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Here’s How The Start Of The School Year Will Look Like In Midland-Odessa

Midland ISD's Travis Elementary will become an IDEA Public School next year. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Raido)

By Mitch Borden

Students, parents, and teachers are all preparing for the 2020-2021 school year as the first day of class quickly approaches. Whether class will be held in person, online, or a mix of the two depends on the spread of the coronavirus and the options being offered to parents by school districts.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the beginning of the school year will look like for students in Midland and Ector County:

In the Midland - Odessa area there are three public school districts. This week both Ector County Independent School District and the much smaller Greenwood ISD, which is located near Midland, will welcome back students to their classrooms. Alternatively, Midland ISD students begin their semester next week from home with distance learning.

Both Midland and Odessa have seen the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 grow exponentially since the beginning of June. In recent weeks, this has forced local officials to make modifications to how schools will reopen. 

Ector County ISD

As schools in Odessa prepare to reopen, Ector County’s positivity rate is near 20%, according to county health authorities. When reopening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises school districts to be cautious when a community’s positivity rate is above 10%.  Despite the high rate of transmission in Ector County, the school district is planning on proceeding with its phased reopening plan. But recently, the district pushed back the date when most students can return to the classroom due to how fast COVID-19 is currently spreading through Odessa.

On Wednesday, Aug. 12, a small group of students will be allowed back on campus. This group includes those that do not have internet access, students with special needs, the children of educators, and three-year-old pre-k students. The rest of Ector County’s approximately 34,000 students will begin the year with distance learning. The district is providing devices to students who need them as well as internet access to low-income families for the duration of the school year.

Local education officials have continued to stress that their plans could change if the coronavirus situation worsens. 

For more information about public schools reopening in Ector County, click here. 

Greenwood ISD

Students from the unincorporated community of Greenwood, located in Midland County, will return to school on Thursday, Aug. 13. The small district isn’t delaying in-person instruction, unlike other schools in the Midland-Odessa area. The district will offer online learning for families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back to class. The first day of school for Greenwood ISD students choosing online learning will be postponed until Monday, Aug. 17. 

The district is only allowing students who have access to reliable internet and access to a computer to opt-out of in-person instruction. Unlike Midland ISD and Ector County ISD, students who choose to learn from home will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities.

For more information on Greenwood ISD’s reopening plan click here. 

Midland ISD

Midland ISD recently announced the first four weeks of class will be exclusively held online. And — if the spread of the coronavirus doesn’t slow —  district-wide online learning could continue for up to eight weeks. According to district officials, about 1 out of 5 people in the community tested for the coronavirus have the virus, which administrators say is too high for in-person instruction to safely resume. 

Similar to Ector County ISD, Midland’s school district is planning to blend in-person instruction with remote learning while also operating an online academy for families who aren’t comfortable with their children returning to the classroom during a pandemic.

But students returning to Midland ISD campuses will hinge on whether local officials determine that community spread of the coronavirus is slowing down or whether the state will allow schools to stay shut down for more than eight weeks without losing any funding.

Students will log onto class beginning Wednesday, Aug. 19.
For more information on Midland ISD’s reopening plans click here.

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Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.