Despite President Joe Biden’s executive order on COVID vaccines and testing, nothing has changed in regard to Ector County ISD students and staff members.
Gov. Greg Abbott has also issued an executive order forbidding mask mandates, which is being litigated in the courts.
“… We’re continuing to monitor decisions that are made at the state and federal level, but as of today there are no changes in our protocols,” Superintendent Scott Muri said in his media call Wednesday.
“Our high was about 110 cases in one day that was a very large number of cases between students and staff members … Last week, we started seeing numbers in the upper 40s, 50s and 60s, so we saw a little bit of a decline. This week, we’ve seen numbers in the 30s, but primarily this week it is because we are not able to conduct tests right now,” Muri said.
“Our new tests have not arrived from the state yet and the tests we were using have now expired. We cannot use them anymore and we know because we have been testing students and staff members every single day at school, our inability to do that right now has resulted in lower test numbers. The numbers that we are receiving come from local doctors and families that are getting tests then they report those to the individual schools. Once we have testing equipment back in place, I’ll be very curious to see.”
But the decline in numbers is good news, Muri said.
The tests expired over the weekend. The district had anticipated that and had already placed an order.
“The state has millions of tests available. We are just waiting on that shipment, much like other districts across the state. There are over 800 districts in Texas that are using these tests, so we’re all waiting on those next shipments,” Muri said.
On a different subject, Muri said Opportunity Culture now exists in 17 schools throughout ECISD. Texas Tech University conducted an evaluation of the program and presented their findings to the ECISD Board of Trustees Tuesday night.
“… We will continue to expand that program so that more of our students have access to great teachers and then more of our teachers have access to outstanding coaching opportunities from their peers,” Muri said. “We appreciate the investment that Texas Tech has made in this effort and appreciate the work of our teachers and all of those individuals that are involved in our Opportunity Culture program.”
Muri also asked for parents’ help on meals. The district provides free breakfast and lunch to all students every day, but needs the information to continue the practice. He noted that significant state and federal funding also is attached.
“It is that time of year in which we are gathering our free and reduced lunch forms, as well as income surveys. (For) our elementary students, we are asking all of our families to submit a very simple to complete income survey. And our middle school and high school students, those families that qualify for free and reduced lunch we’re asking that you submit those forms,” Muri said.
He noted that ECISD provides a free meal for everyone. However, “in order for us to continue to do that for every child in ECISD we need to collect that information from all of our families.”
“Many of the dollars that we receive are specifically tied to our students, 56 percent of which normally qualify as economically disadvantaged, and in order for us to receive funding for those students we need to know who they are and how many of those students we have. This income survey is the only way that we have of understanding how many of our families, specifically our students, would qualify for that programming …,” Muri added.
As an incentive for middle school and high school students to make sure those forms are submitted, a random drawing will be conducted at each of middle school and high school where students can win a new MacBook Air.
On another topic, Midland ISD on Wednesday issued a news release warning students not to take a TikTok challenge that involves stealing items from campuses such as soap dispensers.
Muri said he was unaware of the MISD announcement and of this particular TikTok challenge. He added that being familiar with TikTok, he knows there are many challenges on it and they are “dangerous to children.”
“… So I would certainly encourage any of our students that are using TikTok to fully understand when you watch those videos and see those challenges you make sure that you’re making decisions that are … for your own safety and health concerns. Certainly keep all of that in mind and if we have any students that are stealing any kind of item from campus, of course those are criminal offenses and we wouldn’t want any of our students to end up dealing with criminal charges because of that kind of behavior,” Muri said.