DALLAS - Classes resumed Tuesday for most of the school districts that were closed early last week due to rising COVID-19 cases. However, some are still dealing with staffing problems caused by the pandemic.
More than three dozen North Texas school districts were forced to shut down at least one day last week. They hoped the extra time off combined with the long holiday weekend would give students and staff who were out with COVID-19 the chance to recover.
A few districts, including Mansfield, Mesquite and Northwest ISD, hope to reopen on Wednesday or Thursday.
Mansfield ISD decided to close all schools and buildings last Friday with some 750 students and 195 staff having active cases. There was also a big shortage of substitute teachers.
Over the five-day break, custodial staff implemented its COVID deep cleaning protocol of all facilities.
Mansfield ISD says the staffing situation is also greatly improving. It says it has about 20% more substitutes available than it did prior to closing.
Northwest ISD suffered similar setbacks. The district also canceled classes as of last Friday due to the COVID-related complications.
As of last week, there were 1,155 total positive cases reported in Northwest ISD, and a 878% increase since the Christmas break. Deep cleaning has also been done at all campuses and facilities.
Northwest ISD also updated its quarantine protocols for staff, going from 10 to five required days following a positive result. That should help alleviate some of the staffing shortages.
The hope is for a smooth return to in-person learning Wednesday, much like Red Oak ISD in Ellis County had on Tuesday.
Dallas ISD avoided a shutdown but did have many staff members out sick. In the first week back from break, it reported 230 teachers out. But by the second week back, it only needed substitutes for 130 teachers.
The district credits its health resources for not having to shut down schools.
"We never lifted our mask mandate which was very helpful. We put in numerous safety measures. We updated both our staff and student safety handbook regarding COVID-19. We provided numerous amounts of PPE at the campuses. We do have a COVID-19 hotline and website page. We also updated our page for the health services department for students and parents and our benefits department for staff," said Diedrae Bell-Hunter, Dallas ISD’s executive director of human capital management.
For now, Dallas ISD will continue its safety measures. It still has COVID-19 testing available at campuses, and all students and staff are still required to wear masks through at least spring break.
In Frisco, the school district’s testing site is reopening in a new location to accommodate more people. The new site at Bacchus Park on Main Street will be open seven days a week and is for Frisco ISD students and staff only. Appointments are not necessary, but a school ID is required.
Another new drive-thru testing site also opens later this week in Garland. The PCR testing will be available at Homer B. Johnson Stadium on Centerville Road starting Thursday. It will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment.