Dallas ISD considers later start date, end date for upcoming school year

Dallas ISD is considering a significant change to the end of the upcoming school year.

Currently, the school year is scheduled to end on May 27. That could be pushed back to June 18.

Dallas ISD is scheduled to start Aug. 17 with online-instruction only. That date might be pushed back as well to Sept. 8, which is the first day private and public schools in Dallas County are allowed to begin in-person instruction.

The DISD school board will meet Thursday to discuss the proposals.

Meanwhile, two DISD trustees held town hall meetings on Monday to hear from parents.

While many parents are concerned the delay of on-campus instruction signals the beginning of the end for this school year, Dallas ISD Trustee Ben Mackey has a more optimistic perspective. He believes the district should keep both students and educators safe by thinking outside the box.

While nothing about this world seems ideal at the moment, Mackey believes there is a way to have kids on campus even if not every teacher is comfortable returning.

The district will have face shields, table dividers and hand sanitizing stations with social distance markers.

Mackey believes Dallas ISD could begin by opening up its campuses as learning centers.

Students would use the classrooms with teachers providing instruction remotely.

There would still be adults on campus to provide supervision and to help facilitate online lessons. Mackey says the experience will be different from last spring.

Alliance AFT President Rena Honea says she agrees that the option to teach virtually should be extended to every teacher.  She says on-campus instruction should not return until there has been a 3-4 week decline in cases and hospitalizations.

“I would like us to not even consider face-to-face instruction until January. We are talking about human life here,” she said.

Honea says she is sympathetic the plight of families without a parent who can stay home. 

“I am sure they will rely on family members, on extended family and on siblings to help the kids,” she said.

Dallas ISD parents and teachers also voiced their questions and concerns Monday in the two virtual town hall meetings.

“Can the teachers teach from the classroom to their virtual students? Would that be an option?” one teacher asked.

The online chat sessions were organized in response to the ever-changing back-to-school landscape as cases in Dallas County continue to surge.

“My goal in hosting is to have a forum understand what parents and educators need in a fall reopening plan,” Mackey said. “We need a plan even if it changes so parents and educators can make a decision for what is best for their families.”

Ronndranae Williams is a Dallas mom recovering from COVID-19. Her 5-year-old daughter is about to start kindergarten. She's worried about her daughter's health and safety.

“They're close together. Kids don't understand, ‘I can't touch you. I can't play with you. I can't share this block with you.’ So, no,” Williams said. “Until there's a cure for this, our kids can do virtual learning. We just need to make it happen.”

Dallas ISD is set to consider the school start date at a special meeting Thursday. The meeting starts at 3 p.m.

Parents will have to sign up by Wednesday afternoon if they want to speak. Since the meeting is in-person, people are reminded to bring a face mask or they won't be allowed in.