COVID-19 brings new challenges, solutions to Canyon High


Caroline Ragland

Students and staff can decrease the threat of COVID-19 by sanitizing frequently. Teachers are required to sanitize tables, chairs and utensils between classes.

In light of recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Amarillo and Canyon communities, Canyon Independent School District will continue its new policies and procedures to stop the spread of the virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to social distance at a space of six feet whenever possible and to use a face mask when out in public. The Texas Education Agency and local health officials have also released suggestions on how to continue school while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Assistant Principal Mark McCulloch works to record and track the numbers of students reported with COVID-19. 

Teachers are going out of their way to make sure classrooms are safe,” McCulloch said. “Teachers are making sure that students wear masks and social distance. They are spraying desks or handing out wipes so students can sanitize the desks themselves. We are doing everything we can do to help stop this from spreading in our school.”

The CDC also outlines specific procedures schools are supposed to follow in response to the virus. Important steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 include higher regulation of visitors on campus and a requirement of self-screening from staff.

Wearing masks properly is a big way to stop the spread.

— Paige Tucker, RN

“If somebody has tested positive, the health department will ask how many kids have been wearing a mask inside of those classrooms,” McCulloch said. “If students are, that’s the end of the discussion. If not, then further steps will be taken. We have never gotten to the point where we have had to take extra steps. Teachers are being very compliant about making sure students have masks on.”

The new rules and regulations were enacted at the beginning of the school year. Since then, the City of Amarillo has reached a Status Level Red, meaning the local hospitalization capacity is considered stressed. In order to keep the hospitalization rate low, the cities of Amarillo and Canyon and CDC officials caution the importance of masks.

Ultimately, the responsibility is on that individual person,” school nurse Paige Tucker said. “If we have a student who wears a mask, the health department states that masked students do not have to quarantine for 14 days if another student tests positive for COVID in that same class. But, if the student is unmasked, then they have to quarantine. It’s about protecting yourself and others.”

The CDC advises school districts to provide masks to students without one when entering the building. Tucker said students have to monitor their response to the virus in order to stop it. 

Wearing masks properly is a big way to stop the spread,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, you see a lot of students wearing masks under their nose, and that is not proper. It’s hard, and we understand that, but our ultimate goal is to protect ourselves and our student body. As much as you can, wear that mask, and wear it properly.”

Canyon ISD custodians began following new protocol at the start of the school year. Head Custodian Martha Varela said custodians make sure that everything is sanitized and clean before and after each lunch by cleaning up any messes left by students. 

We’re doing all that we can so we can go back to normal.

— Martha Varela, Head Custodian

“We are focusing on helping teachers and students stay safe from the virus by keeping everything clean,” Varela said. “Most of the day is spent cleaning. We want our students to have a safe place to learn. We have to get the disinfectant pump spray ready, and after school, we start spraying all of the rooms with our backpack. We spray everything: the chairs, the desks and the walls. We’re doing all that we can so we can go back to normal.”

In addition to following these guidelines, Canyon ISD also publishes a weekly report every Friday containing the number of active and recovered cases inside of the district. The local health department also aids in setting restrictions for CISD campuses. Custodians and teachers are required to disinfect and sanitize most surfaces touched by students. Varela said all members of the custodial staff are following strict procedures. 

“I come in at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes I stay here as late as 6, especially if we’re short handed,” Varela said. “It’s always busy. You never know what’s going to come up. But, we have other things we do everyday. We have a special disinfectant for the lunch tables that we use. We also have a document that all of the custodians sign that states that they don’t have any symptoms. This is an everyday thing we have to do.”

McCulloch said parents should feel safe sending their children to school because the staff are doing everything they can to ensure students safety. 

“If we were not protecting our kids and taking these steps, it would be total craziness,” McCulloch said. “Everybody is going out of their way to be extra safe. When I heard in the summer what we were doing, I imagined it was going to be a nightmare, but we have responded very well to this. All across the district, we are doing everything possible to ensure student’s safety.”

Other Helpful Links:

Potter/Randall Counties COVID-19 Cases

Texas Coronavirus Information

Texas COVID-19 Test Collection Sites