Somerset ISD ends school year with many bright spots, says principal

SOMERSET, Texas – The Somerset Independent School District says it will revert to 100% in-person learning next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped the district improve its technology by making sure all students have Chromebooks and internet access.

Parents at Somerset ISD say the start of the school year was so frustrating because there were so many unknowns.

“(I was) very scared because there are no vaccines,” said Tanya Juarez, a mother in the district.

Juarez says if she could talk to herself last fall, she would tell herself not to stress too much.

“You can get through this. Be patient. It will be over soon,” she said. Several of Juarez’s children are learning in person, so they will see many more familiar faces in the fall semester.

Somerset ISD Superintendent Saul Hinojosa said only 38% of students were in class last fall, mainly because the district had internet problems. Today, 83% of students learn in person.

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Hinojosa says the grades suffered when kids participated remotely at first.

“The students who practically learn at the start had difficulties. We had a failure rate of about 70% of our students learning online, ”he said.

But having weekly COVID-19 testing has helped reduce COVID-19 infection rates and made families feel comfortable sending their children back to class, Hinojosa said.

“We started showing results, being very transparent with their community that the positives were at a low rate. We started to see students gradually entering the classrooms, ”said Hinojosa.

He said the shift started around February and has continued. The highest number of infections in the district occurred after the holidays when 54 people tested positive. Since then, the number of infections has declined over the past three months, according to Hinojosa.

“As recently as last week, I believe we had two positive results in 2,500 tests. So we haven’t had more than five or six in the last three months, ”Hinojosa said.

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All students will be returning to their respective campuses by the fall. The pandemic has also helped the district educate students about technology, and all students now have Chromebooks.

Hinojosa said the pandemic has highlighted disparities in internet access among the district’s student body. The district is currently working with local authorities to ensure more rural areas have connectivity.

Two hundred and fifty students will graduate one week from Friday. Hinojosa says they should be very proud of what they’ve come through.

“They have persevered, and if they can get through a pandemic, they can overcome anything, all the obstacles they face in life,” he said.

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