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Port Neches-Groves ISD prepares for next week’s opening – “People are ready to be back.”

PORT NECHES — The Port Neches-Groves Independent School District will be the first district in the Golden Triangle to return to in-person classes on Aug. 19.

Educators, administrators and school board members are preparing the final steps for student arrival.

Superintendent Mike Gonzales visited two campuses Monday including Taft Elementary and the Early Childhood Education Center.

Taft Elementary Principal Staci Gary said she is ready to see some normalcy.

“It really was a great day,” she said. “It was super positive. People are ready for normalcy. People are ready to be back. We know there are kiddos who need us, so we are ready for that.”

Gary said she’s been praying everyday with Woodcrest Elementary Principal Angela Abel.

“I think there was just a peace across our district (Monday),” Gary said. “It’s not just the two of us communicating together, we have a group text going on and overall it was a great day for everyone.”

Abel said the virtual convocation went well.

“The convocation was really nice,” she said. “The support that the (board) has given to us is unprecedented and we appreciate it. These are uncharted waters. I’ve been in education for 27 years and we don’t have the answers. We know we don’t have all the answers, we know we aren’t going to be perfect but we are trying our best. The teachers are pumped and really ready to go. They are excited and doing amazing with everything.”

Gonzales said his visit did reveal the eagerness of teachers and principals.

“Everybody is excited and ready to come back,” he said. “They are a little nervous, as they should be, but we made sure that they all understood that we are all hoping for the best. We are trying to do what’s best for our kids and make sure that we follow the guidance of the health department.”

PNGISD’s main focus is bringing students back to a safe and familiar environment.

“I know that our kids need to come back,” Gonzales said. “We have kids in these homes, and this is being said all over the state of Texas, that are being verbally, physically and sexually abused. There are kids that are not eating well; they need to come to school. School is a safe place for them and that’s what we are trying to do. To provide the safest possible environment that we can.”

The district’s guidelines include enforcing all students over the age of 10 to wear a mask, keep proper social distance, hand washing and sanitizing techniques.

Gonzales said all campuses are prepared.

“We know that there are many students out there today that are not wearing a mask, not social distancing, not washing their hands, not doing all the things that could ease the spread of this pandemic,” he said.

“We feel like if we could get these kids back into our buildings where we can have them for eight hours a day, we can make them we wear a mask, we can make them wash their hands and social distance as best as we can. We feel like that is better than nothing.”

Gonzales said he is receiving pointers from Bridge City ISD’s superintendent on the do’s and don’ts of reopening a campus.

Bridge City students returned to school last week.

“It’s always good to take information from those individuals who are already going through this, who are already seeing the issues that this is going to create for our schools and our students,” he said. “We are going to take that information and use it to our advantage. We don’t know everything, but we are doing the best we can.

“This is totally new. For 25 years, I’ve been in the education field and we are totally reinventing the wheel and that is not easy. We are going to fail at times and when we fail we will do the best to fix the problems that we have.”