Chamizal community members raise concerns for re-opening of EPISD schools

El+Paso+Independent+School+District+is+set+to+welcome+students+back+to+school+on+Jan.+19

Courtesy of EPISD

El Paso Independent School District is set to welcome students back to school on Jan. 19

Anahy Diaz, Editor In Chief

Familias Unidas del Chamizal released a statement regarding health concerns for students and community as EPISD schools are set to welcome students Tuesday, Jan. 19.  

“We are just a few days away from schools reopening, despite the fact that our community lacks important safety protocols,” said the statement, released on Jan.14. “Including ensuring teachers are vaccinated or providing rapid response covid testing for students and staff.” 

According to the statement, the community of Barrio Chamizal feel’s the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) has failed to inform, update or include parents in the decision-making process.  

“We do not want any spread of COVID-19 in our already fragile community and we will hold the Department of Health and EPISD responsible for risking the lives of our community,” the statement said. 

In the past, the community advocacy group has worked to organize families in the Barrio Chamizal to solve major problems it faces. This includes suing EPISD during the summer 2020 over alleged discrimination against ““systemic discrimination against poor, Hispanic, and Mexican-American students.” 

Now, as EPISD welcomes students back for parents who opted for in-person learning, Familias Unidas de Chamizal is asking the district that all teachers at Douglass Elementary School and the Bowie feeder pattern be vaccinated, for children to receive a COVID-19 test prior to re-entry, the school provide proper protective gear for students and the reopening plan be evaluated further.  

“The school district should not be excused for not providing the adequate resources because of claims of economic strains,” the organization wrote. “We are all aware that they are responsible for the safety of the children during school.” 

As El Paso’s hospitalization rate is currently at an “orange zone” with its rate remaining below 20%, according to Region 19’s COVID-19 and mitigation plan, the number allows students to return to school.  

According to EPISD, classrooms will only be at 50% occupancy or less on Tuesday, but per the State of Texas, parents will have until Feb. 1 to return children to the in-person school setting. Feb. 1 is also the day the Texas Education Agency waivers expire. 

“If their intentions were in good faith, they would do more to ensure that our children’s health and mental state would not be further compromised,” the statement said. “These children are in a very fragile state yet local authorities, as well as EPISD only see what this pandemic has cost them or is causing them.” 

According to the Familias Unidas del Chamizal, the only adequate information families received was presented on Jan. 14 and Jan.15 at a Douglass parent meeting by the principal of the school.  

“Our children have lost a sense of security because they don’t know if they will get sick if they go back to school,” the advocacy group wrote. “They live in a constant fear of going back to school and the district’s staff actions only agitate these fears.”  

Currently, the City of El Paso is providing COVID-19 vaccines to first responders and healthcare personnel, including clinical personnel, 9-1-1 EMS, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, urgent/community clinics and school nurses. Individuals in Phase 1, Group B, which are people 65 years of age and older and those 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition, have also begun receiving the vaccine, to ensure immediate use of the vaccine.  

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected] ; @by_anahydiaz on Twitter.