Multiple school districts shutter in-person learning for now

TRI-COUNTY — After deciding virtual learning wasn’t working for students, many school districts in the Big Bend have cut back on those options. But now, faced with rising case counts in the region and other worrying metrics, some districts are closing for in-person learning until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

In an announcement last week, Alpine ISD was the first to announce a temporary closure. The district cited a number of factors, including the positivity rate and the “requirement for many students and staff members to quarantine.” The district moved to virtual learning last Thursday, with plans to return to in-person classes after Thanksgiving on Monday, November 30.

That news was followed a few days later by a similar decision in Marfa. In a news release on Sunday, Marfa ISD also announced it was switching to all-virtual learning on Monday, the next day. In-person classes in Marfa are also expected to resume on November 30.

In Alpine, school officials also canceled all extracurricular events except for “playoff and district [sports] competitions.” Those events will resume when students return to classes later this month.

The school would continue to offer COVID-19 testing, Superintendent Rebecca “Becky” McCutchen said in a news release, as well as curbside pick-up options for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast pick-ups are available from 8 until 8:30 a.m., while lunch pick-ups are available from 11:30 a.m. until noon. The location for those pick-ups is the elementary school cafeteria on Brown Street.

In Marfa, Superintendent Oscar Aguero said the school district would also continue offering free curbside meals to all locals under the age of 18. Those meals are available at the cafeteria from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m..

Marfa ISD would also offer rapid COVID-19 tests for students and staff members with symptoms, Aguero said in the news release. He also said that teachers would continue taking attendance for virtual classes.

“Our top priority remains the safety and well-being of our students, staff and community,” Aguero added.

After press time on Wednesday night, Presidio ISD’s school board was set to consider plans for its return to all in-person education, citing higher rates of failure among students who are attending class remotely. Around 75 percent of remote students have been failing classes, Superintendent Ray Vasquez said in an email this week.