May 1—Wearing face masks and red T-shirts, almost 100 students at Incarnate Word Academy celebrated "150 + Days of School" on Friday morning where awards were given to students who excelled during last year but due to the pandemic were not able to receive them.
"Today is our first, during pandemic, 150 + days of celebration in our campus. Everything we did last year during the pandemic was virtual. Of course we didn't have an event like we did today, but today we do have close to about 100 kids on campus," Principal Michael Camarillo said.
"One of the things that was brought to our attention was that last year we were not able to have a normal academic award presentations for some of these kids that have earned quite a bit and exceeding academically. From reading to even participation at different clubs and organizations, that ended for us during Spring Break and we never came back. ... It's a way of closing last year, but also moving in the right direction for where we are going in the future."
With temperature checks, mandatory face masks and hand-washing stations throughout the campus, it is starting to look a lot like normal at the Incarnate Word Academy with the students learning in person and interacting with their teachers and classmates. Camarillo said the students have adapted.
"I think it's really great. I think the students have adapted, from Pre-K all the way to the middle school level and are taking precautions. If you look around at this gym, they're sitting down six feet apart, wearing masks and know how to sanitize. It basically has become second nature to them," he said.
"We have been very fortunate and very blessed that we have our students here, and not get sick. Of course, it takes preparations from the parents but it also has been a team effort from the teachers and the faculty staff. ... I think we are back to normal, to a certain extent, with six feet apart and wearing face masks."
Camarillo said it is great to have the majority of the students on campus even though there are still those who have to do remote learning due to regulations, such as those who live in Matamoros and are unable to cross. He said the reopening has been done with the help of the parents.
"It's great to have them here, but it's also hard because we still have students that are remote and can't cross but we are still connected with them with classes virtually. At the same time, we have been very blessed, periodically, because we've had students come back and the parents are OK and comfortable with it," he said.
"If the parents are not comfortable, we couldn't. Even though we reopened with safety measures in place, every class has a certain amount of desks, six feet apart, face shields, hand-washing stations every where, sanitizing devices and of course temperature check is done twice a day. In the morning and before the lunch."
When it comes to this past year, Camarillo said everybody had to adapt to teach students virtually and it is something that is part of their daily lives now. He said they have implemented new methods to communicate with the students and the families.
"When it was remote we were learning a lot of things. We were learning how to become masters at Google Classroom. We've become masters at Google Classroom, we've incorporated it in our daily lives every single day, we've been communicated very often with people who meet with our families, we have built a good rapport with students to help them if they are facing difficulties on campus or off campus, more than anything be there to serve them and make them understand that we are trying to come back to normalcy," he said.
"But, for them to also understand that God is the highest value. We are a Catholic school, we are at high Catholic standards as well as high academic standards and the pandemic will not take that away from us."
At the event, H-E-B, Dairy Queen and the Brownsville Police Department were among those invited to talk about their careers with the students so they could start thinking about their options for the future.
"We have different professional individuals in the community that are coming with us to showcase themselves to the students about what their future could be, but at the same time we want to set the importance of how even in a pandemic it is important to continue education," Camarillo said.