As Dallas ISD gets ready for the new school year, each campus is preparing to ensure that each child is as safe as possible during the pandemic.
Masks, acrylic dividers and hand sanitizers are not the traditional items usually found on a school supply list, but it will be the normal site inside classrooms for those who decide to send their kids to school for in-person learning.
"This year is different; I have never started school this way, but we never thought we would start after spring break virtually," said Principal Alpher Garrett-Jones at Paul Laurence Dunbar Learning Center. She's been an educator since 1985.
“We’re all planning right now, trying to ensure we have systems in place for everyone.”
“Including bringing the children back on campus or not , we need to make sure that everybody is safe.”
Just outside the cafeteria are circle markers on the floor to remind elementary students to social distance.
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Placed on top of the cafeteria tables are clear acrylic dividers so students are separated. The dividers will be in classrooms too.
Students will be given their own personal storage bins to keep their own materials to minimize cross contamination
“That’s the most important thing to make sure that everybody has their own, not trying to share. Everyone needs their own material and supplies every day to ensure we don’t get sick," Garrett-Jones said.
They'll also get their own personal refillable hand sanitizer bottle.
There will be temperature checks for all students before entering schools and boarding buses.
"We're looking at all of the systems that other countries have used and other places have used to ensure we're using the best practices for our children," Garrett-Jones said.
Teachers would teach both online and traditional classroom students and those students would keep the same teacher no matter which learning model they chose.
"Yes, you're working on lesson plans and then trying to ensure that you’re preparing students for jobs for the future, so it is still very very important that we still work on that academic piece, but those safety systems are key right now.”
“If you would hear all of the voicemails on my phone, they’re waiting on us to come back, they’re really waiting on to come back," said Principal Garrett-Jones in regards to what she hears from parents.
"What I do hear from them is that they are saying, 'If it’s not safe, then we won't, but whatever you all feel is best, so we we're asking that you make some great decisions for our community,' and so that is what I've heard several times on the voicemail."
She said according to a survey done at the beginning of the summer, 78% of parents were ready to send their kids back, but that was before the recent spike in cases. A new survey is expected to go out.
As for her teachers, she said they have mixed feelings about in-person learning.
"Half and half, of course, those with underlying health conditions, (ask)'Should we, should we not? ' But what I do know is that whatever the decision is going to be made based on the safety of everybody," Garrett-Jones said.
Thursday night Dallas ISD Board of Trustees are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a number of changes to the school calendar due to COVID-19-related issues.
Items up for consideration include:
- Moving the start of school from Aug. 17 to Sept. 8.
- Removal of holiday in October due to the State Fair cancellation.
- Addition of a holiday on Tuesday, Nov. 3 for Election Day.
- Change from six-week grading periods to nine-week grading periods.
- Changing the last day of school from May 17 to June 18.