• Gunter ISD Back to School Information

     Dear GISD Parents, *Letter from July 15, 2020

    Planning for the start of a school year is always a major undertaking, but never have we approached a school year with so much uncertainty as 2020-21. We are incredibly excited to see our students, yet we are equally concerned that we do so in a way that is safe for everyone involved.

    Gunter ISD will provide a high-quality education through two instructional delivery models:

    • In-Person Learning (traditional classroom experience)
    • At-Home Learning (remote online learning experience – which for our secondary students may include some optional, on-campus experiences) 

     Parents will be asked to commit to one of these two learning environments prior to July 20th. As we know things change quickly and may continue to change into August, parents may contact the school to change their preference up to August 5th. Once the school year begins, students will remain in that learning environment and can request to transition at the end of each 9 weeks grading period.

    What follows this email is our Back-to-School Plan. For many of you, your greatest hope is a sense of normalcy for your kids – and we hope that you’ll find that in this plan. Kids will be back in action, attending their different courses, and participating in all of their extracurricular activities. For many of you, your greatest concern is that we are taking this situation serious – and we hope that you’ll find that in this plan too. We have examined every aspect of school, from arrival to restrooms to lockers to meals to shared supplies to dismissal – all with the goal of being thoughtful on how we could reduce numbers where possible and adding in extra safeguards that would bring a layer of safety without completely changing the school experience.

    I want to be totally honest with all of you. In terms of safety from COVID-19, the “safest” place for anyone is in their home – and we have made that option available to you through our At-Home remote learning option. We have tried to make that option as viable as possible, by allowing students to participate in extracurricular programs and take advanced courses from home. While the 20 page Back-to-School Plan has plenty of health and safety measures, I also want to be completely transparent to say that in our current plan, we are not set up to be socially distant or ensure that students will not have “close contact” throughout the day. The only way to make social distancing happen is by running a rotating schedule where ½ the students come on some days and ½ of the students come on others. We know that while this would be a safer option, there are also major ramifications on both the student and family’s part that may not make that the best choice – especially if we are not experiencing widespread COVID in our school community.

    One of the most challenging parts of putting together this plan was trying to balance the recommendations by organizations like the CDC or the American Association of Pediatrics with the guidelines from the State – both from the Commissioner of TEA and the Governor, with the desires of our staff and parents (gathered from our surveys and focus group sessions). In the end we have developed a plan that is both reflective of the overall desires of our staff and parents and is responsive to the state of COVID-19 in our schools.

    So to answer the question on many people’s mind, will we wear masks? The answer is two-fold: We will follow state and local orders first – so if we were in school this week, everyone over the age of 10 would be required to wear a face covering. If the Governor’s Order ceases, then the decision will be reflective of the data specific to Gunter. We have developed a multi-stage approach and will continue to add and remove specific health and safety measures based on the data specific to our community.

    I do want everyone to be aware that on this particular issue of face coverings, if the Governor’s Order ceases, regardless of whether our data indicate they are required, we will highly encourage face coverings by everyone on our campuses. Not only is this an effective way to slow the spread, it is also the best way to have an uninterrupted school experience. One of our state guidelines is that everyone who comes into “close contact” (within 6 feet for 15+ minutes without wearing a face covering) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days. The best measure for us to “stay” in school is for all on-campus participants and staff to wear a face covering.

    Please take time to read through our comprehensive Back-to-School Plan. Know that as we continue to get updated guidance, the plan will continue to evolve. We have also included a space on our Commitment Form for you to share your feedback with us about the plan. And a huge thank you to the nearly 50 teachers, leaders, and support staff members who helped us think through the most feasible process to safely bring our students back onto our campuses.

    Below is the link to submit your Commitment Form for the 2020-21 School Year. Please have one parent or guardian submit this Commitment Form for each student in your family. Even if you are not returning to GISD, we would ask you to note that on the form below. This Commitment Form is due by Monday, July 20th. (full link here: https://forms.gle/iWhcsVCSKQtvZJwJA)

    While there may be uncertainty about what the next few weeks will bring, there is complete clarity and confidence that the staff of Gunter ISD is ready to meet each and every student need – in person, on a computer, in a classroom, on a field or court – and in the case of our new HS Principal, on your front porch!

    With much appreciation –

    Dr. Jill Siler, Gunter ISD Superintendent

    jsiler@gunterisd.org