A group of concerned El Campo ISD parents are petitioning to switch to virtual learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and what they consider a lack of transparency from the administration.
The Texas Education Agency changed its guidelines as of Thursday afternoon, and now school districts must report if individuals with test-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been in school.
The required actions include notifying state and local health departments, submitting a report to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and informing all teachers, staff and families if a test-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified.
This is a reversal from earlier guidance that did not require school districts to report any COVID-related information to the public.
El Campo ISD Superintendent Bob Callaghan emailed students and staff on Friday morning regarding the updated TEA guidance.
“As soon as the information came out, I reached out to our nurses, board president and legal counsel,” Callaghan said. “We have now modified the agenda for our Tuesday board meeting to discuss and take possible action on current district procedure based on TEA guidance.”
El Campo ISD set up a COVID plan before the school began following TEA instruction not to report any positive tests to the public for the 2021-2022 school year.
This policy has led to parent Brianna Jimenez posting a petition online to switch to virtual learning because of what she considers a dangerous environment for students.
Jimenez claims in her petition that a teacher and student tested positive for COVID-19. ECISD will not comment on this claim due to current guidelines.
“We want our kids back to virtual learning,” Jimenez said. “Our kids health comes first, they’re failing our kids, we need to protect our babies.”
The petition has received 173 of the required 200 signatures to present to the superintendent, as of press time.
The new TEA guidelines do not discuss virtual learning, and Callaghan plans to continue face-to-face education moving forward.
“The TEA’s guidelines have been in-person learning, and as it stands right now, we are going with their guidance,” Callaghan said. “We will continually be evaluating our education guidance and procedures based on TEA, TDSHS and our legal counsel.”
Parent Jane Moctezuma has signed the petition and wants the school to consider student safety when making decisions.
“I think masks should be mandated, and I wish the school could go virtual for those who can do it,” Moctezuma said. “I just want all kids and teachers to be safe and to please notify us like last year. These are our kids, and we put them in their hands when we drop them off at school.”
Although there are more than 150 signatures in favor of the petition, not all parents agree with virtual learning.
“No one is making your child go to school. My kids need the activities, socialization, curriculum and a break from being stuck at home,” Kendall Macek said. “Teachers and students are working together to be clean and considerate of what’s going on, and we as parents should reinforce this as well. God has a plan, so let’s trust the process.”
The El Campo ISD School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 in the administration building, 700 W. Norris.