To Protect His Family, Student Wears Hazmat Suit To Final Exams

Brooklyn and Beyond

Image credit: ABC-13

Earlier this week, a Texas school refused to allow a student, who had been learning remotely all year, to take his final exams remotely. The district determined that even remote students would need to take final exams in person.

Mason Kalkofen, who is a remote learning student, believes that his school district is not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough. He requested accommodations that would allow him to take his final exams without putting himself and his family at risk of contracting COVID-19. Kalkofen worried about contracting the virus at school and bringing it home to his mother, who is at high risk for severe complications if she were to fall ill.

The district did not provide the requested accommodations, but offered to allow Mason to take his finals in a room with only one proctor.

When Kalkofen realized that the district would not permit him to take his final exams remotely, he showed up to Spring Woods High School in a full hazmat suit.

Kalkofen's parents, Margarita and Karl, supported their son's pursuit for an exemption, stating that they had been notified of multiple positive COVID cases at the school and did not want to get sick. The Spring Branch Independent School District has reported 25 cases this year, representing both students and staff.

"I don't want to end up in a hospital," Margarita explained. "I don't want my husband to end up in the hospital because the school district doesn't care."

The Spring Branch Independent School District issued a statement to ABC13 explaining the procedures they had in place to protect students and staff during final exams.

Spring Woods High School has worked with the families of distance learners to provide testing accommodations for approximately 50 students. Starting today, these students will be dropped off at the high school after in-person learning students have left the campus. Students will test outdoors at individual tables set 10 feet apart. Before entering the high school courtyard, temperatures will be taken of all testing students. PPE, hand sanitizers and other LearnSBISD health and safety protocols will be in place from required facial masks to proper social distancing. One adult test proctor will be assigned per six students.
Regarding the family that contacted your team, Spring Woods High School has offered the family multiple testing options, including the option of the student testing alone in a room with only one proctor present wearing PPE. The family refused all options.
Spring Branch ISD high school principals have been committed to working with families who have testing concerns or unique situational needs. The district places a high priority on academic integrity along with its single-focused goal known as T-2-4 where every district graduate will attain a technical certificate, military training, or a 2- or 4-year college degree. In this regard, we agree with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) guidance allowing districts to require students to come on campus to complete required assessments that play a significant role in determining class rank, or as required for graduation or grade-level promotion, where it cannot be reasonable and equitably administered remotely. SBISD testing will follow the health and safety guidelines of the LearnSBISD plan.
Total enrollment at Spring Woods High is 2,064 students. The total number of COVID cases so far this school year is 25, with 17 students and 8 employees reporting positive. This represents less than 1 percent (0.82 percent) of Spring Woods High students who have reported testing positive.

Kalkofen isn't the only student who didn't feel safe with the school district's arrangements. Other students and families raised concerns in early December, and over 2,600 people have signed a petition requesting that SBISD cancel in-person final exams.

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