MONIQUE BATSON — How will COVID impact the new school year?
The start of a new school year is, for most parents, a bit stressful. There’s the buying of clothes and supplies, a change in routines, securing transportation and childcare. And now, COVID.
The virus hasn’t left, but many of the safety precautions put in place last year have. Governor Greg Abbott has issued a multitude of orders that change the way districts are allowed to control the potential spread of the virus.
How you parent your children is up to you.
Ensuring you have the facts to help you do so is up to me.
So, in order to avoid constructing this editorial in any way that can be misconstrued as fear-mongering, I am going to give you strictly facts and cite its source, as if it were a news article.
- No public school in Texas can require students, teachers, parents, faculty members or visitors to wear a mask on campus. Those that do are subject to a $1,000 fine. (Gov. Greg Abbott, executive order, May 18)
- Under a bill currently in the Texas House during a special session that began Aug. 7, in-person learning will be available to any student whose parent wants it. (The Office of the Texas Governor, Aug. 5.)
- The aforementioned legislation has not been passed as the House has failed to meet quorum for the second time. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 10)
- Students diagnosed with COVID should not attend school for 10 days or longer if they have not been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication. (Texas Health and Human Services, July 30)
- To help identify asymptomatic cases, a district can conduct rapid testing on students with parent’s permission. Schools “should” but are not required to do contract tracing or notify parents if their child has come in close contact with a COVID-positive individual on campus. Parents of a child that is known to have come in close contact with a positive individual may opt to quarantine their child for 10 days. (Texas Education Agency, Aug. 5)
- More than 5,800 Texas children have been hospitalized with COVID since the pandemic began — 783 admitted between July 1 and Aug. 9. In addition to COVID, thousands of children have tested positive for RSV, a common but often serious respiratory illness in children, within the last few weeks. (Houston Chronicle, Aug. 13)
- In the event a school district does not abide by the current orders, Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton this week said they intend to take those districts to court. Paxton also said the state may pull funding from said districts, as well. (The Texas Tribune, Aug. 13)
- On Thursday alone, 176 Jefferson County residents were diagnosed with COVID, 32 of which were between the ages of 0-20. (City of Beaumont, City of Port Arthur, Aug. 12)
- Currently 40.7 percent of Jefferson County residents ages 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. (City of Beaumont, Aug. 12)
- An estimated 185,620 people in Texas were COVID-positive on Friday. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 52,931 fatalities due to the virus. (Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Aug. 13)
Now, here’s what you can expect locally:
- Districts will continue disinfecting campuses and buses on a daily basis and encourage safe practices such as frequent hand washing. (PNG Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales, Aug. 9)
- Parents are encouraged to continue enforcing masks among their children and get vaccinations if applicable. (PAISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie, Aug. 11)
- Vaccines are available at no cost to everyone 12 and older at the Texas Artist’s Museum, 3501 Cultural Center Drive, in Port Arthur. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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