I messaged with Mr. Bird, Collin County Judge Chris Hill and the Elementary Executive Team for PISD about this. In addition, I invited PISD’s Director for District Health Services, Staci Antelo, to our PTA Board meeting Thursday morning to further discuss what options Bethany Elementary, PISD, and CCHSC have to control the positive case count at Bethany. Staci Antelo, BSN, RN, NCSN, was very gracious to give us almost an hour of her day to answer our questions and discuss our concerns. I am grateful to her for taking this time to speak with the Executive Board.
Here is a summary of the issues:
- TEA has mandated that ISDs do not contact trace – the county will.
- Collin County Health Services Center (CCHSC) is short staffed and is not doing contact tracing themselves. They forward cases to the state and Texas Health Trace will do the contact tracing.
- For PISD, an antigen (rapid) OR a PCR positive test result equals a positive COVID case. For the county and state, only PCR counts as a positive case and is reported. The others are ‘probable’ cases.
- Collin County Judge Chris Hill has stated that CCHSC does not have the authority to close schools for disease spread in the case of COVID.
- TEA has told school districts that they cannot close classrooms/facilities due to COVID. Also, they cannot mandate quarantining in cases of close contact. If a school district does close due to COVID, they will not receive a temporary attendance waiver like they might for a flu outbreak. Any missed days must be made up. For an individual school, this would mean they continue after the school district is closed. For PISD, we would add those days to the end of the school year.
- To truly break transmission, facilities need to close for a minimum of 14 days. However, this will not prevent community spread.
- If a school district advocates for anything other than in person learning, they face the real possibility of losing funding. Because of Bethany’s positive case count, PISD started “strongly encouraging” students in close contact of several positive cases in a class to choose the remote conferencing option. While this is available and sanctioned, PISD is taking a risk with this wording. PISD is doing it because it is the right thing to do.
- Bethany Elementary currently has the highest positive case percentage in PISD. Unfortunately, other PISD schools positive case percentages are climbing as well.
- Advocating to our elected officials in the Texas Legislature, County Leadership and our TEA commissioner is the best way to let them know how their policies are affecting our school community. Hearing from constituent parents has a larger effect than hearing from Superintendents, school administrators and teachers. Our local elected officials are:
In the last 2 days, I have personally been in communication with PISD Superintendent Sara Bonser, PISD’s Director for District Health Services Staci Antelo and extensively with our Principal Bryan Bird. Each of these people are dedicated and doing the ultimate best that they can for all PISD students and staff. They hear and feel our frustrations. They want what is best for our students both for their health and their education. This situation is not ideal, and they are doing the best they can within the guidelines, mandates, and executive orders they have been given by state and county government.
Because of my messages this week, PISD has been assigned a different epidemiologist at CCHSC who is much more responsive to our staff. Respectful, passionate, professional advocacy can affect change.
If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, Mr. Bird, or Mrs. Miller.
Stay healthy, Be safe,
Bethany Elementary PTA President