Here at Eagle Pass Independent School District, we’re right on the border of the United States and Mexico. Approximately 95 percent of our students are Hispanic, and most of them speak Spanish. Ours is a tight-knit community where many people live next door to family members, which is wonderful, but it also brought some challenges during the pandemic.
COVID just kept cycling through the community over and over again, and it was common to hear people talking about how they’d had it a half dozen times. The number of people who died in our community was heartbreaking, and it scared a lot of people. The New York Times even published a story in August of 2020 about the high rate of new infections here.
When we returned to completely in-person schooling, families didn’t want to send their students back to school. They were scared, and they didn’t understand why we couldn’t do another year of virtual school.
Before the pandemic we had excellent attendance. We’re a Title I district, so many students counted on the free breakfast and lunch they’d receive for attending. But during the pandemic, our attendance was frighteningly low. At its lowest point, attendance was approximately 5 percent, which put our funding in jeopardy. Even after our schools reopened, attendance only reached the 70-73 percent range.