Despite the many challenges the 2020-2021 school year has presented to school districts in the state, nation and across the world, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) has continued its commitment always to do what’s best for students, staff and families.
Challenged like never before during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSJA ISD leaders have taken steps to maintain health and safety at the forefront, while continuing to provide a high-quality education for all.
“At PSJA ISD we strive to make the best decisions for our families,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “While we have lived through unprecedented times, our commitment to our students remains the same and stronger than ever.”
Among the many actions PSJA ISD has taken this school year, the following programs and initiatives were established to maintain high academic learning outcomes:
High-quality learning continues
A total of $11.3 million were spent on one-to-one devices, hotspots, wi-fi on buses and other connectivity support systems. Some of that cost will be reimbursed by the Texas Education Agency through their project Operation Connectivity. These efforts ensured learning continued and connectivity gaps were closed.
PSJA ISD was instrumental in offering students and families coordinated support to combat the mental health effects of COVID-19.
The PSJA ISD Board of Trustees passed a policy in June 2020 that provided students and their families with social and emotional learning (SEL) with wraparound services. The district-wide policy requires each campus to have a team that focuses on addressing the non-academic needs of students to assist the district’s families and focus on the whole child. Services include mental health, community and social resources, as well as, recreational, cultural and spiritual resources, relationship skills, legal and safety tools, and crisis support.
“PSJA ISD has always been about going above and beyond and supporting our students every step of the way,” said PSJA ISD School Board President Jorge Zambrano. “During the pandemic it was no different, food services continued, connectivity and device distributions were made, and we invested in social and emotional programs to support our families’ well-being throughout the pandemic. We are thankful for the team members who came together to support one another and our families.”
In addition to supporting students and their families, staff members were also assisted by incorporating a new Employee Wellness Counselor and Wraparound Specialists at the district level and the district’s Health Services Department increasing the level of support provided to all.
“Since the pandemic started, we saw a great need to increase our social and emotional assistance for all, including our employees who also needed guidance and resources to withstand the effects incurred by the pandemic,” said Superintendent Dr. Arredondo.
As part of its continuing efforts to maintain health and safety as a top priority, PSJA ISD was one of the first school districts to launch a COVID-19 Hotline in the Summer of 2020. This hotline is a multi-team operation that includes campus nurses and assistance from additional medical experts to serve staff, students, and parents.
The efforts are possible through a collaboration with what the district calls First-Responder departments such as the PSJA Health Services Department, PSJA Operations Division, Human Resources Departments, and the Technology Department to assist all employees and supervisors with a mechanism to appropriately communicate employee actions should an employee, student or family member exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or come in direct contact with someone that is positive with COVID-19.
A PSJA Safety Compliance Taskforce was also implemented to do random support assessments at all district facilities to ensure proper health and safety protocols are always followed. To further build on communication, the district launched a live COVID-19 Dashboard to notify all district stakeholders of district facilities that may be shut down due to a probable case and are being disinfected.
The PSJA ISD School Board of Trustees also approved various key improvements to schools and facilities districtwide to protect staff from COVID-19. Improvements include the purchase of hundreds of air purifiers for all facilities and campuses districtwide, personal protection equipment (PPE) such as thermometers, face shields and masks, and the purchasing of touchless water fountains, to name a few.
Since January 2021, all PSJA ISD district facilities started offering RAPID Response COVID-19 Testing (nasal swab) 15-minute tests to staff members reporting to work and for students with parental consent if they opted for in-person instruction.
In addition, PSJA ISD became the first school district in Rio Grande Valley and Texas to be designated as an official COVID-19 vaccine provider by the state. To date, the district has helped administer more than 25,000 vaccines to the community thanks to the efforts of various departments working together such as the PSJA Health Services, PSJA Operations, PSJA Police Department, PSJA Security and PSJA Athletic Trainers, to name a few.
“This has been one of the most challenging school years in history,” said Board President Zambrano. “We commend all of the PSJA ISD administration, teachers, and staff for their continued dedication and leadership throughout this time. While we know it has been anything but easy, it fills us with pride and hope to see us get through these trying times.”