Education

Buna Mother of Eleven-Year-Old Girl on Vent, Pleads With School to Return to Virtual Learning; Superintendent Says the Money Isn’t There

Terri Gurganious’ vibrant sixth grader had to trade her Buna team uniforms for a blue gown at Texas Children’s Hospital shortly after the school year started.

BUNA, Texas — A Southeast Texas mother shares an urgent plea with local parents and school leaders as her 11-year-old daughter fights for her life after contracting COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases are continuously climbing across Southeast Texas, and schools are no exception.

According to the Buna Independent School District COVID-19 tracker, as of Monday, 82 kids and 14 staff members have positive COVID-19 cases. One of those cases is 11-year-old Brennah Gurganious, who had to be hospitalized after contracting the virus.

The 11-year-old’s mother, Terri Gurganious, believes her daughter contracted the virus just a few days into the new school year. The mothers said the past few weeks have been a total nightmare.

“Softball. Basketball. She serves. She twirls. She does it all,” Terri Gurganious, said.

Like most kids, Brennah Gurganious, was excited to start school after missing her friends for a whole year. However, a nagging cough, fever and bouts of dizziness put a pause on those plans.

“After a few days, she just kept getting worse,” Terri Gurganious, said. “She wasn’t getting enough oxygen.”

The Southeast Texas mother would later find out that Brennah was one of the hundreds of children across Texas infected with COVID-19. Terri Gurganious’ vibrant sixth grader had to trade her Buna team uniforms for a blue gown at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“She has breathing treatments every hour,” the 11-year-old’s mother said. “They suction her lungs every four hours.”

Gurganious believes this could have been prevented if mandatory masks and virtual learning were options for districts like Buna ISD.

“I want to see the schools shut down,” Terri Gurganious said. “I want to see the kids go back to asynchronous until this is under control.”

Buna ISD superintendent Donny Lee said he agrees, but there are multiple reasons why the district cannot do that yet.

“From our perspective, there’s no other option,” Lee said.

It would cost $6.5 million to fund virtual learning for the district. That money will not be available until the Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 15, which would allow Texas schools to receive funding for virtual learning.

Also, Texas students are required to have more than 75,000 minutes of instruction per school year. Lee said shutting campuses down for every positive case makes it virtually impossible to meet that threshold. So, personal responsibility is key.

“We encourage our staff to get the vaccine, because vaccines are not mandated,” Lee said. “And if you are feeling sick, if you have headache, any type of symptoms, we send those kids home, or staff home. “

Back in Houston, as Brennah fights for every breath, her mom has a message for parents across Southeast Texas.

“It doesn’t matter how healthy you are, how active you are, what age you are,” Terri Gurganious said. “It does not discriminate.”

It will be a long road to recovery for Brennah. Her mom said while Brennah is improving, doctors said it may be at least another month before she is able to go home.

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