Commentary | Learning in the time of COVID-19

By Ken Baugh

Superintendent of Schools
Culberson County-Allamoore Independent School District

Howdy, all. We are in our 2nd week of coming back live, ending our 1st six weeks. We are seeing some COVID-19 cases, but are starting to see sinus and regular flu cases as well. We move very quickly to quarantine staff and students. We make contact with parents and staff within a few hours of being notified of possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19. We follow the requirements and guidelines of the CCAISD COVID-19 Protocols, the Texas Governor, Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Department of Health Services in determining decisions concerning when to quarantine, how to deal with COVID-19, and reporting.

We understand that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and are learning how to operate safely at school. It has been very impressive how our staff, parents, and students have been taking precautions such as making mask-wearing and social distancing a normal part of the day. I know everyone is tired of hearing the word COVID. We wear masks, physically stay further away from each other more than usual, our hands get chapped from all the washing, and we are always quarantining someone. The problem is that COVID is not tired of spreading. We can not get tired either.

Please help us keep school going live and stay vigilant on COVID-19 precautions. The face mask is still the most important precaution, but it really only works if most everyone is wearing it most of the time. Keeping social distance is another really good method, along with handwashing. We get updates continually and one that we get is from Senator Jose Rodriguez from our District 29. He noted that on 10-2-20, El Paso had it’s highest single-day count of new COIVID-19 cases since July. El Paso’s Positivity Rate was 9.62%. Culberson County has approximately a 13.6% Positivity Rate. Health authorities consider “community spread” to be under control and safe to reopen at 5%. It really takes everyone helping, that’s why it is called “community spread.” I am thinking that the term should be “community care.” Taking care of each other and protecting each other.

We were told by other school districts that opened before we did, they are seeing some amazing examples of how clever a teacher can be when finding ways to educate in this very crazy and changing time. We still have bumps in the road, but we seem to be taking them in stride. It is true, some of our teachers are very clever and extremely determined. We are in the middle of a pandemic and our teachers are not defeated.

For example, several of our Elementary teachers sent word that they needed Stemscope Science software and materials added to their toolbelt in the younger grades. The older grades in Elementary were already using it. They believe that they can increase student learning over even what we used to do before COVID. They already had me add Stemscopes Math in elementary and a phonic program for the younger grades. Secondary was already deep into Math and Science programs added last year.

We set a record for dual credit charges from Odessa College this semester. We will have more students taking college courses working towards an Associates Degree by the time they graduate high school. We started VHTECH (Van Horn Technology Early College High School) this semester. We added college credit classes happening on our campus with our own teachers. Last year we had students that were 8th grade junior high and this year, they are in their first college semester. All this and more during a global pandemic.

Be safe, be healthy, and be kind to someone today.