Willacy judge orders delay in on-campus classes, sports

RAYMONDVILLE — Across Willacy County, the upcoming school year’s on-campus classes and sports programs won’t open next month as some officials had planned.

County Judge Aurelio Guerra has ordered face-to-face instruction postponed until at least Sept. 21 as a result of surging COVID-19 cases which this week climbed over the 500-mark in this rural county of 22,000 residents.

“The ongoing evaluation of circumstances regarding the public health emergency related to COVID-19 now demonstrates a substantial and uncontrolled spread of the disease in the community, with a surge in the number of active positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Willacy County and the surrounding counties,” Guerra’s order states.

The school year, which starts Aug. 24, will open with on-line instruction.

“Instruction may be provided through virtual, remote or distance learning only,” Guerra’s order states.

The order also postpones the opening of sports programs.

“All school-sponsored events and activities including but not limited to clubs, sports, fairs, exhibitions and academic competitions shall not take place until school systems resume on-campus instruction,” the order states.

The order requires staff follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when returning to campus.

“Administrators, teachers and operations staff may conduct or facilitate the remote learning process or other operations while on campus provided applicable CDC guidelines including social distancing and facial coverings are followed at all times,” the order states.

“School personnel are permitted to return to school campuses and facilities to conduct remote instruction and related instructional activities, to provide food distribution and to perform administrative duties,” the order states. “Such duties and activities are to be conducted consistent with the health guidance and protocols issued by the Texas Education Agency.”

Raymondville ready

At the Raymondville school district, Superintendent Stetson Roane told Guerra officials are ready to open the school year with on-line instruction.

“Raymondville ISD will be prepared to start this school year with 100-percent remote instruction and we will be prepared to provide the safest possible face-to-face learning environment when the time is right for our county,” Roane wrote Guerra in a July 20 letter. “The district’s investment in air-purifying technology will make our school among the safest in the state.”

Last month, officials announced the $626,000 purchase of needlepoint bipolar ionization technology to install in its air-conditioning and heating units to kill pathogens including the coronavirus.

“We’ll be ready for face-to-face instruction when it’s time for the community to start,” Deputy Superintendent Ben Clinton said.