Five school districts in the Rio Grande Valley are going back to school Monday, a week later than they planned, because of COVID-19.
Many of the burdens parents and students have felt since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 have been renewed with the latest omicron variant wave.
Erika Valdez, a mother of three sons in Derry Elementary at Point Isabel ISD said she and her sons are anxious about school starting up again.
“I try no to let it affect them so much, I’ll try to distract them as much as I can. Sometimes they feel like they can’t do anything, because they can get sick, they can get seriously ill or they can die,” Valdez said.
Valdez is vaccinated. She said her sons are not due to medical reasons.
Valdez began working from home in 2020, after she was laid off from her restaurant job on South Padre Island. Her sons were now attending school from home with three different grade levels of course work, often until 10 p.m.
“That was really hard,” she said. “It was like I was their teacher all day and all night until bedtime.”
Valdez said her sons’ education suffered from the remote learning. The boys eventually went back to school in-person in 2021, and plan to be back in the classroom Monday.
“It’s very, very scary,” Valdez said. “I do worry about what the school is going to do. Are they going to do anything extra? Are they cleaning? Are they sanitizing?”
PI-ISD was one five districts in Cameron County who opted to delay the start of their spring semester during this latest spike in COVID-19 cases at the start of the new year. The delay, according to PI-ISD Superintendent Teri Capistran, was to give the district a chance to catch up.
“This week [was] affording our school district an opportunity for not only our students to get identified [for being COVID positive] but even our staff members,” Capistran said. “We started off on Monday with a number, and I believe it was about 14, [Thursday] we’re at 28 COVID positives, just in our staff members. So, in a small district, that is a high number.” Point Isabel ISD has around 320 staff members and 2,200 students across five campuses, according to the National Center of Education Statistics. The district has had more staff and students contract COVID-19 in the last week than they have in the past 18 months of the pandemic, Capistran said.
“There was that sense of we’re at the tail end, or we-have-this-under-control mentality,” Capistran said. “And now it’s almost like, “let’s go back and tighten up our seat belt again.’”