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Half of PNGISD campuses without power, school restart schedule updated

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District is postponing the return to school.

In-person classes will begin again on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.

Superintendent Mike Gonzales said the decision boiled down to safety and inspection.

“We want to make sure that all of our campuses are up and running the way they are supposed to be,” he said. “We don’t want students to return to campuses that aren’t functioning the way we want them to.

“We want to make sure the air conditioners are running appropriately. The food nutrition department has all the supplies they need to feed our students. We also want to make sure our Internet services are working appropriately. But, most importantly, we haven’t even powered up in Groves, yet.”

Gonzales said as of Monday, half of PNGISD’s campuses are without power.

“You can’t really assess the damage until you are fully powered,” he said. “Once you are fully powered you can start seeing what units are down. That is going to take another couple of days. I don’t want my students or staff sitting in a room that doesn’t work.”

The Port Neches-Groves district sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Laura, but Gonzales said it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Right now the maintenance department is working diligently to check A/C units, fix bent air ducts, dehumidify classrooms and thoroughly clean campuses.

“If they are not up and running appropriately, there is just no need to bring kids back,” Gonzales said. “Not to mention that not all of the power hasn’t returned to people’s houses and there are plenty of residents still out of town.”

Gonzales said the district wants to give students and staff time to return to normal.

“I need to give people time to check their bearings and get situated before they can come back and serve other students, speaking about staff,” he said. “Our community has been through so much that we don’t want to add any stress, and the truth is, we just don’t have power.”

School Board President Scott Bartlett said he agrees with postponement.

“It’s absolutely the right move,” he said. “This allows our students and teachers to get power back and takes all the pressure off our maintenance directors to get these schools up and running.”

Bartlett said the district got lucky.

“These buildings are old,” he said. “We need to make sure that the A/C is working properly [and] the dehumidifiers are properly working so that we can get kids back in a safe environment. There is no benefit to rushing back at this point. Let’s take our time, get through this week and then we will be able to hit the ground with fresh minds and everybody will have A/C in the coming days after Labor Day.”

The district intends to apply for waivers from the state for the days missed.