• 77°

Tekoa Academy offering virtual instruction for first nine weeks

Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies S.T.E.M. School is starting the first nine weeks of the upcoming school year online.

Starting on Sept. 8, students in third grade through 12th grade will utilize virtual instruction with in-person instruction becoming available Oct. 19, pending public health conditions and guidance from local, state and federal public health officials.

Princess Chretien, curriculum instruction and school safety director, said safety is at the forefront for Tekoa Academy.

“When COVID-19 first started we were one of the first schools to shut down,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a big deal. We decided to start school virtually to protect our students, parents and staff, because there really isn’t a treatment yet. We want to make sure it’s really safe before we start the school year.”

Students in grades prekindergarten through second, also starting on Sept. 8, will have the option of face-to-face classes, with a total of ten students per teacher, or a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous learning.

If a parent chooses the hybrid or online option, a student must stay on the chosen path for at least six weeks.

Chretien said the decision to allow in-person learning for younger students goes back to the parental need.

“They are younger,” she said. “They need that environment, but, most of all, because of the 1.4 million parents who are unemployed in the state of Texas, it’s often the smaller kids who don’t have child care if parents aren’t working. We really did it for the parents.”

Patrina Rosemore, a parent of three Tekoa students said she absolutely agrees with the back-to-school plan.

“They are putting up Plexiglas, they have sanitizing stations all over the school and the students will no longer eat in the cafeteria, but at their desks,” she said. “I know for one thing, if anyone gets sick they will shut down the whole school to clean it because they’ve done it before. I believe it’s perfect and I do feel comfortable with it.”

Two of Rosemore’s children, age seven and five, will be attending classes face-to-face.

Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies is starting the first nine weeks of the school year online. Students are familiar with computer equipment after using advanced technology in classes before coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

“It’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “I work fulltime and that puts money back in my pocket to not have to pay babysitter,” she said. “I don’t have to leave work to go and get them or find out how to pay for daycare, so it’s a huge relief off my shoulders.”

Rosemore said she feels 100 percent safe sending her kids to school this fall.

“This is a wonderful compromise for parents that have kids and need to work,” she said. “My high school student will start remotely at home, but I still feel safe sending the other two back to school. I don’t know about the other schools, but with Tekoa I do.”

Students who choose the face-to-face learning will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check, prior to entering the campus.

Classrooms will be configured for social distancing and all employees, students and visitors are required to wear a mask.

Teachers will have on all personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields and a covering for clothing.

“We have Plexiglas on the desks, we have masks for the kids, we have hand sanitizing stations in the classroom and in the hallways,” Chretien said. “There is so much we are doing to keep the building cleaned and safe for everyone.”

All campus buildings will also be professionally cleaned before and after school.

Teachers will report to campus on Aug. 20 with the approval of a negative COVID-19 test.

Students will return to school, virtually, on Sept. 8 with the last day of the semester on Jan. 29. The second semester will begin Feb. 1 and the last day for students is scheduled for May 28.

Chretien said the only change to the schedule is going a couple days into the summer.

“There are some learning gaps from last year and we know that,” she said. “So we want to go a little farther into summer to give our students a chance to catch up and get our seniors really prepared for college.”

At this time, student assemblies, outdoor activities and field lessons will be held virtually or will be postponed until it is deemed safe for them to resume in person.

The only extra-curricular activities offered will be academic-based organizations with virtual options, such as International Club, Debate, Spanish club, etc.

To register students online, visit tekoacharterschool.org. Drive-up Pre-K registration is Aug. 10 and 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We always think about the safety of our kids first,” Chretien said. “That’s been the most important thing for us since we opened, the safety of students and staff. As a mother, myself, and a director of safety, I think of what I would want a facility to do for my children. We want it to be as safe as possible and that is how we wrote the plan out.”