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PAISD shares timeline for phased return of classroom instruction

The Port Arthur Independent School District returned to the virtual classroom this week following a Hurricane Laura recess. Now, school officials are gearing up for a return to in-person learning, with the earliest students set to arrive on campus Monday.

Superintendent Mark Porterie said the district missed major destruction during the storm but did lose a week’s worth of instruction.

“We completed the first week of school and immediately had to close again due to the evacuation,” he said. “Our students returned to virtual learning this week and we are happy to be back in the routine. As long as COVID-19 is without a cure there will be challenges that we will address as they arise.”

Looking to the future, district officials are introducing phased reopening to get students back in desks and on campuses.

Porterie released instructions this week explaining Port Arthur ISD’s plans moving forward.

“There has been a six-month separation between staff and students,” he said. “The best plan for the PAISD is to stagger the return of students to ensure the practice of protocols that have been put in place and to give staff an opportunity to modify, if needed, what we have put in place.”

The district’s transitioning plan for in-person learning includes introducing grade levels one at a time.

Prekindergarten, Life Skills and Career and Education Technology students are the first to return to classes with entry dates of Sept. 14-18.

Ninth graders, first and second will follow the next week, Sept. 21-25. Third, sixth and 10th graders return Sept. 28-Oct. 1. Fourth, seventh and 11th graders will return on Oct. 5-9. Fifth, eighth and 12th graders return last on Oct. 12-16.

The staggered approach allows PAISD to control the influx of students while maintaining the safety of students and staff.

“PAISD promotes in-person learning for so many reasons,” Porterie said. “School is more than a place for formal learning. It is a refuge for so many of our children. We stress the importance of a routine being in place for children, but our parents also have routines that must be maintained. Parents have to work, and they need to feel confident that their children are being cared for both physically and academically and the PAISD is the best place for that.”

Many voices went into construction of the plan, including teachers, school board members, principals and administration.

Porterie said the majority of staff is ready to resume normal activity, with the understanding safety for all is of the utmost importance.

School Board President Brandon Bartie said he talked to some parents and they are ready for the school to open.

“I spoke to an individual a couple days ago, she works and her husband works, so her kid is with her uncle,” he said. “Everybody is pulling together to watch the kids, but it’s parents like her that need their students to go back to school and move forward to some type of normalcy.”

In-person learning will be limited to those whose parents chose that option during the registration period ending July 31.

Students that return to campus are required to wear a mask, bring their learning devices and follow all district guidelines.

Porterie anticipates approximately 2,000 students returning during the first phase of the transition.

“Parents need to keep in mind that this not a perfect plan, but it is the best plan for the present time,” he said. “We need the support of parents when it comes to strongly encouraging their children to wear masks and follow the protocols of the school. We can win at this if we are all moving in the same direction.”