Education Commissioner Visits Orangefield

The Orangefield school district has found a new use for the blue tarps that blossom everywhere after a hurricane. The tarps are now serving as “walls” for students as classes have been moved into the high school band hall and junior high gym.

Classes started Monday for the first time this year as the district has had to dry out buildings after Harvey flooded the elementary and high school campuses. All elementary classes have been moved around.

Tuesday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath (right) toured the school to see how the district is coping.

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Patterson (left) said the commissioner has waived the requirement to make up nine days of the four weeks missed.

Patterson and other superintendents across the state are concerned about the STAAR standardized tests. In 2018, the Texas Education Agency will begin rating schools and districts on an A through F grading system based on the tests scores.

Patterson said students in Orangefield have missed many class days and that will affect scores. He is hoping some kind of adjustment will be made this year for the STAAR tests.

In addition, about 50 percent of the students have damaged houses.

Commissioner Morath said no decision has been made at this time on the testing. “It’s something we’re evaluating along with a whole bunch of other factors,” he said.

The tests are scheduled to be given in April and the scores will be released in August next year. “We have a little bit of time to make a decision,” Morath said.

Orangefield isn’t the only school district damaged by Harvey. “We have roughly one in four students in a district affected by Hurricane Harvey in terms of all Texas students,” Morath said. “A huge number of issues have been created for a huge number of students, families, and teachers.”

Patterson got some good news about attendance while the commissioner was visiting. When classes began on Monday, 206 students who had registered did not show up. On Tuesday, 50 of those missing came to school.

Classes were set to start on August 28, but were delayed because of warnings about the approach of Harvey. The storm dropped 50 or more inches of rain on August 29-30 and flooded two of the district’s campuses.

Patterson has said enrollment had jumped up by 100 students before school started this year.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-


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