School News

by 78209 Magazine | August 7, 2020 | School News


We have a long tradition of excellence in AHISD, and this year will continue that tradition!

Our administrative team, teachers, and staff have all been working diligently to welcome our students back on August 17. The health and well-being of our AHISD community are at the forefront of all our decision-making. We recognize that this is an uncertain time in San Antonio. While we would love for all of our students to be on campus this fall, we realize that some students may not be able to join us for various reasons. We are committed to providing an engaging learning experience for our face-to-face learners and a robust online learning experience for our Heights at Home learners. We are excited for another year to begin.

Our planning for fall face-to-face learning prioritizes health and well-being. We are implementing a layered approach to safety that includes multiple health commitments to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and to encourage a healthy campus community. Our facilities will look and operate differently, in support of our health commitments, than they have in the past. The health and safety of our students and staff remains our highest priority.

AHISD will offer both face-to-face and remote (Heights at Home) learning options for all students.

AHISD has created these plans with the understanding that information is subject to change based on state and local governmental directives about health or education. We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic is dynamic and ever-changing and continues to provide incredible challenges as we move forward with planning around the opening of school for the 2020-2021 school year.

We are grateful for our educational community’s patience as we waited on local and state guidance to finalize our plans for August, receiving initial guidance from TEA about health and safety guidelines on July 7, working diligently to make plans based on those directions. Due to the guidance we received from TEA and the local San Antonio health orders issued by Bexar County Health on July 17, we will now open schools remotely for three weeks beginning on August 17.

In addition to protecting our students and staff’s health and wellness during a time of “moderate and sustained” community transmission of COVID-19, this three-week transition time of remote learning will support us by:

  • allowing us to proceed with the approved calendar start day of August 17 (instead of moving our start date to later in September and extending the year into June)
  • providing additional time for comprehensive training for our staff around COVID- 19 health and safety protocols
  • extending time to more extensively prepare classrooms and campuses for the return of students in a face-to-face learning environment

During these three weeks, our staff will offer students remote learning based on our AHISD Remote Learning Plan. Students who have enrolled in our Heights at Home option for the first nine weeks will work with their Heights at Home teacher as originally planned. All students who were enrolled in our face-to-face option will work remotely with their homeroom teachers (PK-5) and through their planned schedule (6-12). More details will follow for our students and their families in early August.

Extensive feedback from parents, students, and teachers regarding our AHISD Continuous Learning Plan in the spring has allowed us to make improvements in structure, expectations, and implementation of remote learning. We knew that we needed to make plans to implement this remote platform throughout the year as we experience times of facility closure or quarantine. This planning will serve us well to start school in our updated and improved remote platform.

All families will be provided with the materials needed to implement the remote learning for these three weeks, whether that be devices, hotspots, or classroom At-Home Learning Kits. Students and families should watch for more information to come regarding the distribution of materials.

We want to be back in our schools face-to-face with our students and will continue to make plans to fully open our facilities in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our students and staff after Labor Day.

As the public health situation unfolds, we will continue to navigate and act on decisions that are in the best interest of our AHISD school comunity. The goal is to retun to learn with plans and systems that are safe, healthy, and rigorous. Together, we will ensure that AHISD students and staff emerge stronger than ever.

Mules Up!

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Throughout the spring and summer, the greater AHISD family has been at work, supporting students and families as the need arose during this time of distance.

Meals were prepared by our AHISD Food Service staff for weekly pick up at the Alamo Heights Junior School Cafeteria and delivered by our bus drivers and transportation team.
Our community donated HEB cards for families in our neighborhoods who needed a little extra support. The Snack Pak-4-Kids Program donated snacks to students to help support food insecurities over the weekends.

AHHS Theater Arts students collected food donated by our Alamo Heights neighbors and donated it to the San Antonio Food Bank. AHISD staff members volunteered to support food distribution sponsored by the San Antonio Food Bank within our community in partnership with the City of Alamo Heights and the Alamo Heights Police Department.

These are just a few of the “AH-mazing” ways that our entire community came together in empathy, love, and support, to take care of each other. Through it all, we remain AH STRONG!


The Saint Mary’s Hall Speech & Debate Team

The Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) Speech & Debate Program officially closed the 2019-2020 school year in memorable fashion. Due to the pandemic, in June, the team participated virtually in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament, one of the most important tournaments of the year.

Not only did the team set a school record for the number of students who qualified for the tournament, but they also set a school record in sweepstakes placement. For the first time in school history, SMH was named a School of Outstanding Distinction for placing in the top 10 in the nation, an honor representative of less than 1% of the 1,322 schools competing at the tournament. This award is only available to programs that advance entries in both speech and debate categories.

Class of 2020 graduate Shilpa Gunuganti was recognized for her contributions to the speech and debate community and the broader community of San Antonio as a Student of the Year finalist. Shilpa is the third Baron to be recognized with this distinction. Director of Fine Arts Bethany Bohall was recognized as the NSDA National High School Administrator of the Year for her dedicated and enthusiastic support of the SMH Speech & Debate Program. SMH had three students compete in final rounds of competition.

Considering approximately 5,000 students compete at the NSDA National Tournament, placing in the top six is a significant accomplishment. For the past seven years, SMH has accumulated the second most students performing in final rounds in acting and public speaking events.

The SMH Speech & Debate Program develops students’ poise, confidence, and creative thinking through the study of acting, public speaking, persuasion, and argument.


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In July, Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) announced the ONE|SMH: The 2020-2021 School Year plan, addressing the reopening of school for the 2020-2021 academic year. SMH has defined a three-phased approach to the school year and a staggered return to campus. The SMH Campus Reopening Task Force has based this plan on evolving standards of best practices outlined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas Education Agency (TEA), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), their accrediting body the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), as well as community health regulations from local government and the State of Texas.

The school will continue to assess current pandemic conditions and respond by shifting appropriately into one of our three models:

ONE|SMH Learning Phases:

  • ONE|SMH Virtual (Red): Distance learning for all students with faculty teaching remotely and from classrooms
  • ONE|SMH Hybrid (Yellow): An open, in-person campus for students and faculty with concurrent use of virtual and online learning for those who, for whatever reason, opt for off-campus, online instruction
  • ONE|SMH On Campus (Green): A return to the SMH experience we all knew before the pandemic

In mid-July, SMH made the decision to begin the 2020- 2021 school year in the ONE|SMH Virtual (Red) phase. This decision was based on the primary concern for the health and safety of students and faculty. Classes will begin virtually on August 17 with the aim of bringing students and faculty back to campus the week of September 8.

To give the school the maximum amount of flexibility, in each learning phase the school has outlined schedules, policies, guidelines, and procedures that will allow for them to move between phases to adjust to the current pandemic conditions. SMH is ready to bring students to campus or successfully educate them virtually.

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