In-person school delayed until Monday, but likely no further

MARFA – Last Thursday, Presidio County Health Authority Dr. John Paul Schwartz contacted Marfa’s school district, advising them to postpone in-person reopening of the schools, which was to begin Monday, September 14.

Oscar Aguero, the district’s superintendent, said Schwartz advised the district to delay reopening by one week, to Monday, September 21. “Dr. Schwartz felt we were having a spike,” Aguero said.

“I don’t think there will ever be a time over the next couple years that things are safe or back the way they used to be,” Schwartz said. Still, remote learning cannot go on forever, Schwartz acknowledged. “What they’re going to try to do is open it in a way that keeps distance.”

“We still have people dying,” the doctor said, pointing to a recent fatality in the county. “We’re not testing enough. The delay in school, I was holding out for as long as we could get, but reality creeps in and kids are suffering from not being in a structured environment, so something has to happen. That’s probably the only compromise we can come up with.”

Schwartz felt prompted to push for a delayed in-person reopening last week because of a few ongoing cases. “We had a couple kids that were in quarantine and it was just still hanging and when you have that, there’s always a question.” As those childrens’ quarantine dates draw to a close, the health authority said he will allow students to return to the classroom for the first time since March.

Still, the doctor lamented that teachers are at risk of contracting COVID-19 from students and feeling its effects much more than younger COVID-19 patients. He also continues to question the role of contact sports during the pandemic.

“I think Oscar is trying as hard as he can to strike a reasonable balance and that’s all you can do right now,” said Schwartz. “The kids, you can’t just put their lives on pause for two years. Those are critical years for development.”

“I think we’ve held it off as long as we can,” the health authority said. Virtual learning at MISD began on September 8, and in-person classes are set to begin on Monday.