State, county, local officials: Just stay home - Schools still out

by By Josie Fox

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 school year is forging ahead with new and ever changing procedures.

As the virus continues to spread and the number of positive cases increases, government and education officials are taking steps to keep students, faculty and school district employees safe.

Initially area schools planned to extend spring break for up to one week, but as information on the virus and initial positive cases began to appear in Texas, decisions were made to extend the length of school cancellations.

Jacksonville ISD Superintendent Dr. Chad Kelly addressed JISD trustees during the school board meeting held Monday, March 23.

“The Coronavirus is obviously affecting all school districts in the state of Texas with the governor shutting down schools until Friday, April 3 -- we will be coming back Monday, April 6, with teachers and Tuesday, April 7, with students,” Kelly said. “That’s still in the planning stages. The governor could change that, extend it. With recent reports and talking to Texas Education Agency with Commissioner (Mike) Morath every day, it just doesn’t seem like we’ll get back that early. Right now, I’m not making that call. So we are still geared to come back, the students officially on April 7.

“Maintenance and operations are coming back -- came back (Monday). They’re going to work 3-12s to make sure that our facilities are still being taken care of. Also, custodial staff and technology staff are coming in.”

On March 18, Abbott announced the cancellation of STAAR testing for the remainder of the school year.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reported on its website, “Given the impact of COVID-19, Abbott is using his statutory authority to suspend annual academic assessment requirements for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

“TEA will work with the U.S. Department of Education to request waivers from federal testing and accountability requirements for the 2019-20 school year.”

Despite the challenges, Cherokee County school officials have rallied together in attempt to continue student learning through online options as well as pen and paper options.

Alto ISD

• Weekly grab and go meals including five breakfast and five lunch options will be distributed each Monday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. To reserve a meal kit for students, call (936) 858-7126 between the hours of 5-7 p.m. on Sunday or 8-9 a.m. on Monday.

• All events, including prom, sporting and extracurricular activities have been cancelled. The pre-K roundup and shot clinic has been postponed with the new date to be announced at a later time.

• Online and pen and paper learning options will be made available to students. Online learning tools can be accessed by going to

• COVID-19 updates pertaining to Alto ISD can be found at
Jacksonville ISD

• To go lunches are being provided Monday through Friday at the Waco Street cafeteria door at East Side Elementary.

• All official JISD area events have been cancelled.

New Summerfield ISD

• Grab and go lunches will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the morning drop off location.

• Pen and paper work packets by grade will be made available for pick up with the grab and go lunches. Options for online learning are still being explored.

Rusk ISD

• Grab and go meals are being offered Monday through Friday for Rusk ISD students from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Rusk Elementary campus. Remote drop off locations will provide meals from 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The remote locations are Flowers by Janae on Loop 343; Covenant Church off U.S. Hwy. 69; Timber Creek Apartments on U.S. Hwy. 84; and the former location of Honey’s convenience store near Jim Hogg Park. Each grab and go sack will include lunch and a breakfast item.

• As of presstime on Tuesday, prom has not been rescheduled or cancelled pending decisions made on when Rusk ISD will return to normal classes.

Wells ISD

• Students/parents can pick up five days worth of meals between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Mondays. Daily meal pick up will be available 8-10 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

• Staff will be in office all day on Mondays; and 8-10 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Offices are closed to the public. Staff are available by appointment.

• Free internet access is available to WISD families in the high school parking lot. Drive up to the spots closest to the building and search for the network WISD Public WiFi, password pirates1.

Michelle Dillon contributed to this article.