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VIRTUAL LEARNING: Port Arthur ISD working through 1st-week glitches

The Port Arthur Independent School District wrapped up its first week of online learning, but it didn’t go off without a hitch.

The district is experiencing a lag in device delivery and connectivity.

Superintendent Mark Porterie said the district is addressing the problem as fast as possible.

“Registration occurred July 15-31,” he said. “Parents who registered their children were to receive their devices first. We have since been registering students every day. We have issued over 7,000 devices and will continue until every student has their own.”

Students who have not received a device will not be penalized.

In the meantime, Porterie said parents have the option to purchase their own device, utilize their cellphones or any other type of communication device.

“There is a process and the process is working; however, there will be some glitches,” he said. “We ask parents and students to be patient with us.”

Edgar Puga’s schoolwork station includes motivational posters, a visible work schedule and all of his necessary school books, notepads and laptop.

Erika Banda-Meza said her sixth grade son Edgar Puga’s has not had any device issues.

“It’s kind of hard because I work,” she said. “He has to call and face time me whenever there is an issue, but I know it’s the safer option.”

Meza said Edgar is enjoying the virtual learning.

“He likes it,” she said. “He’s enjoying it. He’s making friends through the videos and we might do this for the rest of the year.”

The Memorial Titans community is also mourning the loss of one of their own this week.

High school principal Glenn Mitchell said world history specialist Daniel Dark passed away Friday from a long battle with cancer.

“We mourn the passing of Daniel Dark,” he said. “He was a phenomenal teacher and educator, and the whole Memorial community mourns that loss. We are sending our thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Despite the glitch in technology, and loss of a staff member, many teachers and principals are still excited to be back in the classroom.

“Our teachers are super heroes,” Porterie said. “They have had to learn in a matter of weeks how to instruct students in a completely different mode from when we closed our doors due to COVID on March 16. Our principals and teachers have been amazing.

“The greatest thing we have experienced is the creativity teachers have exercised since returning. Teachers are communicating with each other on the how, not the test. The amount of creativity we are experiencing is what we experienced before the introduction of the urgency of the state assessment.”

Mitchell said he’s experienced this at the high school.

“Our first week has been phenomenal,” he said. “We are getting used to online learning using Schoology and Zoom. Those two mechanisms allow us to use our traditional flow in the pursuit of keeping our students engaged. It’s working very well.”

Mitchell said the majority of Memorial High School students have already received their devices.

“The phone calls from parents asking about devices is going down with the distribution,” he said. “We have distributed over a thousand devices on the campus and we will make sure all of our students who are enrolled will have an electronic device. Overall, it’s been a very positive and productive week.”

Porterie said he is looking forward to the rest of the school year.

“As we become stronger, our virtual setting instruction is going to move to the next level,” he said. “Having a device in the hands of every student gives us many opportunities to extend the learning and meet the needs of every child in many ways that we had never considered.”

Port Arthur ISD is set to continue virtual instruction until Sept. 8.

Any parents who have not received a device or are experience other issues are asked to contact their teacher first.