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'Our approach will be in-person schooling' | Port Neches-Groves ISD's reopening plan does not include online options

The district released their school reopening plan Monday night during the Board of Trustees meeting

PORT NECHES, Texas — With schools set to reopen next month across Southeast Texas, at least one school district will not plan to offer online options for students and parents.

Port Neches-Groves ISD released their reopening plans on Monday night. Noticeably absent from the 2020-21 School Year Health Guidance document, which was presented to the PNGISD Board of Trustees, was an option for online learning.

"There is nothing that will replace in-person teaching period," said Assistant Superintendent Julie Gauthier. She says, right now, remote learning isn't an option.

"Virtual learning is hard to meet the individual needs of our students. There are social and emotional things going on. Kids need food, breakfast and lunch provided for them. There is the social interaction that our kids have not had for five months," said Gauthier. 

Here's how things are expected to work:

If a student has health problems confirmed by a doctor and cannot attend class, there is an option for home-bound learning. Students can also opt for home schooling or transfer to another district that offers virtual learning.

"One thing our parents need to expect is that we will be sending kids home a lot more in the beginning just because we are not sure, and they will need to follow the re-entry guidelines to come back," said Gauthier.

On Facebook, the district replied to concerns from parents with: "Our approach this year will be in-person schooling. Any individual questions regarding your child and in-person attendance should also be directed to your child’s campus."

Instead, the district says they will be focusing on screening, isolation and cleaning among other new protocols detailed in their reopening plan.

"While it is not possible to eliminate all risk of furthering the spread of COVID-19, the current science suggests there are many steps schools can take to reduce the risks to students, teachers, staff and their families significantly," the district said in their guidance plan.

The Texas Education Agency has not yet released official requirements for schools. On July 7, the TEA said they wanted flexible learning options for parents and districts "based on the ever-changing conditions of this public health crisis."

However, the TEA's latest guidelines doesn't go as far. 

"Any parent may request that their student be offered virtual instruction from any school system that offers such instruction," the TEA said. "If a parent requests virtual instruction and the school does not offer it, the parent may enroll in another school that does offer it for transfer students."

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The district has laid out self-screening guidelines for students and staff. The district says that "absences will not count against students for exemptions or extra-curricular activities this school year."

PNG is contracting with OZONE USA to sanitize schools through the ventilation systems. The district says each classroom, high-touch areas and restrooms will be disinfected throughout the school day. They also say that hand sanitizer will throughout the campus and inside every classroom.

The district says specific campuses may need to close for 12-24 hours for sanitation and that closures will be treated like "bad weather days" with the district allotting 15 extra days built in for possible school closures.

RELATED: Abbott on schools starting back up in the fall: 'We will need to be flexible'

PNG says that students, teachers and staff who show symptoms must remain off campus until they meet re-entry criteria. They are also required to report if they had close contact with an individual who is lab-confirmed with COVID-19 and remain off campus until the 14-day incubation period has passed.

READ: PNG'S SCHOOL YEAR HEALTH CLARIFICATION DOCUMENT

The reopening document does not address how student absences will be counted and if teachers will be paid during the 14-day incubation period or be forced to use personal time.

The district says they will comply with Governor Abbott's executive order requiring face masks. Face masks are also required by the Texas Education Agency when students are in large groups. PNG will also require masks for staff taking the bus to school.

PNG says that it's possible that their current back-to-schools plans change based on guidance from state or local officials.

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