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Port Arthur ISD tentatively hopes for return to school next week

The Port Arthur Independent School District canceled school for the remainder of the week ahead of Hurricane Laura’s arrival. Now, Superintendent Mark Porterie is pushing for a tentative return to school for as soon as Aug. 31.

“Tentatively classes will resume on Monday, Aug. 31, depending on the power of schools and employees,” Porterie said. “We are assessing. I will not have a definitive answer until (Saturday).”

At first glance, Porterie said that all schools in PAISD appear to be in good condition.

“The power has been shutdown temporarily, according to Entergy,” he said. “We are good.”

Two factors that may hinder a return to online instruction include loss of power and staff displacement.

A noon Friday message from PAISD to local families read, “The district is currently in the process of assessing all of our buildings to ensure that there are no damages due to the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. Unfortunately, the city is without power. We are working with the local power company to determine when power will be restored to our buildings, but until that time, our district will be closed until further notice. Please stay tuned to our website, social media and the local news for updates. Please stay safe. We will get through this.”

School Board President Brandon Bartie, himself not yet returned to Port Arthur, said one of the advantages of virtual instruction is that it can be done from anywhere.

“When we were looking at the virtual learning for our teachers we didn’t factor in that we’d be leaving for a storm, but we are glad we did,” he said. “We also provided all the teachers in the district laptops two years ago. Now, we can teach from anywhere because we have the capability of doing so.”

The devices district officials distributed to students at the start of the school year are also Internet ready.

“With the Wi-Fi and data being low in our area, it doesn’t matter because all of our laptops and tablets that we provided for the students are already Internet ready,” Bartie said. “But once they assess the damage and what’s going on, I think it will be OK for us to go back virtually without even being in the city.”

Bartie said if everything appears to be OK after the maintenance department completes their assessment that students can expect to go back to school sometime next week, if not Monday.

“I’m not sure if the school has power,” he said. “I’m quite sure that they do, but we are waiting on our maintenance department to do the inspection along with Dr. Porterie. Once everything is safe for return, we will get back to school.”

Bartie said it’s important to get students back to a normal schedule.

“We’ve been gone for so long,” he said. “We are trying to get some normalcy back in their lives, get them used to going back to school and getting up early. It will help us in a sense and help our kids.”

District officials will announce a definitive return date sometime Saturday. Parents, students and employees are asked to continue monitoring the PAISD Facebook page and website.