Covid-19 has made a mess of the 2020-21 school year, and no one knows what education will look like when the next year picks up in August.

“If I were a betting man, I’d say they’ll be back in school,” said Gustavo Reveles, a spokesman for the El Paso Independent School District. “I wouldn’t say back to normal, but I would say we’ll have in-person instruction. We don’t know if remote learning can still be an option. We’re still waiting for guidance. That depends on what the state allows.”

Everything will also depend on the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the vaccines have brought it under control. EPISD’s online dashboard showed that 1,050 students and 658 staff members had contracted the COVID virus in all as of April 21.

Summer school will be a certainty for a lot of students who’ve fallen behind while others have more or less disappeared. EPISD student enrollment was 55,392 for the 2019-20 school year and has fallen to 51,345 this year – a 7.3% decline.

“Just last week at Coronado, our retention team and counselors went out knocking on doors of students whom we know are having a hard time,” Reveles said. “So, we provided them with the information they need to catch up and make sure they don’t fall further behind.”

Students waited outside Coronado High School on April 20 in what has become a rare sight – a long line without social distancing – to take the STAAR English language test.

Getting back to regular school days is just what Joe Daubach said he wants after dropping off his daughter at Coronado to take the STAAR English test, officially known as the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, which students must pass in order to graduate.

“I think the kids need to get back to in-school classroom studies,” Daubach said. “Zoom has been great for what it was, but I think now it’s time when they need to return to the classroom.

“I just think it’s a better form of learning.”

Across the country, there are concerns about the effects that all the measures taken to protect students from COVID, such as Zoom-type classes at home, have had on them and will have heading into the new school year.

“We’ve already noticed some students that have been returning, or parents that have discussed the possibility of returning, who are definitely anxious and feeling a lot more stress than they have in years past,” Franklin High School counselor Laura Schuler said.

With two children of her own, one in elementary school and the other in junior high, Schuler speaks from experience.

“I’ve found there’s anxiety about coming back and seeing friends, anxiety about coming into classrooms where they don’t know anybody and a new teacher that they’ve never met,” she said. “And there’s the transition from elementary to middle and middle school or to a high school they’ve never been to before.”

While that may be expected in normal times, the past year hasn’t been normal at all for students and parents alike.

Schuler urges parent to take their children to open houses and meet their teachers before school starts.

“They need to know what to expect, so I think having those conversations, especially once it gets closer to the start of the school year is super important,” Schuler said.

She added that teachers who’ve been out of the regular classroom for a year or so are going to be nervous, too – even about wearing a mask in some cases.

And after a year of students and teachers alike having to maintain social distancing, which means no hugging, Schuler hopes that will change this coming year – though it may not.

“I hope we can get back,” she said. “Some students, everybody, needs that affection. I know that they’re limiting the contact and proximity that students can have to each other, but hopefully we’re able to get through this and be able to get those hugs and embraces that everybody’s missing out on.”

Transition Tips

Franklin High School Counselor Laura Schuler offers these tips to help prepare your kids for back to school during the summertime.

  • Re-establish routines for meals, going to bed, getting up and going to school
  • Talk about getting to school and getting home again, which is different from virtual school
  • Attend school open houses to meet the teachers
  • Go over class schedules and how school will operate – masks or no masks
  • Check out school laptops issued to students to be sure they’re charged and working
  • Visit school’s website through summer for updates and information about the principal, assistant principal, teachers and counselors
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