Ysleta ISD welcomes back students on campus, updates on rapid testing program

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Thousands of students in the Ysleta Independent School District are now back in their classrooms for the first time since March.

The district says it’s following all safety protocols set in place by the CDC, and is also continuing to offer COVID-19 rapid testing to its employees and students.

Some students at Riverside Middle School in YISD got to step back inside the hallways and classrooms with many changes in place. The principal of the school tells KTSM 9 News it was well prepared for this day while ensuring everyone’s safety.

“We’ve been ready since the summer to welcome our kids back into the building,” Jake Valtierra, Principal of Riverside Middle School said.

Valtierra said the first day of phasing some students back into the classroom since March was managed well.

“Today was a very seamless process here at Riverside Middle School. Parents were greeted at the drop off zone and at the bus zone,” Valtierra shared, “All students did participate in a COVID-19 screening protocol, they’re asked the two basic questions whether their exhibiting any of the symptoms consisting with COVID-19, as well if they’ve had any close high risk contact with anyone that’s tested positive for COVID and a temperature check.”

YISD is one of the school districts selected by the state of Texas to carry the COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program. The superintendent Xavier De La Torre said it’s been implemented since October, and will be available to employees and students (who have parents’ permission) every Monday morning moving forward.

“We believe that it’s an added layer of protection that gives us some assurance that all of the individuals that arrive to school on Monday, at least as of Monday, did not test positive which I think – and I witnessed it today – is appreciated by the teachers and by those parents,” De La Torre explained.

De La Torre said the district is ready to handle possible positive COVID-19 cases that may come down the road with schools being reopened, “Cases where you may have more than one test positive, the district may have to make a decision as to whether or not to close that classroom down, that grade level, or that school. Whatever it takes to keep sort of the masses healthy are the steps we’re prepared to take when that surfaces.”

With around 30% of students back on campus in YISD, the district said it’s hopeful more of its students will return soon.

“We’ve invested over $5 million to make this day a reality, and we really believe that when these students start calling their friends or talking to their neighbors, we’re going to see more and more students show up at our schools,” De La Torre said.

“They were ready to come back and rightfully so. I think a lot of our kids did miss, genuinely missed that nurturing and engaging environment that we provide for our kids,” Valtierra added.

YISD’s superintendent said the district typically administers more than 5,000 rapid tests a week, and receives shipments of between 5,000 to 20,000 rapid tests.

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