Reopening challenges for Longview schools

Children are led through the hall to the cafeteria for breakfast in August 2017 at the East Texas Montessori Prep Academy. Schools will be challenged to keep children 6 feet apart as campuses reopen in the fall.

Though state officials say schools can reopen in the fall, some Longview-area parents are skeptical amid rising COVID-19 cases.

Sabine ISD parent Joy Rios said the virus will spread like wildfire in schools, leading to more deaths.

“There is no way to keep young children from not touching things and wanting to play with their friends,” Rios said. “Our special needs children will become very sick very fast. I feel we should do virtual school or plan online school until this stuff is slowed down.”

The Texas Education Agency has released recommended safety guidelines for districts, including masks for students when developmentally appropriate, opening windows when possible, frequent cleaning and handwashing.

Kelsey Runge, who has a daughter at Longview ISD’s Hudson PEP Elementary School and a son about to begin preschool at First Christian Prep, said so much changes with the virus weekly.

“Just because things have opened, I feel like the mood and culture have moved back to things are normal, and they’re not,” she said. “I have some concerns. At the same time, I do have complete faith in Longview ISD making the best choices for children in the district.”

Like Runge, Rios said she is part of a great district; that is not the problem — the virus is.

“They can shut down school and church, but you can still go to Walmart and other stores like that,” she said. “We stay home and stay safe until school starts, then we don’t have much of a choice but to send our kids to school.”

Runge’s daughter will be in second grade, an age that parents can decide if a child will wear a mask at school or not, according to the TEA.

“I would feel safer if she (wore a mask), and I fully support it, and if other parents don’t want to send their kids, I’m fine with that as well,” Runge said. “We wear masks when we go out, and my daughter is proud when she wears it. She feels like she’s doing her part. But it’s not our place to judge others.”

Krupal Patel’s son also goes to Hudson PEP, and he said he is concerned about the ability to social distance and meet other guidelines.

“It’s all so fluid. God knows what’s going to happen in the coming weeks,” he said. “We don’t feel safe, but at the same time, we have to get kids back to learning. Honestly, if this goes on, I don’t feel safe sending my son to the school unless (the pandemic is) pretty much under control.”

Having an open discussion with parents and not pointing fingers will be important in the process of returning back to schools, Patel said.

For Jaclyn Melton, her concern about her two children going back to campus learning at Pine Tree’s Parkway Elementary School are more about the changes to school than the virus, she said.

“I feel like between now and when school actually starts, it could change,” she said. “There’s a little bit of feelings of anxiety there, but I definitely trust the district will do what’s best for the kids.”

Melton said she is not concerned with the virus, but she is concerned about how social distancing will work with her elementary students.

“I think we’ll end up being fine in the long run; it’s just a period of time we’re going to have to endure together until this passes,” she said. “Some parents might be worried about their kids falling behind, but I feel we’ll be OK, and teachers are really good at catching kids up.”