Lufkin ISD released a letter to parents and guardians Thursday afternoon on decisions about the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The letter from Superintendent Lynn Torres says the district is "working diligently making decisions that will be beneficial for students, staff, parents and the community all while following the CDC regulations and TEA guidelines for reopening school in the fall."

Torres said in the letter that students should prepare to begin school on Aug. 13, and that date should stay true barring an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott.

"What that means is that we each need to do our part to stay safe and stay well to lessen the spread of the virus that we are experiencing in the state right now," Torres said. "If there is an outbreak during the school year, we will allow the last two weeks at the end of school through June 4 for this purpose. We will publish a calendar soon with those dates highlighted and hope that the days are not needed to make up time lost due to other outbreaks of the virus."

Texas public schools will be required to provide in-person instruction for students this fall and will be responsible for making up days missed next school year, but state education officials have delayed releasing final public health guidelines for keeping students safe on campuses during the pandemic.

"To keep our students and staff safe, air filters have been installed on all of the air-conditioning units throughout the district," Torres said. "These filters are similar to the units now being used by airlines and hospitals. The units filter the air at a much higher level and remove toxins from circulating in the air."

Additionally, the district is scheduled to receive a large shipment of personal protective equipment and supplies from the state by Aug. 1 that should include disposable masks, reusable masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer to help each school prepare, the letter said.

Outside visitors will be limited to campuses, including parents coming for lunch or bringing outside lunches to school, the letter reads. Programs, assemblies and field trips may also be limited or not allowed in the fall.

"This year, we are not requiring students in PreK through eighth grade to wear uniforms in order to ease the burden of buying new clothes when shopping is limited," the letter reads. "However, students may wear uniforms and/or clothing that is in compliance with the district’s dress code. During 2021-22, the original dress code will be reinstated."

The district also will be hosting PreK Roundup from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 28 at the Garrett Primary Gym. The district is encouraging parents to pre-register students on Skyward and to get their student IDs by calling the Administration Building at 634-6696.

"We have purchased sanitizing equipment to spray each area in every school to slow the spread of germs. Our custodial staff will follow cleaning protocols to ensure the cleanliness of our buildings," Torres said.

"Decisions about students and staff wearing face coverings will be made when we have clearer guidelines from the state and can assess our threat level for the spread of the virus in our county closer to the actual start of school. You as parents can opt to have your student wear face coverings if they are attending in person school. Staff may opt to wear face coverings as well."

The letter said the district has conducted a survey with parents and staff in English and Spanish and is aware of the challenges ahead. The letter said the most important thing ahead is to go back to school in the fall in a safe environment and they asked for the cooperation of staff and parents with the goal in mind that "kids come first."

"These protocols will be explained in detail once decisions are made on the state level," Torres said in the letter. "We do recognize that school as we know it will look differently in the fall. We will make learning available in a variety of ways which may include virtual or online classes as well as face-to face instruction. Extracurricular activities will look different as well as the Lufkin Panther football season. Once we receive the guidelines from UIL, we will notify the public on these changes."

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