BISD welcomes students back to classes

Evelyn Ramirez, left, and Analiesa Nicole Sosa attend Antonio Padilla’s sixth-grade science class Tuesday morning at Stillman Middle School in Brownsville. (Gary Long/The Brownsville Herald)

Students were showing up for classes in large numbers Tuesday as the Brownsville Independent School District returned to fully in-person instruction for the first time in a year and a half amid an ongoing pandemic and under a mask mandate for all district campuses and buildings.

BISD has a current enrollment of 40,294 students. On Tuesday, 34,629 attended classes, or 85.94% of the total, the district said late Tuesday.

“Everybody’s in the same mode: we’re all back, it’s still a pandemic, we still have COVID to deal with, but we’re here and we’re ready to start a successful new year,” Stillman Middle School Principal E.J. Martinez said Tuesday morning.

Stillman and other BISD middle schools hosted meet-the-teacher gatherings Monday night. Martinez said his school welcomed an overflow crowd of students and parents eager to get the 2021-2022 school year underway.

“We took the extra time to talk to the parents to make sure they’re feeling good about sending their kids to school,” Martinez said. “Our plan is to work on their social-emotional part, and also on closing the academic gaps any way we have to, but we’re going to be assessing throughout the year, trying to get them going. …The one thing I want to work on is them feeling good about being here,”  he said.

“I think our kids nowadays are very resilient. I think they’re going to be able to adjust,” Martinez added. “For those that just can’t we have the counseling staff. It’s all a matter of getting back in the groove of going to school. I think for a first day I’m very excited.”

BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez said there had been an encouraging turnout of students and parents for meet-the-teacher nights at the elementary, middle school and high school levels  over the past several days.

“Of course we’re following all of the safety guidelines, especially the mask-wearing, but I’m excited to see that we’re filling the hallways and the classrooms with students,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the the first day of classes and that we have a great turnout. I’m very pleased with that.”

Gutierrez said he was encouraged that the district was finally returning to completely in-person classroom instruction, saying “in-person instruction is the best method for learning purposes, and now we’re going to be able to do that as we go through this pandemic. …I’m just excited that kids are starting to fill our hallways and classrooms once again.”

In Antonio Padilla’s sixth-grade science classroom at Stillman, Analiesa Nicole Sosa and Evelyn Ramirez said they were happy to be back in a regular school setting after a year and a half of distance learning.

Evelyn said the last time she was in a class with an actual teacher teaching was back when she was a fourth-grader at Garden Park Elementary. Analiesa Nicole said she preferred having a live teacher to attending classes over the internet because in school she is able to interact with the teacher.

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