Dallas ISD considering staggered approach to return students to campus

Dallas ISD laid out its plans to return to in-person school with a staggered approach starting Sept. 28.

However, the superintendent said if the county threat level goes back to red, the plans could be called off. His comments add more uncertainty for parents who, school board members say, already feel like they have been getting a different plan each week.

MORE: Some Dallas ISD students will return to the classroom early

Just after the Dallas ISD outlined plans for a phased-in return to school, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said ultimately the district will follow the advice of Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang if COVID-19 cases take a turn for the worse.

Dallas ISD trustees would have to approve an extension of virtual learning beyond Oct. 5. Several expressed concern that very few parents have declared whether they intend to send their children back when campuses reopen.

If more than 60 percent of students want to return to a particular campus, administrators say the school would have to use a hybrid model, like Plano ISD, with students only attending school for two to three days a week.

“I don’t know how we can expect parents to pull that off,” said DISD Trustee Dustin Marshall.

Trustees had concerns that parents were not yet told about the possible hybrid plans. Then there's the matter of remote learning tools. About 15,000 students still don't have devices.

DISD Chief of Technology Jack Kelanic explained the district failed to account for incoming sixth graders needing devices.  Middle and high school students kept their devices from spring, and the district focused on getting devices to kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We failed to account for that, that is why we had a fair amount of sixth graders who did not have access,” Kelanic said.

The district is also asking its HR chief to come up with a clear outline of what qualifies a teacher to work from home. It turns out, for example, that having cancer alone is not a qualification. The chief said before COVID, those with cancer already wore masks to school.