot on campus.

“However we did have “Meet the Teacher Nights” last week, and so we felt, in transparency, that we needed to report those eight as well,” he said.

Tom Miller: When you give that total, are you happy with where you’re at compared to some other school districts where cases are in the hundreds?

Michael Cardona: You never want to have anybody get sick, so that’s still one too many. But we are grateful that the protocols we put in place, the mitigation factors we have, the great work that our teaching staff, just the entire system. What they do to take care of kids shows that it works.

Tom: The district has a mask mandate: what’s happening to students who refuse to wear a mask?

Cardona: We’re here to educate all students. We do have some students who are in the building who either have a medical exemption or other, for various other reasons we have worked out. We just do what the CDC tells us to do, keep them socially distanced, they’re still in their regular classroom. We have a lot of safety measures inside the classroom.

Tom: Did you consider a learn from home option? And why did you decide not to offer that?

Cardona: No, as superintendent I did not consider a learn from home. The data was pretty stark about our remote learning. It became pretty apparent that for us our students needed to be in the building. That’s where they’re best served and, you know, it creates less stress for the whole system.

Tom: As you look ahead what are you excited about in San Marcos CISD this year?

Cardona: Getting our kids back. I think the last 16, 18 months, we’ve had pockets of our student population back, but I think having 100% of our students back in person is, I think, the most exciting thing, because they just need to be in the building.