By Lisa Morton
Today is the first day of school at Valentine ISD for both in-person and remote learning for students. Superintendent Debbie Engle, now in her fifth year with the district, is excited to start the new year with students back in class, but believes that the transition for everyone, parents, students, teachers, staff and administrators, has been challenging. Because Texas Governor Greg Abbott stressed that local officials ‘know best’ how to reopen their schools, the district has taken him at his word in deciding to open.
While neighboring Culberson County-Allamoore ISD has delayed the start of school until September 8, due to increased community spread of the Covid-19 virus, Valentine ISD decided to go ahead with their reopening because there have been no reported cases of the virus in town. About 30% of students will be learning remotely with digital classes taught by teachers who have been honing their skills during the summer via in-service classes.The district will utilize “Google Classroom” as their Learning Management System (LMS), and each student has been assigned a Chromebook computer.The basketball season is still tentative, depending on student numbers, but Cross Country will be one sport that students will be able to participate in.
Although the population of Valentine is only about 150 people, the Valentine ISD student population is not restricted to Valentine residents only. Approximately half of 38 students enrolled are transfer students traveling from Van Horn and Marfa. Many of the 18 teachers, staff and administrators commute to Valentine or have dual residence. As with every district in the state, school opening will certainly test each districts’ ability to keep students safe and the town free from the virus.
As part of their effort to succeed, buses and vans will be sanitized after each use, quite a task given the routes that Valentine ISD runs daily. The school runs two buses daily on US Hwy 90. The route west toward Van Horn has several stops on FM2017 and Hwy 90 and the route east toward Marfa includes stops on FM505 and FM106.
Superintendent Engle said the district will follow all CDC, Texas Education Agency as well as Governor Abbott’s guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, and social distancing will be in place. Masks, face shields and desk shields for each student and teacher have been purchased and will be utilized. Breakfast and lunch routines have been changed to meet all safety protocols. Regular sanitizing with misting machines will be performed several times a day in bathrooms and populated areas with classrooms spot sanitized during the day as well.
Supt. Engle stated that Valentine ISD is excited to start the new year and have students back in the classroom.