HUTTO, Texas - Approximately 60% of Hutto ISD students returned to campus for in-person instruction Monday. The return to class looked a bit different this year “because of the virus,” explained Eden Cooke, a first-grade student at Nadine Johnson Elementary.
Students wore masks.
Cooke proudly showed off the face covering her “nanna” made. It is embroidered with hippos, the district’s mascot.
Some students were able to use plexiglass dividers and plastic face shields provided by the district. “They keep the germs away!” explained Grant Csuti. Grant’s twin brother Andy excitedly agreed. The boys are in kindergarten at Nadine Johnson.
Their mother Kristine Csuti says the decision to send them back was “stressful.”
Andy has type 1 diabetes. Csuti says COVID-19 or the flu could easily result in a trip to the hospital. “So, I had to take into consideration the pandemic along with [Andy’s] health and whether or not it was something I wanted to risk.”
Ultimately Csuti decided to send the boys back “because of things that they can’t get online such as therapies and school services that you can only get in person. It’s just [Andy] needed to be in the classroom setting versus on the computer.”
Tomie Parks was also uncertain about sending her son Marshall back. She recently received a letter from his third-grade teacher at Nadine Johnson that stated:
We are looking forward to finally having students back in our classrooms beginning on September 14, 2020. We will have full classrooms and are unable to space them at the recommended 6 feet. Since we do not have sneeze guards or plexiglass, students will need to wear masks while in class, in addition to when we are traveling within the building. They will not need to wear masks during recess and lunch.”
FOX 7 Austin reached out to a district spokesperson about the letter last week. He said the district would not know how many classrooms are able to distance children six feet until students returned to the classroom.
Monday, district officials did not know how many classrooms students were able to social distance in. “I’m actually waiting on my final numbers of how many kids came in person and how many came virtual and even which classrooms those were in. So, it’ll be a little bit before that,” explained Hutto ISD Associate Superintendent, Dr. Robert Sormani.
Uneasy, Parks says Monday she told Marshall, “If you get scared if you have any questions if anything seems too big to think about go to the office call mommy, not a big deal.”
She says she never got a call. “[Marshall] was so excited” she explained.
“It was great, grand, I’ve got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand,” Marshall told FOX 7 Austin of his first day back.
Marshall’s only complaint was about strict social distancing during typically social times, like lunch and recess. “Everything was great, out and about — except my friend Cas couldn’t play recess with me because he was separated,” Marshall explained.
Like Marshall, the Csuti boys were excited to be in class.
Grant said the day was “so good!”
Eden Cooke told FOX 7 Austin she was excited to see her teacher.
“She gives us M&M’s,” Cooke explained.
“I think the kids who wanted to be here came. I think they had a good time, they were excited. They were safe. And then, it’s important to remember about 40 percent of hippo nation is online.” said Dr. Sormani.
Dr. Sormani told FOX 7 Austin he hopes the district can continue to provide online learning as an option for families even after the pandemic is over.
“If the TEA allows us,” he explained.