This is the third in a series of articles where I communicate how things are going with our community. I am writing this article on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday break. Thanksgiving always provides us with the opportunity to change our outlook on our situation and count our blessings. Despite the challenges, twists, turns, and bumps along the way, things are really going very well. Perspective is a powerful tool in that it provides us the opportunity to gain insight into the trials and tribulations of others while finding the blessings in our own circumstances.
Our local context is important to us all, but I have found perspective in staying aware of the larger context at the state and national level. Did you know that there are more than 5.4 million students who are enrolled in Texas public schools? However, as of November 15, 2020 only 2.8 million of those students have been able to attend school on their campuses. That means that 2.6 million children have been learning virtually since August across the state of Texas!
At the time I was writing this article, we as a community were experiencing a rapid increase in positive cases that led to numerous staff and students being quarantined. I think it is very important to note that the number of positive cases in the Pampa ISD has stayed very low. Less than 1 percent of our students were positive and less than three percent of the staff were positive at the time of this article. The bigger impact on the school system is the number of staff and students that must be quarantined as a result of the larger covid-19 issues going on in our community. At this same time, we had 17 percent of our staff quarantined and 11 percent of our students in quarantine.
Yes, Pampa ISD has had a few days of virtual instruction recently at our junior high and yes, we are monitoring our local cases very closely. However, MOST of our students have been able to attend on campus in a safe and healthy learning environment since August! This is a blessing! Please know that this closure was NOT due to an outbreak of cases on the campus, but a response to staffing issues due to numerous adults being quarantined throughout the community that influenced our staff’s ability to come to work. We did recently close down a 3rd grade class at one of our elementary schools (Travis) due to a combination of covid-19 cases AND numerous quarantines at the student and staff level. This was a very short shutdown lasting only two days.
COVID-19 Testing Site
Another update that we believe will be a blessing is beginning November 30, 2020, the Pampa ISD will be an official COVID-19 testing site associated with the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM). We will ONLY be testing staff and students and have a phase in plan to begin with symptomatic staff and students and will eventually move to a screening process as conditions, time and supplies dictate. We have been able to do some small scale testing this week and have been able to provide information to staff and a couple of students with timely results (most within 15 minutes). This will help us do our very best at keeping our students at school and our staff teaching/working on our campuses.
There are many things going on in our district that have nothing to do with COVID-19. Thank goodness! Some of the things that we have been working on include providing interventions to our students to mitigate the learning loss they experienced from the spring. All of our campus leadership teams have worked diligently to develop focused campus-wide strategies and goals to keep our campuses moving forward to continuous improvement. We have several community/stakeholder committees working on numerous focused projects. Our Career and Technical Education (CTE) department is has been working with local businesses on creating a new vision for our programs through a Steering Committee. Additionally, we have a Task Force that has been researching and studying the possibilities of making a configuration change to grade levels at our elementary campuses. We have conducted parent and staff surveys and most recently completed our parent/staff Focus Group meetings. These conversations have provided a great deal of insight and feedback to our committee. The Board of Trustees will be deliberating these concepts at the upcoming Board meetings in December and January.
Thanksgiving Blessings and What’s Next?
Our students and staff are working hard and are ready for the Thanksgiving break! Our prayer is that we will be able to return to in-person instruction on our campuses when we return after the break. However, with the local situation escalating, we are prepared to move to virtual instruction if necessary. We appreciate the continued support and patience of our parents and community as we continue to navigate this every-changing journey in 2020! As always, we welcome the feedback and input of our stakeholders. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and let us know what you are thinking! On behalf of the staff in Pampa ISD, we wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.
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