Garland ISD outlines detailed plan to safely return students to school

Garland ISD has announced very specific details about back-to-school safety plans.

The district says it will provide students with face shields and masks and school nurses with N95 masks and goggles.

Garland ISD is spending $4 million in government CARES funding to buy equipment and supplies and implementing a number of safety measures to help protect against COVID-19.

The district has been working on the plans since May. They hope to have everything in place by the end of August with the idea that students will transition to in-person learning.

“We must be honest with ourselves,” said Garland ISD Superintendent Dr. Ricardo Lopez. “This pandemic is not going anywhere.”

On top of educating students, school districts are taking on many more challenges with the start of school approaching.

“For our parents that want and feel and are comfortable with having their kids in school, we want to have that safety and protection in place,” said Garland ISD CFO Brent Ringo. “And so we're doing everything we can.”

Garland ISD plans to train students and teachers on COVID-19 health and safety practices, like proper hand-washing and what to do if they’ve been exposed.

Students will be screened with infrared thermometers and notices will go home if anyone in the building tests positive for COVID-19. The district also has plans for isolation rooms and contact tracing.

“Right now, we’re not totally able to rely on the health department. They are so far behind,” said Garland ISD Director of Health Services Renee Kotsopoulos. “The good news is the Garland health department has hired some new contact tracers, so they’re beefing up getting ready for us to go back to school.”

Plexiglass dividers and barriers will be placed in areas like front offices, cafeterias, and elementary and special education classrooms.

“Very similar to a rectangle that's clear on all sides, it just provides that protection, especially for elementary level kids,” Ringo said. “For that age group of kids to keep a face shield on all day may be very tough.”

District officials say they have more than 70,000 face shields for students and employees which will be kept at school and disinfected daily. They will also provide face masks.

“We should start receiving these shields in the next couple of weeks,” said Paul Gonzales, who oversees the maintenance department. “The goal is to have everything in place by the end of August.”

The district is trying to prepare as much as possible and be able to pivot as situations change.

“That still does not change the fact that we have to go back to school one day,” Lopez said. “And the more prepared we are today, the more prepared we’re going to be when that first day opens.”

Garland ISD officials say they already have misting systems installed to disinfect schools. They did that five years ago to combat the flu and absentee issues they were seeing. Schools will be disinfected regularly.