PNGISD Superintendent: Classroom sanitizing, other COVID-protection measures will continue

Published 12:28 am Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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With less than a week before the first day of school, and as incoming 9th graders packed the high school hallways for orientation, Port Neches-Groves ISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales on Monday stressed the 2021-22 school year would not be much different than the first. 

Last year, it was the only district in Region V not to offer virtual classes. 

“I know you see a lot of kids out there in the halls,” he said during Monday night’s PNGISD board meeting. “They’re excited to come back. Everybody is really excited about getting back to work and bringing those kids back into the classroom. Nothing has really changed. We’re going to continue to do the same things that we’ve always done. Everything that we did last year to make us successful are the same things we’re going to to this year.”

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Currently, the Delta variant is causing a surge in virus cases that have prompted many people to return to masks and social distancing. However, under executive orders by Gov. Greg Abbott, public schools cannot currently force students or employees to wear masks. 

“Last year when we came back there was no vaccines,” Gonzales said. “People came back to school, kids came back to school and they were wearing masks. Now we’re giving people the option not to wear masks if they don’t want to. I think that’s important for us to do. There was no vaccine then; there are vaccines now. It’s now a personal choice.”

On Monday, the Port Arthur Health Department announced 56 new cases in Mid and South Counties — 13 in Groves, five in Port Neches. PNGISD this week had to cancel a Tuesday volleyball scrimmage after four players tested positive for the virus. 

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However, Gonzales said the district would continue fogging, or sanitizing, classrooms two to three times a day and transportation vehicles after each trip. 

“We know that we’re going to continue doing the same thing that we’ve always done,” the superintendent said. “We’re going to continue to be as safe as possible. Every chance we get we’re going to fog, we’re going to encourage our kids to clean their hands, we’re going to encourage all the little things that helped us be successful last year when it was hot and heavy with COVID-19.”

In May, the district announced a surplus of $5 million that was to be granted to the school to reimburse COVID-related costs. Gonzales said then the money would be put back into the staff. 

Last month, the district announced a 6 percent raise for employees. 

While the governor’s orders say a school cannot mandate masks, parents can still ask their children to take such precautions if warranted. 

Those 12 and older can be vaccinated in Port Arthur at the Texas Artist’s Museum, 3501 Cultural Center Drive, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Port Arthur Health Department serves all Mid and South county residents.