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Keene ISD starts class Tuesday in-person and virtually

The Johnson County school district, with just over 1,000 students, has a COVID-19 triage set-up to treat students who exhibit symptoms

KEENE, Texas — In one of North Texas’ smaller communities, Keene ISD is about to be on a big stage.

Superintendent Ricky Stephens will open the district’s three campuses to students Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a year like we’ve never seen before,” Stephens said.

Stephens estimates 75% of the 1,079 students are expected to show up in-person. Classrooms are ready for virtual learning too, each with a laptop and tablet to allow teachers to instruct students in both settings, simultaneously.

For Daniel Gathings, the preparation to start school during a pandemic is the primary reason he feels comfortable sending his 7th grade student.

“A lot of eyes are on Keene, especially at this moment,” Gathings said.

Keene ISD is among a handful of smaller school districts slated to start next week, including Godley ISD, also in Johnson County.

In addition to requiring masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizers, Stephens put together a self-narrated video showing how Keene ISD has prepared for school during a pandemic.

“This is the triage center where students with possible symptoms will come and the nurse will determine whether or not they have COVID symptoms.  If they do, they’ll be sent into this isolation room,” Stephens said.

Johnson County has far fewer COVID-19 cases than the big four counties in North Texas. 

Stephens hopes precautions inside school buildings and constant communication with county health officials will help Keene IS model a way school will look this fall.

And he added, the in the first few weeks the emphasis will not be on trying to make up any academic losses resulting from students being out for five months.

Our number one goal in the next two to three weeks will be to reconnect,” Stephens said. “Let our kids meet some of those social, emotional and relational goals.”