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Take look inside Port Neches-Groves health guidelines for return to school

PORT NECHES — The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District released 2020-21 school year health guidelines during this week’s virtual school board meeting.

A few key items include the state-of-the-art campus cleaning and disinfecting protocols, self-screening procedures, social distancing efforts and face coverings, officials said.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier said they have been planning this document since March.

“Everything we’ve seen from others states, districts, towns, we’ve been compiling to produce this document for our community,” she said. “The most important thing we are thinking about are our students, staff and community while also providing top-notch education as we always have. There is a safe way to return to school and this is how we are doing it.”

In addition to the school’s regular hand washing policies and daily classroom cleanings, the district is enlisting a contract with OZONE USA to provide 24/7 sanitizing of school’s through the ventilation system.

Gauthier said it’s similar to a hospital style of cleaning.

“This is going to provide something we are excited about,” she said. “If a kid coughs or sneezes, this is immediate. This is a 24/7 thing on top of what we’ve been doing since last year. Just with our sprayers, we saw a huge drop in the flu last year. We are excited for what this is going to provide for us.”

PNGISD officials will not be screening or taking temperature checks at the door.

Teachers, staff, parents and students are required to self-screen using a provided COVID-19 checklist prior to reporting to work or school.

Gauthier referenced the Texas Education Agency announcement regarding the inaccuracy of temperature checks at the door.

“You can get false readings,” she said. “Plus you have people who don’t have a fever and still feel bad. Remember, we live through flu season every single year. We, as educators, can tell when a student doesn’t feel well and will look out for that, as well.”

Students experiencing symptoms while at school will be immediately separated from their peers and must be picked up by a parent or guardian.

Students in the same classroom will be taken to an alternate location for immediate disinfecting of the space. Anyone with a confirmed lab-tested positive case must quarantine for 14 days and meet all reentry guidelines before returning.

In the event of a massive breakout, specific campuses forced to close will be shutdown no longer than 12-24 hours for sanitizing.

Campus closures will be treated like bad weather days and absences will not count against students for exemptions or extra-curricular activities this school year.

“We will be watching kids as they come through the door, and if we see someone not feeling good, we will take them to the nurse,” Gauthier said. “We’re fully aware people may not do it as they walk through the door in the morning, and we are prepared to do that on our campus.”

Another important step in the school reopening includes social distancing efforts.

PNGISD will separate desks or tables as much as instructionally and physically possible while utilizing outdoor learning spaces when feasible.

Gauthier said class sizes will be determined based upon school enrollment.

“There will be more social distancing in the gyms, the music rooms, etc.,” she said. “We will have places for kids to sit instead of bunching together like they normally do. School is a fairly controlled setting, so it won’t be as hard to social distance as needed.”

In accordance with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s face covering mandate, students 10 years and older must wear masks when in large group settings.

Children 10 and under are not required to wear a mask on elementary campuses, although they may be asked to do so when transitioning in the hallway or riding the bus.

Staff members’ and students’ individual needs will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Parents or guardians with concerns or individual needs are asked to reach out to their campus director or district administration.

A survey released last week to PNGISD staff garnered 562 employee responses. Of that, Gauthier said roughly a high percentage said they are ready and willing to return to school.

“Educators thrive on interaction with others and seeing the success of students,” Gauthier said. “It’s going to be a very calming, rewarding environment when we get back to the classroom, which are educators miss so dearly.”

Port Neches-Groves ISD is offering in-person instruction only. TEA is not requiring districts to offer a virtual option.

Gauthier said homebound instruction would only be offered for those with a medical necessity.

“Those not in medical danger are required to return to school,” she said. “That is the best thing for our community and students. There is individualized instruction for kids and there are gaps in learning that are best done in person. There is nothing to replace in-person instruction. That’s what we do best.”

To view the complete document, visit pngisd.org under “District News.”

In regards to the school’s mascot debate, Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales said it will be addressed at a later date.

PNGISD’s first day of school is Aug. 19.