Comal ISD teachers across the district gave out a lot of high-fives and welcome-back smiles on the first day of school August 27, and one team of teachers hand-delivered an extra surprise to its students – welcome bags.
The homebound teachers at Comal ISD delivered specially-made welcome bags to its students, to ensure that every student feels the excitement of the first day of school.
Homebound teachers serve students from the age of three to 21 who are unable to attend their campus due to illness or special needs. Some require general education while others require special education, explains Carolina Ferrell, special education coordinator for elementary-aged students in Comal ISD.
This marks the second year that homebound teachers presented each homebound student with a personalized welcome-back-to-school bag.
“The idea is to give each of them something on the first day of school so that they felt part of the school,” Ferrell says, “even though they wouldn’t be there. The principals from their campus along with the leadership team at the district signed a card, while schools included a t-shirt and campus-themed items, and the homebound teachers filled each basket with more.”
Filling the bags for each of their kids, was easy, says Homebound Teacher Julianna Palmer, who explained that each homebound teacher knows their students’ personalities, needs and hobbies.
“We really try to incorporate their personal interests, because a lot of these kids we see on a day-to-day basis,” Palmer continues. “My kids absolutely loved it. They tore into the bags right there as the moms tried to get photos.”
Special education students are identified for special education services based on federal and state eligibility requirements. Their medical needs may require them to stay home. General education students who are on homebound status, must stay home due to an illness or other medical reason for a certain amount of time, Ferrell says.
Comal ISD employs four homebound teachers to serve its 589 square miles, five counties and close to 25,000 students. While each teacher’s caseload varies between two and 10 students, the total number of students on homebound status is generally around 20 to 25 with up to 75 during the flu season.
“Their caseloads will increase during flu season,” Ferrell explains, “when many students will not be able to attend school due to the likelihood of getting sick.”
With specific areas of focus, these four teachers are certified in their fields as well as general and special education. They include Palmer, Sylvia Al-Manakhi, Jenevieve Hazel and Dwight Schneider.
For the medically fragile, students who will never be able to enter a school building or setting, these homebound teachers are often their one connection to a world they see only on television or read about in books. Many of them are bedridden and their homes mimic hospitals with hospital beds and medical equipment.
“Being a homebound teacher is more than just bringing school home to students; it’s about bringing love, life and the world home to them,” says Palmer, “and I absolutely love it.”
Comal ISD Homebound Student Guinn Putnicki just started the first grade. Pictured here with her Homebound Teacher Julianna Palmer.
Comal ISD Homebound Student William Maier just started the fourth grade. He is looking through his welcome bag which included spirit gear from his home campus of Rebecca Creek Elementary and Canyon Lake High School.