By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
After the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District issued an email March 17 requesting school employees report to work on Monday, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association received numerous calls from SBCISD employees with concerns of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus declared a pandemic.
Issued by SBCISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman, the email informs employees to notify a supervisor if they need to self-quarantine, as they would for any other absence.
In addition, the email requests campus principals and all academic department staff to report to the SBCISD board room on Monday, March 23, at 8:30 a.m., while teachers and instructional paraprofessionals must report to their designated campuses at 1 p.m.
Child Nutrition Program employees were required to report to their regular schedule and designated campuses.
Dohn S. Larson, director of legal services at TCTA, said some districts had made similar requests in different forms.
“Some districts had asked people to come in,” Larson said. “Some districts had said ‘we’re going to come in small groups’.”
Also, Larson thinks this changed after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on March 19, where he advised for “no gatherings of more than ten people.”
However, Larson said Carman’s email essentially tells employees to come into school on Monday.
Although no students would be on campuses, Larson said school districts usually do this to continue their education, depending on the students.
“Some students are accessible online, so teachers can go ahead and continue classes online,” he said. “Some students aren’t online, so they get packages of paper with educational materials to work on.”
Nevertheless, Larson said the email only announced that they were supposed to be meeting on campus.
So far, Larson said the superintendent hasn’t rescinded the email.
Since Friday, the email remains on the SBCISD’s website.
“I haven’t seen anything that says the superintendent has changed his mind,” Larson said.
However, TCTA received a response from Carman the following day.
Carman stated that they have been in communication with the Governor’s office, daily communication with the TEA Commissioner, regular communication with the Cameron County Department of Health Services, CDC, Cameron County Emergency Operations, and the Cameron County Judge.
“A minimal on-campus schedule with a possible complete remote option in the near future is being developed for instructional staff,” the email continues. “Departments such as payroll, finance, HR, will work as remotely as possible. Office staff will work as remotely as reasonable as well.”
The response to TCTA also states that at this time, “our schedule includes Child Nutrition, Transportation, Maintenance/Custodial working the most hours onsite to facilitate the meal preparation and delivery and to keep our campuses as clean and virus free as possible.”
The NEWS sent questions via email to Carman and SBCISD Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez. Both have yet to respond.