Dallas ISD prepares for campus disruptions due to coronavirus threat

With growing concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Dallas ISD is making plans for any campus disruptions.

As of Thursday, the district has not announced whether it will expand Spring Break, which starts next week.

However, Dallas ISD is canceling all district events and activities until further notice. That includes UIL events, athletics, field trips, after-school programs and other campus activities.

The district is making plans in case of school closures and, worst-case scenario, a districtwide shutdown. They have plans in place for employee sick time, providing food to students and taking lesson plans online.

As Dallas ISD prepares to send students and staff off to Spring Break next week, the district is also preparing for what could happen after that.

Like other school districts, Dallas ISD is warning that employees and students who travel overseas to certain areas might have to self-isolate when they return.

“It’s extremely important for the employees to understand what is going to be needed of them in regards to if they have to self-isolate,” said Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Freeman. “We hope none of them have to do that. This is a dreaded situation, a pandemic in fact.”

The district is able to grant affected employees emergency leave if they do have to quarantine, which will not affect their paid time off.  The district says the state could waive certain attendance policies for students if the pandemic grows.

“We’re in new territory, so we’ll consider all options,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

District officials are also preparing teachers and students before they leave for Spring Break in case they have to move classes online and sending elementary students home with printed learning materials in case schools are closed.

“To train everyone on how to make sure their online classrooms could be set up immediately as well as videos and quick step guides for students who will be receiving training before they leave on how to participate in those online classrooms,” one Dallas ISD employee explained.

The district is also exploring options to provide Wi-Fi to students who don’t have internet access at home to connect to online classes. It will continue to provide meals for students in need to pick up if schools close.

“There’s no clear evidence this is going to impact us, but you can just see the overwhelming issues how they’re growing,” Hinojosa said. “So common sense would tell you that you better be ready because of the high likelihood it’s going to happen.”

District officials will come back on March 19 during the break to reevaluate the situation to see if they do need to close schools.