Port Arthur, Mid County school districts detail mask plans for student return amid COVID surge

Published 3:58 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Students across Port Arthur and Mid County return to school today (Jan. 5), some wearing masks while others will not.

In addition, because there is no longer virtual learning, all students return to in-person classes, just as it was in the first half of the school year.

Port Arthur Independent School District sent out a reminder on Facebook for parents, guardians and students that masks are required.

“Snug-fitting face masks that cover the nose and mouth are still a requirement of all campuses’ dress codes, especially now,” the note read.

Adrinne Lott, media and communication specialist for the district, said masks were added to the dress code at the end of August.
Masks are required on campus and on the bus.

And while the district can provide masks, officials prefer parents to be the provider, she said.

Getting the COVID vaccine is also encouraged.

The Centers for Disease Control late last year authorized vaccines for children 5 and older.

PAISD campuses also provide COVID testing for students or parents.

Lott said the district continues sanitizing and disinfecting as it has been.

For the Nederland Independent School District, masks are not mandated but highly encouraged, communications coordinator Rene Latiolais said.

This is the same as it’s been all school year.

“Face coverings will not be required for staff, students, or visitors but are encouraged,” she said.

Operational procedures, as of Tuesday, remain the same as from August. Schools have hand sanitizer in classrooms, in the cafeteria and common areas throughout the campus, visitors will be allowed on campus according to standard visiting rules and custodial teams maintain a regular cleaning schedule to disinfect high-traffic and commonly used spaces throughout the instructional day, according to information from the district.

For Port Neches-Groves Independent School District, face coverings are optional for students, staff and campus visitors.

“The protocol is the same as it was at the beginning of the school year,” Julie Gauthier, assistant superintendent, said. “If a student is sick or has symptoms they should stay home.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shortened the quarantine period from 10 days to five days, as long as the person is no longer exhibiting symptoms.

The district continues all cleaning and sanitizing procedures that began with the 2020-21 school year.

Tuesday, the Port Arthur Health Department reported 110 positive cases of COVID for Mid and South County from Dec. 30 to Jan. 3.

It is believed most cases derive from the omicron variant, the first confirmed cases of which were verified in Jefferson County last week.

The newest COVID strain was first detected in South Africa in November, according to the CDC. It was then reported on Dec. 1 in California as the first U.S. case. Less than a week later, Texas saw its first case in Harris County.

“Projected large surges in cases indicate surges of hospital demand even if severity is reduced, because of the large number of anticipated cases occurring in a short period of time,” the CDC says.

The variant spreads more easily than delta, but it is unsure if the strain will produce severe illnesses. While vaccines are expected to lower the severity of cases and number of hospitalizations, break-through cases are expected.

– Monique Batson contributed to this story.