Response to GA-34Posted by Don Dunn on 3/5/2021 3:30:00 PM
On Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency provided guidance to schools across Texas regarding Governor Abbott's new executive order and how that affects school operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge all schools still face is to prevent, respond, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. TEA has stated that masks remain a requirement for schools but added "the governing body of a school system may modify or eliminate by formal action the mask-related requirements;" however, they did not lift the requirement of contact tracing. After careful consideration and abundance of caution, Van ISD has decided to complete the few remaining weeks of the academic year with our current COVID-19 safety measures in place. We will continue to prioritize student, staff, and community health by following our state and local health agencies' guidance as outlined in our current COVID-19 protocols and keep our mask policy in place. We believe masks still play an important role for several reasons:
Academic success & extracurricular opportunities for students: While we still offer remote learning opportunities, we believe children learn best when they are on campus. We want to ensure that our best effort is given to provide that opportunity by holding firm to our commitment to safety. Our COVID-19 policies and procedures have proven effective and played a significant role in allowing us to successfully keep our doors open for on-campus learning all year. In relation to the number of students and staff on campus, our number of COVID positive cases has been extremely low, and the number of individuals required to quarantine has remained relatively low. In addition to on-campus learning opportunities, our safety measures have also allowed our students to participate in all their normal extracurricular activities. Last spring, our students missed out on so many activities and experiences. We want to be sure we do everything within our power to prevent that from happening again. There are still many activities our students look forward to between now and the end of the school year such as UIL academic competitions, One Act Play, baseball, softball, track, tennis, golf, Ag shows, choir competitions, band and twirling competitions, prom, end of year banquets, and other fun events. Since TEA has not lifted our contact tracing requirements, masks play a significant role in keeping our students and staff out of quarantine, thereby allowing them to remain in the classroom and participate in the activities they love. Without masking in place, many more students would be subject to quarantine situations.
Safety: As always, the safety of students, staff, and faculty is our top priority, and we intend to hold firm to that commitment. We feel, for the time being, masks are one of the ways we can help keep everyone safe. Vaccines have been available for a short while for a select few and have just this week been made available to teachers and people who work in school settings.
We realize this is a very divisive issue and are carefully listening to and considering the concerns expressed by our students, faculty, and staff, as well as parents who have entrusted us with their children’s well-being and education. Our administrative team, along with the Board of Trustees, will continue to monitor the situation, review recommendations from the CDC as well as state and local public health authorities, and implement modifications to our policies when deemed appropriate.
Our ultimate goal is to provide quality education within a safe environment. We feel the best way to accomplish that is to finish out the remaining weeks of the school year with our current measures in place. Our hope is the 2021-2022 school year will not require these measures, and our students and staff will be able to return to a less restrictive environment. Until then, we ask that our students and staff remain committed to the health and wellbeing of all and continue following our COVID-19 protocols. We truly appreciate the continued grace, flexibility, and support our community and parents have offered us as we’ve navigated the challenges of this school year. Hold on just a little longer...we’re in the home stretch!
Don Dunn, Superintendent