El Campo ISD trustees opted to delay the upcoming school year by one week, pushing the start date back to Aug. 19.

The district’s Return to Learn plan was released Wednesday, after being reviewed by parents, educators and local health professionals.

Originally, the school board approved the 2020-2021 school calendar with an Aug. 12 start date. The board voted Tuesday to delay the first day of school, and to add professional development days to the calendar, giving teachers more time to prepare.

“The days loaded up front are really meant to help the teachers prepare for in-person instruction and online instruction,” El Campo ISD Superintendent Bob Callaghan said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Campus leaders estimate in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, educators will be able to switch to remote learning for all students in one to three days. It would likely take multiple cases or exposures to make the district switch to temporary remote learning, Callaghan told the Leader-News.

“It would be negligent to say a specific number (of cases), because we’re going to look at that on a building by building basis, but a complete closure I think would require more than just one individual in a classroom (testing positive),” Callaghan said. “Particularly when every other student should be wearing their mask.”

ECISD’s Return to Learn plan includes a definition of close contact based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Pediatrics Association and the Texas Education Agency.

As long as students and teachers are wearing masks or remain six feet apart, the close contact definition isn’t violated.

Student and staff safety will be a priority for district leaders in the 2020-2021 school year, Callaghan said.

“If we feel there’s been an exposure by multiple people and there is an outbreak, we would be working with the county health department and our medical health professionals on the campus and in the community,” Callaghan said.

Students at all grade levels will be required to wear masks while on campus. The district’s plan sets a specific definition of a mask, so a strip of cloth or a bandana will not qualify.

“It would need to be a face mask that has layers or something that has been approved to capture any droplets that might be expelled from a persons’ nose or mouth,” Callaghan said.

Although masks are required, the plan does not specify punishments for students who do not follow social distancing requirements. District leaders and community members discussed many scenarios for the year, Callaghan said, before the final draft of the district’s plan was published.

“When (students) are in the school building or in the classroom or in any common space, they will be required to wear a mask and be socially distanced,” Callaghan said. “There were hundreds of nuances that were discussed in the board meeting and in the committee meeting.”

As long as students are allowed to social distance from each other, partitions between students will not be required. This will vary per class, according to Callaghan.

Parents will have the choice between face-to-face education, starting Aug. 19, and remote schooling, for which ECISD leaders will determine a start date in the coming weeks. With either selection, students will be required to commit for at least the first nine weeks grading period.

“If the parent chooses online learning for their children, we will try to provide the most robust educational opportunities we can, but I don’t think anything replaces face-to-face instruction,” Callaghan said.

ECISD parents were asked to select in-person or remote education for their students beginning July 29. The deadline is Aug. 5, and the form is available on ECISD’s website.

To read the full ECISD Return to Learn plan, or to access the remote or in-person education commitment form, visit

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