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Infection numbers “significantly lower” than in other districts, superintendent says
Pearsall school board members took no action to change the district’s mask mandate Wednesday, September 15, leaving in place an oder that requires all students and staff to wear the protective gear inside all buildings.
The temporary mask mandate was drafted at the end of August after research showed that the school district had recorded 19 cases of coronavirus among its staff and student population. The order took effect Aug. 30.
Last week’s no-action decision by the board leaves the order in place for another month. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nobert Rodriguez has indicated administrators will continue monitoring the order’s effectiveness in slowing or preventing the further spread of COVID-19 across the district’s four campuses.
“The board continues to support the mask mandate,” the superintendent said. “The general feeling is that the protocols in place are important to the safety of the kids and employees.
“I continue to thank the community, students, and employees for supporting the well-being of each other,” Supt. Rodriguez added, “by wearing face masks inside school facilities.”
According to Dr. Rodriguez, the numbers (positive COVID-19 cases) at Pearsall ISD have been significantly lower than other districts. As of September 16, there were 19 active COVID cases among students and only two active COVID cases among district employees.
The school district administration made the move to order mask wearing indoors after Supt. Rodrigez conceded that standard sociakl-distancing protocols would be hard to maintain once all campuses were filled with students. The school district began its academic year in August with all instruction offered in class and all students present. The distance-learning programs and remote instruction offered by Pearsall ISD during the 2020-21 academic year have ended.
Supt. Rodriguez said last month that he believes it would be difficult to maintain social-distancing orders, keeping all students six feet apart from each other, in all parts of the district’s buildings once the academic year was in full swing. Student groups, crowding and movement of people through the PISD buildings would result in those distance protocols being shattered.
“Our students are back at full capacity, and it is extremely difficult to maintain social distancing measures inside school buildings,” the superintendent said when the mandate was put in place, reiterating that student health and safety remain a priority.
$12.1M BOND PROJECT UPDATE
School board members also provided updates on their 2020 bond construction project during the Sept. 15 meeting.
After a delayed bidding process due to pandemic-related material shortages and increased prices, board members have selected a construction manager for the project, naming the FA Nunnally Co. to oversee the work.
“The goal is to start mid-year,” Dr. Rodriguez said of the $12.1 million bond project slated to include districtwide campus improvements and a new performing arts center. “We are looking for ways to make it manageable and feasible for the taxpayers.”
The bond project garnered 54 percent of the vote in a November 2019 vote as 290 residents were in favor of it and 241 voted against it.
During the 2018-19 Spring semester, PISD organized a steering committee to assess the condition of the district’s facilities. The committee comprised school officials, parents and community members. As part of their responsibilities, committee members conducted walk-throughs, prioritized needs, and made recommendations for improvement. The $12.2 million PISD bond will include improvements and upgrades to perimeter fencing across each campus, replace heating and air conditioning units at PISD instructional buildings, modernize classrooms at Ted Flores Elementary, add a new gymnasium at the TFE campus, and build a new fine arts center at the high school. The TFE gymnasium would provide space for community events previously held at the cafeteria, daily PE activities, and assemblies for students and parents.
School officials have said that the fine arts center would accommodate UIL theater and music competitions and would include 600 to 650 fabric seats, balanced acoustics, and may serve as a multifunctional facility, including UIL standard lighting, curtains and controls, and modern audio, video, and technology integration.
At the time, prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rodriguez said that the proposed property tax rate will remain the same or decrease in comparison to the 2018-19 school year, provided the district property values remain constant.
The superintendent also confirmed that Pearsall’s Friday, September 24 football game against the Pleasanton Eagles at Mack Laxson Field had been moved to Eagle Stadium in Pleasanton because lights at the stadium still haven’t been installed.
The lighting project was approved in the spring, and since then there has been a delay in construction materials due to the pandemic.
“The equipment has finally arrived,” he said. “The gentleman who is handling the project fell ill and is still sick. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully the new and improved football field LED lighting project will get completed in about two weeks.”
The delays have forced the Mavericks to move two home games (Sept. 3 against Lanier and Sept. 24 against Pleasanton) with the Homecoming game against Hondo scheduled for October 8 approaching. Pearsall has an open date on September 30.
“We’re told he will be back by Monday [Sept. 20] and that they should be able to make that date,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “Hopefully, the construction company will be done by the end of the open week and we will then be ready to play football under the Friday night lights.”