El Campo schools will likely resume normal operations Monday, after the state-wide winter storm shut down campuses for four days, while Louise schools are scheduled to reopen Tuesday, taking one extra day to prepare.
“The plan right now is to reopen on Monday,” El Campo ISD Superintendent Bob Callaghan told the Leader-News Thursday.
ECISD and Louise ISD were closed Tuesday through Friday this week, after below freezing temperatures brought snow, ice and power outages to Wharton County and all of Texas. Students were already scheduled to have Monday off, due to the Presidents’ Day holiday, so district leaders first opted to close schools Tuesday, since local roads were coated with ice and snow.
Like ECISD, St. Philip Catholic Schools aim to return on Monday, after being closed Tuesday through Friday this week.
Both local districts scheduled faculty training for Monday, but were forced to cancel due to the storm. LISD will hold that training this upcoming Monday instead.
“LISD is pushing back the missed week,” LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver told the Leader-News Thursday. “The faculty and staff work day on Monday will give us a day to get all systems – water, Internet, heat – back on and repair any leaks, electricity problems, etc.”
Temperatures are predicted to remain above freezing over the weekend, and the school boards for both districts plan to meet Tuesday. With at least four days of school missed due to the storm, district leaders plan to request a waiver for the lost class time so that it doesn’t need to be made up later in the school year.
“According to what I’ve seen from our Region 3 director, TEA has granted a five-day waiver for those days, so they would not have to be made up,” Oliver said.
Texas school districts are required to have 75,600 instructional minutes each school year. Both superintendents plan to address the TEA waiver process at the upcoming Tuesday school board meetings.
The ECISD maintenance department spent Friday assessing district facilities, looking for burst pipes and possible ice damage. Work repairing the facilities could last into the weekend, but campuses are anticipated to be in working condition by Monday.
“We have found some damage, and our maintenance department, led by Jeff Balkar and all of his crew, is doing an exceptional job getting to all the campuses and doing repairs,” Callaghan said.
St. Philip’s facilities are already in good shape for Monday, Administrative Secretary Mandy Stary told the newspaper Friday, while LISD’s maintenance department will check the district’s campuses for damage before Monday.
Communicating with students, parents and the community posed a challenge this week, since many locals lost cell phone and internet reception, district leaders said.
“When our power goes down in Louise, our cell tower goes down too,” Oliver said.
Districts posted closure updates to their websites and social media pages, notified local radio stations and sent out automated messages to parents’ phones, as they monitored the weather daily.
“We reached out through all avenues that we could ... to try to communicate with as many people as we could,” Callaghan said.
Just like students and teachers, many locals will resume their daily routines this coming week, going back to work after a week stuck at home without power or water.
“It’s been hard on families, and if there’s any way the school system can help, we are here to be a positive force in the community,” Callaghan said.