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Check out Port Arthur ISD’s plan to address attendance drain, limited English-speaking students

Port Arthur Independent School District is looking to recover the hundreds of students who have not returned following the pandemic.

To help with the task, trustees approved the creation of a Student Recovery Coordinator this week.

“All of us have heard about students that we’ve lost over COVID,” PAISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said, adding a number of former students did not register for the last school year.

“We have students that are working, that choose not to come to school, and we have to regain not only their confidence but their engagement,” he said. “And we have to figure out how we can, maybe, still allow them to work; but know that they have to come to school. We have students that have gotten accustomed to staying in bed throughout the day and learning while at home, but those students have to come back to school.”

The person in the position will work with managers of businesses and with parents to get students back on campus as quickly as possible.

Porterie estimates a loss of 300-500 students.

He said the person who will be hired for the task will be an administrator and the job will not be to knock on doors.

Porterie said the district will look for a company to work with to help find phone numbers, email addresses and locations. The final details have not been ironed out but the superintendent expects to get the process started soon.

Porterie explained the importance of bringing back the lost students.

“If we have a student who’s enrolled in the district when we left (COVID-19) and they leave and they don’t enroll anywhere else, they’re considered a dropout and who gets dinged for the job,” he said, indicating the district is held accountable.

A high dropout rate, as identified by the Texas Education Commissioner, reflects poorly on a district. According to the Texas Education Agency, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools with high dropout rates must submit a plan that identifies how they will use the compensatory education allotment and high school allotment for developing and implementing research-based strategies for dropout prevention.

Each fall, Texas school districts report to TEA on student attendance or enrollment for grades 7-12 for the previous year.

Districts submit a “leaver record” for each student who left the district and was not accounted for by TEA.

Texas schools are funded by the number of students in attendance. Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott and state education officials announced Texas will fully fund school districts that have seen an attendance drop during the pandemic as long as they maintain or increase the rate of students learning in person, according to the Texas Tribune.

School Board President Brandon Bartie said there are many students that are registered with Port Arthur but not in school.

“With creation of the job comes the responsibility to go to find those kids and get them back in school,” he said.

Bartie said in order to clear the dropout rate the Student Recovery Coordinator can go out into the field and speak with those individuals still registered.

And for those working full time while also trying to juggle virtual learning, the coordinator will speak with employers and see if they can offer a solution.

“The end game is to make sure they get their education,” Bartie said.

In other business

Trustees also created the position of ESL Instructional Coach.

The district already has two instructional coaches at the high school but is looking at 18 percent or approximately 360 limited English proficient students at the high school.

“We have some concerns with the fail, pass and not getting all of them to write. We have concerns with Career and Technical. Those students do a wonderful job at CATE but we need some help getting them to be successful at the curricular content area,” Porterie said.

“Our instructional coaches do a wonderful job, but we need someone who can focus in on that.”