By Gaige Davila
Point Isabel Independent School District (PI-ISD), now with all of its campuses closed for another month, is making changes to its response programs as novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads throughout Texas.
Texas Governor Abbott extended a previous executive order closing all Texas schools to May 4. Abbott’s initial executive order closed all Texas schools until April 4 during a press conference on March 31.
PI-ISD’s food distribution program, organized by the district child nutrition department is now on only Mondays and Wednesdays, rather than Monday through Friday. Child nutrition department staff are now wearing face masks, courtesy of Noble Texas Builders, along with gloves and surgical masks.
On Mondays, children receive two breakfast and lunch meals: one for Monday and one for Tuesday. On Wednesdays, children receive three breakfast and lunch meals for the rest of the weekdays.
The modification was also made to keep the district’s child nutrition department staff at home and limit their exposure.
The meals are still distributed from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Garriga and Derry Elementary and Port Isabel High School.
On Wednesday, April 1, more than 2,000 meals were given to families. More meals had to be made after child nutrition department staff ran out at around 12:45 p.m. with several families still waiting in line. Garriga and Derry Elementary gave out a little less than 2,000 meals each.
“From last week to this week, we’re hearing parents saying that they’ve been furloughed,” PI-ISD superintendent Theresa Capistran told the PRESS. “So, the financial impact is really hitting families.”
Capistran stressed the program will feed any child that comes to pick up food, regardless if they’re students within the district. Staff are handing out bumper stickers with “#TarponStrong” written on them, as part of their response plan.
Starting next week, PI-ISD is decreasing the amount of assignments and or grades needed from students, who are now being instructed completely online. Initially, five grades were collected weekly. Now, there will be only one to two grades collected for the week.
Those changes, Capistran said, were made after teachers and parents gave feedback to the district. The assignment reduction was made to alleviate the workload on families and teachers.
“Our plan that we rolled out two weeks ago was with the idea that we might be out a week, maybe two, so we tried to keep the curriculum as much in line to mimic our instructional day,” Capistran said. “Now, we’re seeing that this is a long term problem: we’re going to be home for at least another month, maybe longer.”
Asked whether PI-ISD students were going to finish the school year online, Capistran said there are still a few weeks of instructional time after May 4 and is hopeful school can return then.
“A month from now, the goal is that our area will be safe enough to come back,” Capistran said. “But we will not come back if it is not safe for our kids and our staff to return.”
Along with schools, gyms, bars, in-room dining in restaurants, hair salons and tattoo studios will remain closed until April 30, according to Governor Abbott’s new executive order.