PA, Nederland, PNG school districts respond to new Texas reopening guidlines

Published 12:25 am Thursday, July 9, 2020

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The Texas Education Agency announced Tuesday afternoon that masks would be required while in school buildings for the upcoming school year.

Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said the mandate comes as no surprise.

PAISD’s back-to-school plan already included requiring students and staff to wear mandatory face covering while on campus.

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“We, in PAISD, appreciate the fact that our governmental leaders have mandated that masks be worn,” Porterie said. “PAISD is aware of the posture of our leaders and will adhere to the request. However, I feel superintendents and school leaders are aware of the specific needs of their community. We have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the community in which we live.”

Porterie said the decision was made based on concerns from students, staff and parents.

“The year is going to be challenging enough trying to deliver instruction multiple ways,” he said. “We do not need to expand the concern of how we protect ourselves.”

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s statement also included mandatory health screenings for students, staff and visitors before entering campus buildings.

PAISD health checks will include a temperature reading upon entering.

“Our parents have been supportive of our decisions due to the fact the decisions are based on CDC recommendations coupled with the common-sense approach for our community,” Porterie said. “We want to do everything in our power to ensure their health and safety.”

Nederland ISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick said the state guidance is in line with what the district was expecting, adding NISD’s transition team met Wednesday to plan for the next school year.

“We are hopeful to have our return to school plan finalized soon,” Kieschnick said.

Port Neches-Groves ISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales said the state guidelines provide a better platform to begin developing a plan for on-campus instruction.

“We have plenty of work to do before we open our doors,” he said. “However, we believe we can create a better plan with the recent guidelines and hope to soon share that plan with our staff and community.”

Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier shared Gonzales’ sentiment.

“Our biggest goal is to process the information and put it back out there to our students, staff and parents so they feel comfortable coming to school,” she said. “As long as we accomplish that goal we will be successful.”

PNG’s health plan includes a new round-the-clock air cleaning system.

“During the 2019-2020 school year, we began using a system where we were spraying the rooms periodically and disinfecting the campuses on weekends,” Gauthier said. “We saw a decrease in flu season and other overall sicknesses that way.

“Now, we are going to take it one step further to clean the air and kill any germs throughout the entire school day. The classrooms, school cafeterias, hallways, etc. will be cleaned through the ventilation system 24/7.”

The district is also going to use a self-screening method.

Parents, staff and administration will need to self-evaluate for symptoms and temperatures before heading to school.

“It’s important to know that this is going to take a community approach, trust and knowing that educators are always in this for the kids,” Gauthier said. “That’s why we chose this profession. We want nothing more than to see them back in the classroom in a safe, secure environment.”