Thursday is a big day for Frisco ISD with classes beginning virtually for students.
Frisco ISD parents were given the option to choose between on-campus or virtual instruction for the first nine weeks of the school. All students will start the year with virtual learning for the first three weeks then on-campus instruction in the district will begin on Sept. 3 for those families who have selected it.
Click here to read more about the expectations for students and parents.
"Every aspect of what we do has had to be revamped and redone with the environment we’re in," superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip told NBC 5 on Thursday morning. “There’s been months and months of planning with teachers, administrators, counselors everyone. We stopped to address the social and emotional needs of our students as well. There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make all this work effectively."
Parents will have another opportunity to decide between virtual and in-person classes at the end of the nine-week period, which falls on October 16. Frisco ISD said there will be set periods throughout the school year where parents can choose what method of learning they prefer for their child.
If parents don't feel comfortable with in-person learning, they will have the option for virtual learning the entire school year if they so choose, a district spokesperson told NBC 5.
"That’s the parents' choice obviously. We want to try to provide the type of instruction that they want for their kids and if they feel safe with the environment they are putting their child in," said Waldrip.
The latest news from around North Texas.
How virtual learning works
The superintendent said when it comes to virtual learning, there are specific times during the day that students will interact directly with their teachers or peers and other times where they are working online individually.
"We have a virtual learning management system that actually helps us deliver the instruction," he explained. "So there will be specific times during the day where students do interact with teachers. Then there will be times during the day when they are interacting with each other on lessons or activities, and then working individually or alone."
The school district said some of the biggest feedback they received from parents regarding virtual learning at the end of last school year, was the need for students to have more "face time" with teachers.
"That’s what we spent a lot of time doing this summer, is designing the lessons, activities and this schedule," he said. "So that even though kids are virtual, they still have that in-person kind of feel. Even though they’re online, they’re still interacting with their teachers and interacting with their peers."
District employee protocols
Over the next few weeks, teachers will be reporting to campus to deliver the virtual instruction from their classrooms.
There are also protocols for employees, which are required to self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to work every day and may not be on campus if symptoms are present.
That’s important because, in just the last week, two front office staff members at Memorial High School in Frisco tested positive for COVID-19. A group of other front office staff and school administrators who may have been exposed are required to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to returning to campus.
The superintendent also reported that they’ve had a potential COVID-19 case at one of the elementary schools on Wednesday.
"We’ve got strict protocols set up on how we do our contact review. How we determine who needs to be quarantined and who doesn’t," said Waldrip. "We’ve got measures put in place to go in and disinfect the campus and then try to get everybody that we can back on campus -- and doing what we need to do once we’ve identified one of these cases."
Employees or students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to submit a letter of good health from a physician's office prior to returning to school.
The district also said staff is required to notify the district when they are under quarantine due to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 or if they are under quarantine due to close contact with a confirmed or probable case.
Individuals will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and may not return to campus during that time.
Planning around COVID-19
Months of planning, re-planning and anxiety have plagued many districts this summer as the new school year approaches.
The struggle with the coronavirus started back in early March for Frisco ISD, when one of the first documented cases of COVID-19 in North Texas affected a man whose children attended Tadlock Elementary School. The man had recently traveled out of state at the time.
Many other cases, unbeknownst to the North Texas community, had already started to spread in other parts of the region.
Frisco ISD was quick to send cleaning crews to spray down the entire campus while students were out on spring break. The students never returned to the building because shortly after, the pandemic was declared and schools across Texas started to close.
Fast forward to today, and like many other school districts, Frisco ISD has followed CDC guidelines in tackling this virus head-on.
One of those methods includes a COVID-19 activity level system. Protective measures, including the use of face coverings, will be determined by the level of disease activity of COVID-19.
It has 3 tiers: minimal, moderate, and substantial
Frisco is set at moderate right now, which means the positivity rate in the area is between 5 and 9.9 percent. Each Sunday afternoon during the school year, officials said COVID-19 activity level for the upcoming week will be posted on the district website and announced to students, parents and staff.
The district said it is relying on data from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Collin County Health Care Services and Denton County Public Health to determine the disease activity level and the appropriate protective measures.
"We work with medical professionals to develop those guidelines," said superintendent Waldrip. "We’ve spent just as much time working on safety protocols as we have on the learning environment. We want our kids to feel safe we want our teachers and administrators to feel safe, our counselors to feel safe. We want our parents to feel comfortable sending their kids to school. And as things change, we may have to adapt what we do."
Waldrip added that current guidelines are subject to change as the pandemic continues to present twists and turns throughout the year.
"We may have to change our protocol, change our process. We’re going to respond to that," he said. "That’s quite frankly all we’ve done in the last five or six months -- is adapt to changes in different guidelines and the direction we’ve been given."
Click here to read more about the district’s response to COVID-19 this semester.