It's back to school for thousands more students in Dallas ISD.
The school district kicked off its second wave of students returning to class as part of three different school year calendars to help some students catch up after a year of virtual learning.
The first day of class also coincided with the school district's announcement of a temporary mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors.
The third and final wave of students -- which encompasses most of the campuses in DISD -- will go back to school on Monday, Aug. 16.
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North Texas' largest school district celebrated in a big way at one elementary school, with the Dallas Mavericks and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa surprising students with a visit at Adelle Turner Elementary in southern Dallas.
Students enjoyed high fives and free swag from the team's mascots and cheerleaders as part of a new partnership the organization is establishing with the school.
“We are so excited to be here," said Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall.
The school will be "adopted" by the Mavs as part of their community work with the Mavs Foundation.
"They can count on us," said Marshall. “So whatever they need, our employees will be tutors, they will be mentors. With Operation Connectivity, we will help to make sure the school has all the technology and devices that they need in order to thrive."
Marshall and Hinojosa toured the school to greet children and help distribute free Mavericks-themed school supplies.
“I gave them three lessons today. I told them to learn something every day. To be kind to each other every minute, and to listen to their teachers every time they speak," said Marshall.
Principal Natalie Crittendon, a former student at Adelle Turner, said she's grateful for the opportunity to provide support for her 236 students.
“It feels so good, this is home. I came back to where it all started," she said. "And I look forward to leading the campus to make sure that we are one of the best schools that parents will choose to send their children to."
Supt. Hinojosa said this partnership adds to the already existing support the district is getting from the Mavs on Operation Connectivity, which aims to help struggling families have access to internet and devices for school.
“They could do a lot of other things but they’re a phenomenal organization that gives back to the community," he said.
The celebration helped ease concerns from parents and students. Some are just now coming back to in-person learning for the first time after a year of virtual.
“It’s been horrible. Their mother is a teacher and it’s still hard for her balancing being virtual with her students and then having to help them with theirs because I’m a truck driver," said parent Jason Shepherd as he dropped his little girls off on Monday morning.
Around 20,000 students returned to class Monday as part of DISD's intercession calendar, which gives five more weeks of additional instruction for those experiencing the "covid slide". Nearly 50 schools are taking advantage of the extra time to get students caught up.
“This instruction is going to be focused on reading, math and social studies but we’re also going to be focused on social/emotional learning, trauma-informed care, and helping students recoup from the experiences they’ve had during the pandemic," said Shannon Trejo, DISD chief academic officer. “keep in mind that this is not a learning loss for students, it’s an opportunity to re-capture lost instruction. So we are really approaching this as unfinished instruction not learning loss."
Superintendent Hinojosa is considering bringing back virtual again as another option this year, as he expressed with NBC 5 last week when he said half the kids they expected at five different schools didn't show up.
"I'm willing to take a look and see what we can do because things have changed, the narrative has changed in the last six weeks," Hinojosa said. "I might have to have the option in my back pocket because I don't want kids to not be in school somewhere."
On Monday morning at Adelle Elementary, he shared more optimism.
“I’m very pleased with how many faces I saw out there. You never know if the message is getting out there. A lot of our families are moving around a lot. It was all hands on deck making this happen," he said.