Hello there, IDEA team and family. JoAnn Gama here, coming to you from IDEA Edinburg, the campus my 4th and 8th grader both attend.

As schools across the country, including all of IDEA Public Schools campuses, proceed with re-opening plans for the fall semester, I want to share with you some pertinent information regarding our return to campus.

For months we have worked on a phased-in process with guidance from the Texas Education Agency, community partners, such as the East Baton Rouge and Orleans parish school boards, and the Center for Disease Control, to integrate scholars on campus safely.

Our mission is to serve all scholars and while we know that some can successfully engage in distance learning, long term, some can not. There must be an option for them while allowing our families in each of our regions to choose what works best for them.

We’ve established five key elements to define our collective position related to COVID-19 and school reopening.

  1. We know and research shows that in-person learning is the best option for students, both in terms of academic achievement and social emotional development.
  2. The best and only way to successfully re-open schools is through an intentional community effort. Each of you has a responsibility to keep yourself safe for the good of our students and families and coworkers. We can slow and stop the spread of this disease by ensuring we follow all safety protocols while we are on or off campus.
  3. We’ll make every reasonable accommodation to abide by CDC protocols around health and safety, even if some of those accommodations need modification based on how many scholars attend school each day.
  4. IDEA will never turn a child away from attending school if he or she has met all health screening protocols. Any student or staff member exhibiting any illnesses or symptoms will be required to work or learn virtually.
  5. And finally we are keeping financial implications at the top of mind to ensure that every dollar in our budget is managed appropriately and every decision positively impacts our scholars’ and teachers’ safety.

Each region is implementing an individual reopening plan that suits the unique needs of their community. Dates are subject to change based on regional needs but as of today:

IDEA Austin has begun a rolling start by grade level with all grades back on campus by October 5. I have enjoyed seeing and hearing about the phase-in which has been going really well.

IDEA Baton Rouge will implement an A-B hybrid model that sees Group A in school on Monday and Tuesday and Group B in school Thursday and Friday, beginning this week. This is in line with what the local parish in Baton Rouge is doing.

IDEA El Paso will see teachers beginning this coming week and campuses phasing in students beginning the week of October 5th, with everyone returning to campus by October 19. If you recall, IDEA El Paso had a later start date than all of our other regions.

IDEA New Orleans will see students in grades K thru 4th starting today.

IDEA Rio Grande Valley will host safety camps over the next few weeks. Each school has a specific schedule, prior to an on-campus start of October 5. My own kids will be returning to school here at IDEA Edinburg but we know every family has different needs and we support your decision for your own child.

IDEA San Antonio will welcome back students in grades 3 thru 5 and 11 and 12 next week with all grade levels on campus by Oct. 5.

And, IDEA Tarrant County is welcoming back all grade levels this week. They got a phased-in approach over the past two weeks.

We are really encouraged by Permian Basin and Greater Houston’s recent safe and effective re-openings and we are optimistic about keeping the positive momentum as more regions open their school doors once again to eager scholars.

Thank you for your continued dedication to ensuring that every child can succeed in our schools, college and life, not matter the circumstances.

I always encourage you to protect yourself and your campus community by practicing health and safety measures.

Together, I know, we can make this a happy, safe and successful year.

Let’s make it a great week everybody. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was first made by JoAnn Gama, co-founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools in a video to the IDEA community. It appears in text form in The Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s permission. Gama can be reached via email: [email protected]

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