Explain what your business does and the locations/ contact numbers: South Texas Independent School District serves middle school and high school students from three counties within the Rio Grande Valley - Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy. STISD schools provide a personal environment, a strong scholastic program, and hands-on training in various professional career fields. STISD is an open-enrollment district, and there is no cost for students to attend. Bus transportation is also provided free of charge.

Middle Schools (Grades 7 and 8):

• South Texas ISD Preparatory Academy (Preparatory Academy): 724 S. Sugar Rd., Edinburg | 956-381-5522 

• South Texas ISD Rising Scholars Academy (Rising Scholars Academy): 151 S. Helen Moore Rd., San Benito | 956-399-4358

High Schools (Grades 9-12):

• South Texas ISD Health Professions (Health Professions): 700 Med High Dr., Mercedes | 956-565-2237

• South Texas ISD Medical Professions (Medical Professions):

10650 N. Expressway 77/83, Olmito | 956-214-6100

• South Texas ISD Science Academy (Science Academy): 900 Med High Dr., Mercedes | 956-565-4620

• South Texas ISD World Scholars (World Scholars): 510 S. Sugar Rd., Edinburg | 956-383-1684

How has the pandemic affected your business/ industry?

The pandemic spurred a shift in education from in-person to digital instruction. It closed schools and took learning and teaching online. Students and teachers left for Spring Break and were not able to return to their classrooms for the remainder of the school year. Although some instruction already occurred online within our district prior to the pandemic, the situation led to a complete transition to this method. We have continued teaching and learning through our Flexible Learning initiative this spring, and have adapted other student events (awards ceremonies, social events, and graduation) and initiatives to a virtual or socially distanced method.

How have you adapted to these changes to continue to serve your customers/clients/students?

STISD kicked off its “Flexible Learning” initiative on March 24. Having already surveyed families about accessibility to technology at home and experienced the use of online learning within some courses in the district before this time made the transition to at-home learning and teaching easier, but providing ample support to students and teachers remained a priority.

Realizing that not everyone was learning (or teaching) under the same circumstances, flexibility was key. We revised our grading policy to ensure fair grading and take into account varying learning styles and situations. We strived to retain a sense of normalcy for students and keep them engaged. Students were encouraged to follow a normal class schedule but were able to adjust as needed. Campuses hosted virtual and socially distanced versions of events to celebrate and enjoy the campus community. We aimed to care for the “whole” child and family, and we provided access to counseling staff and content to help cope with the situation. STISD has also served meals free of charge to children 18 and under within our local communities via curbside pickup.

What have been the top challenges and opportunities you’ve seen because of the pandemic?

In terms of challenges, our students have been learning under different conditions; however, our Flexible Learning initiative allowed us to accommodate the varying needs and abilities of our students to work from home. Another challenge was making the best decision possible to honor our graduating seniors. We aimed to take into account how everyone who would be involved with a graduation ceremony would be affected by each scenario, and ultimately decided to do a virtual graduation and likely an in-person event for each high school in the summer.

Although a challenge, virtual learning has also been an opportunity for our instructors to explore different methods and resources as they put together their lessons. Creativity was encouraged to keep students engaged while learning from a distance. Overall as a district, we have found this to be an opportunity to explore new things and adapt to different situations, and ultimately we will come out stronger and better prepared for the future. We also had the opportunity to support local families through the serving of meals during the pandemic.

How are you preparing as Texas moves into the phased reopening of many businesses and services?

As has been the case since the pandemic began, we are keeping the health and safety of our entire STISD community front and center as we reopen. We are continuing to clean and sanitize all workspaces and shared spaces frequently, and are requiring masks and social distancing at each location. Students and teachers are wrapping up the school year at home, and we are strategically planning for pick-up and drop-off of needed items in smaller groups at staggered times to ensure social distancing and the ability to clean.

We are keeping flexibility and virtual engagement and learning in mind as we make plans for the summer and the upcoming school year and are prioritizing online learning as a major focus for staff development moving forward to ensure we are able to build on best practices and improve at what we do.

What offers/programs/classes are you offering to members/clients/patients?

Despite not having our students and teachers on campus at this time, we continue to deliver quality instruction to the middle school and high school students we serve. Classes for the 2019-2020 school year are wrapping up this week, and we are planning for virtual summer activities and the upcoming school year. We are currently enrolling students for our middle schools and high schools for the upcoming school year.