Here’s a tip of a hat and a heartfelt thank you to the superintendents in The Paris News coverage area who willingly responded to a reporter’s inquiries last week during what must be the most stressful time of their educational careers.

As expected, when students and staff returned to schools in recent weeks, Covid-19 followed, particularly in Lamar County where a substantial number of new cases are reported by the Paris-Lamar County Health District on a daily basis.

Paris, North Lamar, Chisum and Prairiland ISDs each reported at least one staff member or student out with the novel coronavirus as of this past Thursday while Detroit, Clarksville and Rivercrest ISDs in Red River County, where Covid-19 cases remain low, remained free of the virus. Honey Grove ISD in Fannin County and Cooper ISD in Delta County each had a high school student sent home with Covid-19.

From the responses I received from superintendents, it’s obvious how much each cares for students, teachers and staffs in their districts, and what a challenge administrators face in keeping abreast of the often changing guidelines from Texas Education Agency as state and local officials deal with still unknown challenges in providing meaningful educational and social experiences for students during a health crisis.

As North Lamar Superintendent Kelli Stewart noted, districts receive regular updates and guidance from Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath and from local and state agencies regarding response, prevention and mitigation efforts.

“The guidance has changed repeatedly over the last several months, and will continue to change based on Covid-19 conditions across our community and state,” Stewart noted. “North Lamar ISD would like to thank our community for the incredible outpouring of support for our staff as we have planned for not only the challenges, but also the great rewards this school year will bring.”

In a response received shortly after deadline Thursday, Rivercrest Superintendent Stanley Jessee pretty well summarized the challenges.

“Since school closed last March, there has been a huge amount of planning and preparation to put things in place to have our students return in a safe manner and to a safe environment,” Jessee said. “I am glad that we were able to start school and bring our students back into the buildings for face to face instruction, although that comes with concerns and a large responsibility on the part of the school to do everything we can to keep our students, staff and community healthy.

“I would like for our parents and community to understand that, because it does continue to be a fluid situation, we will still have to make adjustments that are necessary to continue to be able to offer face to face instruction, and also to continue to let our students enjoy extracurricular activities.”

For such a commitment, my hat goes off to some of the best administrators in Texas — those right here in the Red River Valley.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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