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Port Arthur ISD deciding on feeding schedule for virtual learners

The Port Arthur Independent School District announced this week that the 2020-21 academic year would start as online only for at least four weeks and possibly longer.

Effective immediately, the district will provide instruction remotely for all students beginning Aug. 18 for the first four weeks of the school year.

The four-week transitional period, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 11, or longer, will provide the district additional time to safely prepare for in-person instruction. Students will receive instruction through the Schoology platform.

“In the interest of safety, children and non-employees will not be granted access to any of our facilities during this time,” a District statement read.

“In-person learning will become available on September 14th, for those that choose in-person instruction during the online student registration period, pending improvement in local public health conditions and guidance from local, state, and federal public health officials. Those that choose remote instruction will have to wait until the culmination of the nine-week period before they can change to in-person instruction.”

The safety and security of students and staff are of the utmost importance, and flattening the curve is something all community members should be doing, district officials said.

With the announcement comes several questions including how the district intends to offer meal plans.

School Board President Brandon Bartie said the nutrition department is still deciding on the best method for delivery.

“Every student is going to get a meal,” he said. “We are not quite sure on how we are going to get it done, but with the team we have at PAISD, I have full confidence that we will get this done for our kids.

“We go above and beyond when it comes down to our students and our community. If we have to go to every house to deliver a meal, that’s what we will do.”

Bartie wasn’t far off.

Child Nutrition Director Robin Rhodes said the district is looking at a transportation-based model to utilize school bus drivers and bus routes.

“We will have our food and our nutrition staff on a bus ready to bring meals to students at home,” Rhodes said. “We are the type of school where all of our students get free breakfast and lunch, and that’s important to continue serving throughout this scenario. We are trying to make it as simple as possible.”

Drivers will likely follow predetermined bus routes that reach most Memorial High School students.

“One thing we’ve identified is the high school bus routes cover the entire city because we don’t have a lot of walkers close to the main campus,” Rhodes said. “We still have to figure out what to do at the elementary level, which don’t often run bus routes because students are in such close proximity to the schools.

“We need to work on that and to find a way to accommodate every student, including those with dietary restrictions like we do every day during the normal school year.”

Rhodes said although the grab-and-go method served well in the summer months, distributing the food is a straightforward way to ensure all students are fed.

“We know we will miss students in the grab-and-go method because we did in summer,” he said. “Not everyone has the ability to get up at a certain time and drive to the schools and we don’t want to short those families. We want to give as many meals as possible.”

When Port Arthur ISD returns to in-person instruction in September, Rhodes said he is going to find a way to utilize both systems at the same time.

“Whether they are in school or it’s distributed, students will get lunch and breakfast every day,” he said. ‘There is so much opportunity for us to do something good here.”

Breakfast and lunch will both be packaged and dropped off at the same time.

To ensure bus routes are up-to-date, Rhodes asks all parents and guardians to get registered and verify all contact information is correct.

“It’s going to make everything easier on our side,” he said. “When you register, just double check all that information is accurate.”

Campus registrars will be available Monday through Thursday from 8 to 5 p.m. to give parents snap codes to complete online student registration.

The telephone numbers are posted on the main page of the PAISD website.

The online registration support line will be available Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 409-989-6154.