San Vicente Independent School District
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Jessi Milam, Superintendent
After what seemed like the eternal Spring Break, students at San Vicente ISD, located in the heart of Big Bend National Park, returned to in-person instruction in late August. The district serves students whose families work in or serve the park. The district has been home to as many as thirty students and as few as five students. San Vicente is a rural school serving students in grades Pk-8. Those students in grades 9-12 attend Big Bend High School in neighboring Terlingua, Texas. The staff at SVISD consists of seven full and part-time dedicated people who wear many hats.
Ready to start the school year, SVISD prepared with PPE, such as masks and hand sanitizer for all the students. Not all of the students returned to the district from the 2019-2020 school year. Due to the pandemic, some students had to move away with their families, searching for other job opportunities. With declining enrollment, the requirements of social distancing in the classroom were easy to adhere to. Public health guidelines have are being strictly enforced, and the district can provide face-to-face instruction for our students.
Over the past several months, our students have not only missed out academically but socially. The immediate transition after spring break to virtual learning offered our students little opportunity to be prepared to receive instruction in a virtual environment. We are more than fortunate to live in a National Park, alive with its tale of culture, science, and history. Many students have lived in the park all their lives and never take the time to explore the 880,000 acres that makeup Big Bend National Park.
At the beginning of the year, I expressed to the teachers the importance of rich curricula that offered opportunities to explore our natural wonder. The teachers agreed, and immediately we worked on a plan to incorporate monthly field trips to different areas of the park. Led by Pam Priddy, a former park Teacher-Ranger, our students have explored the Chisos Basin and the Lost Mine Trail in search of black bears and wildlife.
Our most recent field trip included a hiking trip to Dug Out Wells, home of the first schoolhouse in the area, and the Boquillas Canyon Trail. The students enjoyed the Rio Grande River’s sights and the lush vegetation and Caballeros in the area. After a picnic lunch at Rio Grande Village, the students enjoyed playing in the cottonwood trees at Daniel’s Ranch. Future field trips include exploring the Santa Elena Canyon, Castolon, the Fossl Discovery exhibit, and Indian Head.