As Ellis County slowly begins reopening its cities, small town businesses are opening their doors and schools are deciding how they will approach the incoming school year.
Recently, schools across the United States shut down for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year because of the COVID-pandemic. However, Ellis County has begun to open businesses, following Gov. Greg Abbott’s phase one plan to reopen the city.
Out of the many districts in the County, Maypearl ISD is planning to open with caution for its upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
“Certainly a challenge, based on what the state and TEA, is coming up with some ideas on flexible scheduling. Right now as of today, based on what we’re getting from the rest of Ellis County, I think we’re going to be planning for more options and try to have a regular year as much as possible until we’re told otherwise,” said Maypearl High School Principal Eric Janszen. “We’re certainly going to follow, and I think things will change and with a little more clear (direction) for school districts as we move forward ... exactly what that means it will look like and if there’s any oversight as far as statewide or countywide, but until then we’re kind of doing what we’re rolling out with our staff.”
Monday through Friday, a handful of school administrators show up to Maypearl High School for work.
“We do sign-ins when we get to the building, we sign-off in what parts of the building we’re in so that those areas are cleaned in the mornings and afternoons, so there’s no cross contamination..” Janszen shared.
Hand sanitizer has been placed around the entire building, with easy access for the staff. For the fall academic year, the school will be following similar precautions.
“We’re gonna try to have face masks for those that wish to have a face mask. I don’t know if that’s going to be a requirement but certainly an option and certainly not frowned upon if somebody does want to wear a face mask,” Janszen explained.
Additionally, Janszen stated his opinion on future mass gatherings for the school.
“I think mass gatherings are gonna have a different look. And I know UIL with volleyball, marching band and football usually starting around August 1 with practice, I know that’s a big challenge right now and what that’s supposed to look like. I think the first football scrimmage or volleyball game – the football games don’t make me as nervous because it’s outdoors, but the volleyball scrimmages and volleyball games and tournaments in gyms and schools our size and those a little more smaller aren’t like Waxahachie and Midlothian High School. Our gyms are 1970’s. Our capacities are a lot different, and we’re growing.”
Janszen said that the first two months of the school year may be a bit awkward, especially with school gatherings.
“Those things will look a little different. The worst thing, I think as an administrator or school district, is telling people they can’t watch their kid play something or do something. Having to make that decision is probably the one we’re stressing about the most,” Janszen said.
Maypearl ISD Athletic Director Sam Riepe says they will most likely be following the actions of the University Interscholastic League.
“It’s gonna come down to UIL and TEA. If they allow us to go back to school, it will be normal. If we don’t go back to school, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, to be honest with you,” Riepe said.
UIL has told the athletic department that they will be watching the professional sports and determine their decision based on them.
“I think the big deal is that we’ll have to do some social distancing, make sure we have more administrators and make sure they’re sitting further apart,” Riepe shared. “I heard MLB is going back in July but no fans. Maybe we go back and there’s no fans. It’s real hard to comment on that, when even the big dogs – NBA, MLB, NFL– don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s gonna really come down to what they do.”
Ellis County is currently following Abbott’s plan to open Texas. Phase two of the plan has allowed restaurants to increase their occupancy to 50 percent, and additional services and activities that remained closed under phase one may open. They must open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols, as laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).