AISD’s ‘Phase-In Process’ creates a dangerous situation

Amanda Zinni, Copy Editor

Starting Oct. 5, Bowie students were allowed to go back to school, in phases and with precautions in place. As long as students and staff wore masks, they were allowed to come back to Bowie and continue learning. For the third part of the phase-in process, students who opted to learn on-campus were allowed to switch between classes on Nov. 2. While this phase attempted to reinstate normalcy in the lives of students, it was an irresponsible decision on the part of AISD Administration.

Even though the amount of cases in Texas has been steadily increasing since the beginning of October, Bowie has progressed through AISD’s “Phase-in Process.” By opting to ignore the rising amount of cases, AISD is not only endangering students, but teachers as well.

A key aspect of the phase three plan is students switching between classes like they would normally. This increases the risk of both students and teachers contracting COVID-19 because students come into contact with all their teachers as opposed to just the monitor of their pod in phase one.

While the number of students choosing to attend in-person classes is far less than the number of students opting to learn at home, it’s still concerning that such a high amount of interpersonal contact was allowed as cases increased.

According to AISD, a reported total of 90 people at Bowie have been exposed to COVID-19 since Sept. 8. By continuing to open Bowie with less regulations, AISD shows that it doesn’t care about the increase in cases that reopening has caused. Exposing 90 people to COVID-19 is a heavy price to pay to provide the illusion of normalcy to students.

Additionally, it isn’t fair to ask teachers to come into school and risk their lives while there is a functional alternative to in-person learning.

By continuing virtual learning, the district would effectively lower its impact on the total number of COVID-19 cases and would allow teachers to focus on teaching their class and remove the stress of potentially contracting the virus.

While some students may need to go to their campuses to focus or to obtain necessary resources they don’t have access to at home, there is no reason to require all able members of school staff to be on campus and risk exposing themselves and their families to the virus.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, classes were moved online due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Austin area after Thanksgiving break. AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde has made it clear that this will be a one-time instance, stating that she is counting on AISD students and employees to “avoid non-essential travel and maintain social distancing precautions” during the winter break.

Elizade could completely eliminate exposure to COVID-19 in AISD if she allowed classes to move online and allowed teachers to work from home if they wished to do so.

Within this it is worth noting, however, that the state of Texas is largely to blame for the extended pressure to get students back into schools. If AISD fails to meet a certain amount of in-person instructional time, the district could face budget cuts next year.

However, there is no need to place such responsibility on students when the district could go back to an earlier phase from the reopening plan and confine in-person learning to one classroom.

Pretending that things are getting better and going back to normal won’t fix the problem. Bowie following AISD’s “Phase-In plan” has only resulted in more exposure to COVID-19 within the community. This will continue if schools stay open and continue to imitate a pandemic-free life.