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Schools in Bexar County prepare to open for in-person classes, setting up standoff with local health authority

Some schools within Boerne and Comal school districts are technically affected by Bexar County's health directive. They're planning in-person instrucion anyway.

SAN ANTONIO — Boerne ISD is among the districts with some campuses within Bexar County borders that say they will be opening for both in-person and virtual learning in August.

“We’re very excited about the school year. At the end of the day, we’re very pleased and excited to be able to offer a choice to our families,” said Bryan Benway, director of communications at Boerne Independent School District.

But the decision may be leading to a standoff with Bexar County-centered Metro Health, which earlier this month issued a directive that all schools in Bexar County wouldn't be allowed to undergo in-person teaching until Sept. 8 at the earliest. 

“Previously the (Texas Education Agency) told districts they fully contemplated that there would be local health directives that may delay the start of in-person instruction,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said.

After a statement by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday stated local health authorities couldn’t force the issue on a blanket delay just to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, some districts have decided to leave it to the parents to decide how their kids will go back to school.

“Every time it seems that our attorney general appears on the scene during this pandemic, it creates confusion and chaos,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at Tuesday evening's coronavirus briefing. 

Nonetheless, Comal ISD administrators are viewing Paxton's statement as a green light.

“Because of that guidance, we are now putting all of our Bexar County schools on the same schedule as our Comal County schools,” said, Steve Stanford, executive director of communications for the district. 

Out of the 30 Comal ISD campus, five are in Bexar County. They initially planned on opening those five campuses virtually only, but not anymore.

“This helps us out from an operational standpoint, logistically," Stanford said. "But also, again, it gives our parents a choice of whether or not they want to send their kids to school virtually or online."

KENS 5 reached out to the city to see how local leaders planned to respond to those few campuses within Bexar County borders that plan to sidestep Metro Health's controversial directive. We haven't heard back yet. 

During the nightly briefing on Tuesday, authorities said they do plan to enforce the order to keep schools closed to in-person learning. What form that enforcement will take remains to be seen. 

“There’s a sense in Boerne that we are ready to go," Benway said. "Our staff, our students, and our community know that we put together a positive safety plan."

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