DR. MARK PORTERIE — Port Arthur superintendent breaks down what goes into weather closure decisions

Published 12:22 am Saturday, April 2, 2022

On Tuesday (April 5), the state of Texas kicks off its Spring Assessment testing season with English 1 being the first administered test.

Testing season will continue through May 12, with 5th Grade Science being the last state assessment this school year. 2021-2022 has been dedicated to regaining learning lost from the invasion of the Coronavirus.

Our employees, students and parents must be commended for the work they have done to keep learning as our primary focus.

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Last week, our area witnessed inclement weather for a few hours out of the entire day. The question of whether we should close our schools or not is sometimes a difficult decision to make. I do not take these decisions lightly or make them based on a whim.

After listening to the meteorologist, tracking the storm, studying the weather and asking God what to do, the decision to delay classes for two hours was the right decision for PAISD. It amazes me that when inclement weather approaches, the first thought that comes to the minds of many is that schools must close.

Granted, I realize we are dealing with over 8,000 students, including bus riders, and 1,300 employees that also have to travel the roads. I strongly believe the educational system should be protected and not seen as the first system to close when bad weather is predicted, especially not before any other business in the city shuts down.

When it becomes easy to close schools because of what is in the forecast, this demeans the importance of education, and our children lose the value of what earning an education can do for them. If parents, adults and the community as a whole do not place the highest value on its educational system, how do we expect to instill the value of education in our children?

Working parents and adults were still expected to show up to their jobs on time the day we delayed the start of schools. The malls, beauty and barber shops, banks, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, everywhere – all businesses were open and operating at normal hours of operation.

Even with our 2-hour delay, a significant number of parents still dropped their children to our campuses at normal school hours. We knew that would happen and we happily welcomed them early. Staff had to be present and on time to receive them. That is why teachers were not directed to report to work late with our students.

We have been in the business of educating the children of Port Arthur for more than 120 years. We have experienced the gamut of weather situations, whether school is in session or not. Due to the fact that our education system has been interrupted over the last two years, our children, in particular, should be at school on time every day.

Our staff and students receive training and instruction on what to do in the event the weather is or becomes severe. We have practice drills for every emergency situation imaginable and we stand on the fact that student and staff safety is a priority as well as our charge to fully-educate our children.

We understand and hope you are in agreement that parents are the ultimate protectors of their child(ren). If parents are not in agreement with the decisions the district makes in the best interest of our students’ education, parents have the right to use their best judgment and make decisions about their children’s education and presence while also accepting the impact their decisions have on students or the consequences that result at the campus level.

If school is in session, and you decide to keep your child home because of the weather, understand that is an unexcused absence and too many unexcused absences have severe consequences on your child’s education.

You may have to postpone your planned summer vacation if your child is required to attend summer school due to excessive absences. Our job is to educate children, and we will continue to do just that.

It is important that our students actually listen to and follow our directives, instructions, rules and regulations because every last one of them serves a greater purpose than the opinions of those who disagree with them.

It is critical that parents support our protocols and insist their children do the same. When there is no parental support of our policies and procedures, it becomes that much more difficult for our children to support what we work so hard to do to keep them safe throughout the school day.

Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.