EPISD to delay in-person instruction as the return to school discussion intensifies

Education

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Schools will remain out for the summer for EPISD students until September 8, at least as far as in-person instruction goes.

EPISD announced its decision to comply with the City of El Paso’s Department of Public Health order that limits face-to-face instruction. The first day of online learning is delayed until August 17 and is part of the district’s phased-in approach to returning to campuses on September 8.

“EPISD is committed to our mission to serve as a strong community partner,” Superintendent Juan Cabrera said in a statement sent to KTSM 9 News. “We have worked closely with the County and City of El Paso to ensure the health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and community. We will continue to work together for the safety of our community.” 

Parents were sent surveys last week that listed the three instructional models that will be offered (once campuses are open): continued virtual learning, staggering schedules that combine virtual and in-person, and daily face-to-face learning for certain groups.

The district says parents should select an option for their children as soon as possible so planning for campuses may be facilitated. 

Parents can take the survey here

The city’s order provides guidelines for parents to follow:

  • All children with special healthcare needs which are considered medically fragile should not return to school until the 2021-2022 school year 
  • Students, teachers, and staff age 2 years and older should wear face coverings, unless medically contraindicated or if this may pose a risk to the student, teachers, and staff 

The decision to reopen school campuses to students, faculty, and staff is a controversial issue impacting students and educators from kinder to doctoral levels. 

Vice President Mike Pence spoke to reporters on Wednesday to announce his decision to disregard guidance from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention regarding how to safely reopen schools.

Vice President Pence said the CDC guidelines must not be a “barrier” to returning to the classroom, and said states and local governments should create their own plans to allow students and teachers to return to in-person instruction. 

The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, joined Vice President Pence and said the CDC is not trying to keep schools closed but rather seeks to provide prescriptive guidelines. 

President Trump blasted the CDC’s recommendations on Twitter, calling the guidelines “impractical” and “expensive.” 

The decision to move to virtual learning is impacting as many as 1400 international students at UTEP who might be forced to leave the U.S. if their classes shift to online-only.

On Monday, an announcement was made by ICE stating that foreign students must leave if their programs go fully virtual.

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” read a release from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

The new rule impacts students with F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visas that allow nonimmigrant students to participate in educational and vocational coursework. 

For updates and details of EPISD’s reopening plan, visit episd.org/reopeningplan

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