Originally delivered on 8/27/2021 2:12 pm

SUBJECT: Health Update from Bethany PTA

The Bethany Bunch

August 27, 2021

Dear PTA Families –

As you are aware, COVID positive cases are climbing at Bethany Elementary.  While the PISD Dashboard (link) is frozen at 13 student and 3 staff as of Sunday, our positive case count is at a minimum of 22 known positives, including both students and staff. Bethany Elementary’s 2019-20 TEA official population was 338. Some easy math tells you that 6% of our student population is COVID positive at 11 days into the school year. Several of these cases are concentrated in specific classes.

Page 18 of the PISD Return to School Plan 2021-2022 (link) has levels stating the following:

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,

Anna Hulse

Bethany Elementary PTA President

Remote Conferencing

If your student tests positive for COVID, or is determined to be a close contact of a positive case, remote conferencing is an available option. From page 9 of of the PISD Return to School Plan 2021-2022 (link):

Students who miss school due to illness or quarantine will be eligible for Remote Conferencing. School nurses may recommend placement in our Remote Conference environment.

Remote conferencing allows students who qualify the opportunity to have synchronous or live instructional facilitation for 2 hours per day for students PK-5, and 4 hours each day for students in grades 6-12. As such, students will not be counted absent, they will be “present” and the attendance will be marked “RC” for Remote Conferencing.

The remote conferencing teachers are Plano ISD teachers from our Guinn SPC and substitutes, the home campus teacher will remain the teacher of record.  

This allows students to keep up with classroom learning and assignments while not being overburdened with make-up work upon their return to school.

If you are interested in learning more about this option, please contact Mr. Bird or Mrs. Miller.

PISD Mask Mandate

All students, teachers, staff members and visitors, including parents and volunteers, will be required to wear masks indoors at all district facilities and on school buses. Students and staff have the option to remove their masks while seated during meals and while outdoors. Specifically for athletics, performing arts and physical education, masks will be worn consistently except when the mask inhibits a student's full participation in the activity.

For full details, read the announcement here (link)

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