San Antonio ISD, other districts struggle with attendance, cold temps

Empty classroom with rows of desks at a community college

Empty classroom with rows of desks at a community college

Trevor Williams/Getty Images

Jaime Acquino, superintendent for San Antonio ISD, sent an email Tuesday afternoon apologizing for the district’s handling of operations during recent plunging temperatures. Like many of the districts in the San Antonio area, SAISD told students to throw on another layer because classes would carry on like normal.

“I owe you an apology. I lead with a spirit of transparency, and I want to give you an update on what happened today,” Acqunio’s letter to district families begins. “Today’s return to the classroom during this cold weather was not as successful as we had planned. Our preparations fell short today, and I am deeply sorry.”

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Acquino writes that campuses were “diligently checked” Monday and overnight to make sure they were prepared to handle students and staff. However, the superintendent adds that issues presented themselves Tuesday morning.

“We experienced some system failures, boilers that were slow to heat the buildings, and water issues related to burst pipes. Our Facilities staff were onsite where needed, working quickly to restore heat,” Acquino says before adding that students were assembled in warmer parts of the building and given bottled water as needed.

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On Monday, the district met with the City of San Antonio Emergency Management Department, National Weather Service, and Education Service Center-Region 20 before deciding to move forward with classes on Monday, according to Acquino, who notes that road conditions were expected to be “in good shape,” rain or snow weren’t forecast, and power outages weren’t expected.

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Acquino notes some families depend on schools to provide a “safe haven” for children while parents are at work, but would understand students not attending classes during the freezing weather.

“We were open for the children who needed us, and we will always honor and respect the decisions parents make for their children on these days,” Acquino writes. “I regret that our preparations did not meet expectations. We will work around the clock to address these issues, and we will be open on Wednesday.”

Editor’s note – This update previously stated incorrectly that San Antonio ISD would not understand parents keeping children at home. However, the story should have stated that SAISD would understand parents keeping children at home due to freezing weather.

Original story:

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With the weather taking a turn for the severe over the past few days as temperatures continue to plummet to new lows, many parents were surprised to see that some major public school districts in the greater San Antonio area opted to return to class as usual come Tuesday, January 16 — the day expected to produce the coldest temperatures of the entire arctic blast. Well, many school districts are reporting low attendance, and one campus with the San Antonio Independent School District even had to cancel classes due to heating issues.

While SAISD said, like many other school districts in San Antonio, it would be business as usual come Tuesday, one campus in the district got a reprieve from the chilly trek to class. According to a Monday night statement issued by SAISD Superintendent Jaime Acquino, Burbank High School — a Southeast Side campus — was the lone SAISD campus closed to teachers and students due to heating issues.

“We have been diligently checking all campuses today to ensure school facilities will be warm for students and staff on Tuesday,” Acquino wrote. “Unfortunately, Burbank High School requires a repair before we will be able to confirm proper room temperature. For that reason, the students and staff of Burbank High School are being asked not to report to school on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Some staff may still be notified by supervisors to report.”

While MySA reached out to SAISD for comment on whether the issue would be resolved by Wednesday, no response was given before this article’s publication deadline. Further, when asked how attendance Tuesday, January 16, compared to a typical day in the district, considering the public outcry from parents across San Antonio over schools continuing as usual amid freezing temperatures, officials asked MySA to submit a Public Information Act request. No response was given in time for publication.

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The announcement from Acquino was met with criticism from San Antonio residents online who say this has been an issue at the Burbank High School campus for decades. Some questioned why it remains an issue in the wake of upgrades to the facilities.

“Why? Just why,” Judith A. Boyer commented on the high school’s Facebook post about the closure. “The district needs to get its stuff together. I was 20 years in the old building, and air and heat were constant issues. And now, in a brand-new building? Give me a break. This is just an embarrassment.”

While SAISD was mum on its attendance numbers for Tuesday, officials with North East Independent School District told MySA there was a low turnout among students amid the cold weather. NEISD saw 71 percent of it students in seats Tuesday, marking a significant decline for a district which usually clocks a 93-94 percent attendance rate, according to a district spokesperson.

“While our attendance numbers were lower than usual, it shows us that the majority of our parents needed and wanted their children in school,” an NEISD spokesperson told MySA. Many school districts in and around San Antonio announced Monday afternoon that classes would continue as usual Tuesday as there was little to no concern of icy roads that might make school travel treacherous. This was met with some online pushback from parents who felt it was unsafe or unwarranted to continue classes as usual, but there were also plenty of parents who said there was no need to cancel class over a bit of cold.

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While Northside Independent School District attendance numbers weren’t formalized for the day as of Tuesday afternoon, initial reports indicate several campuses in the school district were seeing lower than usual attendance numbers — something officials say was expected considering the weather forecasts.

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