In districts offering in-person learning this fall, new video highlights the challenges schools face in enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.
In Prosper ISD, chopper video flying over Light Farms Elementary, Reynolds Middle School and Prosper High School during dismissal time showed kids clustered together as they left their first day of school on Wednesday. At times, students squeezed through an exit shoulder-to-shoulder.
“I think that is just a good example of how difficult it can be for schools to really implement the prevention and control measures from very beginning to end,” explained Dr. Diana Cervantes, Director of the Epidemiology program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
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“As a school, you have to consider not just when the kids are right there in the classroom but what happens on their way to school, what happens when they get released from school, the dismissal process,” added Cervantes.
Though the children and parents waiting for them were outdoors, Cervantes said there’s still a risk of spreading COVID-19.
“The virus does tend to be less stable in the high heat, the high humidity, but that doesn’t mean it plays such a major role that you don’t need to do that physical social distancing,” Cervantes explained. “That’s still necessary.”
The CDC published guiding principles for operating schools, recommending tape on floors or sidewalks and signs to reinforce a minimum six-foot distance.
The CDC also recommends keeping small groups of children with the same staff – allowing them to work in cohorts with staggered drop off times. Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott, who left reopening decisions mostly up to local districts, urged vigilance.
“It is especially important at a time when schools are opening that everyone in the entire school setting is extra vigilant making sure that they do maintain the safe practices so they can reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Abbott during a news conference.
He also warned the virus would spread this fall in gatherings, even just between family members, after school.
Dr. Cervantes points out schools with limited staff can only do so much. As Texans brace for managing COVID-19, the start of flu and RSV season, parents should coach their kids on how to maintain a safe distance.
She said families can also model that behavior by social distancing off-campus too.
“It’s going to be a challenging fall and that’s why we really need to make sure we are drilling that into our children’s minds and their behaviors on how we can really try to prevent this as best as possible,” Cervantes said.
NBC 5 reached out to Prosper ISD with some of the images seen in the helicopter footage, including images of children gathered at an exit.
A spokesperson told NBC 5 by email, “After reviewing the images that you included in your email, it appears that the people standing outside of the school are our parents waiting for their children to walk them home. Parents have been directed on proper dismissal procedures, which will be reiterated to our parents in upcoming campus communication.”
A follow-up email from NBC 5 was not returned on Thursday.
In Prosper ISD, 65% of the families chose in-person learning. Masks are required for 4th through 12th graders and strongly recommended for younger students. Students may not share supplies or computers and meals can be pre-ordered and distributed in a grab and go style.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.