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The school year begins:Port Arthur ISD sees dip in enrollment due to Harvey

Staff report

The 2018-2019 school year is here with some students already in the classroom and others set to start this upcoming week.

Port Arthur

The early projection for student enrollment is approximately 8,500. According to superintendent Mark Porterie, that number is less when compared to last year’s.

“We had around 9,000 last year going in,” he said. “After the hurricane, we lost about 500.”

He stressed the fact that more concrete numbers would not be known until after the school year has started.

“Most kids come after Labor Day, but we are expecting more students to return to the area,” he said. “We’re expecting more families to have secured a place to live by then or to have completed the renovations of their homes.”

Porterie expressed hope that more children and families would be returning to the area.

“At our One Stop Registration, we visited with lots of new students in the area,” Porterie said. “There are still people moving in. It’s wonderful to have so many kids coming back.”

As for teachers and staff, Porterie alluded to progress being made in that regard as well, if not as robust.

“We’ve been hiring since March full throttle. We’ve been looking at (Lamar) University for assistance, but there’s not a large number of individuals graduating with degrees in education,” Porterie said. “We really have to look at ways to encourage our young people to look into the (teaching) profession.”

The district is still looking to fill in some teacher positions as a result; although, Porterie said the shortage would not negatively affect the quality of education students would receive — substitutes would be used to fill the gaps temporarily.

He could not give exact numbers before the school year has started as to how many teacher positions were left unfilled, though.

“We do know that we have very good substitutes, but we understand that substitutes don’t take the place of certified teachers who have gone to school for four years and have decided to devote their lives to educating children,” Porterie said.

Sabine Pass

The early projection for student enrollment is approximately 380 to 390. According to superintendent Kristi Heid, that number is comparable to last year’s projections.

“We did lose some students to Harvey, but the thing is, with Sabine Pass, we have a waiting list,” Heid said. “We accept transfers from all over Region 5. We have them coming from lots of different school districts.”

Approximately 40 percent of the district’s staff was adversely affected by Harvey, though Heid said all faculty and staff ended up returning to work.

“We have a full staff, and the beautiful thing about working at a small school is that we’re like a second family,” Heid said. “People here helped each other get back to their homes.”

Among new programs, the district is expanding its computer and tech-oriented offerings.

“We have a new program, a nationwide program sponsored through Microsoft, called TEALS. And we were chosen by the commissioner as one of the districts to apply,” Heid said.

TEALS is a program that highlights computer science in the classroom, and it pairs classroom teachers with tech industry volunteers to ensure students receive a quality education in the field.

“We were accepted by TEALS and we are very excited about that,” Heid said.

Last year, the district incorporated dual certification plans within its curriculum.

“We’ve become Microsoft and Cisco certified,” Heid said. “We’ve got a full range of AP classes.”

In order to better accommodate the growing number of tech students, more space will be built for them.

“We’re working hard to create a brand new lab for our TEALS group and computer science students,” Heid said. “We still have a full range of computer science courses available to our students.”