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Tornillo ISD serving students, entire community hit hard by Covid-19

TORNILLO, Texas -- It's the smallest district in El Paso County. Tornillo Independent School District is serving about 900 kids this semester.

Superintendent Rosy Vega-Barrio said the town was hit hard by Covid-19. More than a dozen people have died from the virus, Vega-Barrio said.

Vega-Barrio said most of her student's parents are essential workers. Many of whom, were exposed to Covid-19. Many parents even lots their jobs. She added that it's been difficult to see people being impacted by Covid-19 since they're such a tight-knit community.

"We know each other, I mean, we're related to each other. When somebody passes away, or somebody is going through a very difficult, challenging, economical time, we all hurt. And we know that that was being filtered to the kids."

Tornillo ISD has tried to provide families with resources and help in any way they can, from hosting food banks to even helping families with funeral services.

Vega-Barrio said the district was also challenged with educating the community about Covid-19 and also communicating the needs of the community to the health department.

Internet access was also a challenge, during virtual learning.

All of these challenges have made the district, and the community, stronger. Which is why Vega-Barrio is happy to finally have students back in the classroom.

"The last thing that we want to do is to close off our buildings again."

There are many new and excited things for students this year, including a new grant to help expand its fine arts program for students in all grade levels.. 

High school students interested in law enforcement will also get the opportunity to join a new pathway program. 

Thanks to funding secured by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, that will be expand broadband. 

School supplies were given to students for free as well. Vega-Barrio says she's happy to have kids back and will continue to help families in anyway they can. 

"Our families are rebounding back. So we're here to help in every aspect. We became the resource for our community...We are the key."

The district was also able to help create a space for the entire community to begin the healing process through a local community garden.

The garden is located at Coyote Park and is maintained by the district.

The idea is to have a place where the community can meditate and heal, just like the Community Healing Garden at Ascarate Park.. 

There will be another food bank for the students on Friday, Aug. 27. To learn more about Tornillo ISD, click here.

Brianna Chavez

Brianna Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter/producer.

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