Port Arthur ISD, Nederland, PNG & Sabine Pass decide on hurricane prep, weekly schedule

Published 1:35 pm Monday, August 24, 2020

Several school districts across Southeast Texas were just settling into a new routine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with two named storms circling off the Gulf Coast, many are closing their doors once again, this time for hurricane season.

Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams Elementary teacher Kristen Due teaches her fourth grade students about the multiplication table online Monday.

The Port Arthur Independent School District is canceling school for the remainder of the week.

The district started entirely online instruction Aug. 18 and with all students at home, officials made the decision to continue courses Monday.

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After a 10 a.m. briefing with the Office of Emergency Management, Superintendent Mark Porterie said district officials decided to close Tuesday-Friday.

“We are erring on the side of safety for all students and staff members,” he said. “Stay tuned for what we are doing. We will look at restarting on (Aug. 31), hoping everything will be calm this weekend. If not, we will alert our students and staff members to dates and times.”

Port Neches-Groves and Sabine Pass ISD both started in-person instruction on Aug. 19. In less than a week of returning, district officials closed the doors for the second time this year.

Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams Elementary librarian Rebecca Martinez read a book to students Monday during library time.

All PNGISD schools will be closed Aug. 24-28.

PNGISD Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier said it was the best option for the community.

“We were watching the models, and I think everybody is so on edge with what’s happened in our community over the last few years, we didn’t want to add stress to that,” she said. “If families want to go ahead and get out of town, we want them to be able to do that. Even though it’s not in the Gulf yet, it’s too crazy a situation to ask people to wait around.”

Originally intending to wait on a Monday update, the district posted the cancellation Sunday evening.

Gauthier said the consistency of the models moved the district to act quicker.

“We knew if the county needed to be evacuated, it would be harder to pick up kids,” she said. “This also gave our teachers an extra day for preparation. So we decided it was in the best interest of the whole PNGISD community to just call it for the week.”

Gauthier said hurricane preparation is already built into the school’s calendar.

“Right now, we need to get through this first and pray that all of this was for nothing,” she said. “If that’s what happens, we will be thrilled to be back in school on (Aug. 31). If not we will see what we need to do to get back in school and make up those days.

“This year we are prepared for anything. We know it’s peak hurricane season and we are ready for that. That’s just kind of what we do in Southeast Texas.”

Sabine Pass ISD followed PNGISD’s lead announcing the weeklong closure of school at almost the same time Sunday night.

In Mid-County, Nederland ISD is the only district not in attendance with an Aug. 31 start date.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick said as of now that plan has not changed.

“We are planning on keeping that date, but we will monitor the storms and keep the safety of our students and staff first,” he said.

The school’s device distribution scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday has been postponed. Kieschnick said a new schedule would be put out as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The only members currently on campus include teachers, clinical specialists and administrators,” he said. “It takes a little bit off of our plate to not have school in session right now.”

All major districts ask parents, students and teachers to monitor district websites, social media outlets and local news stations for updates.