North Texas school districts prepare to offer some type of in-person learning

The Texas Education Agency gave schools some ideas for the upcoming school year, but not as much as expected.

Some believe schools have the potential to become some of the next COVID-19 hotspots.

North Texas districts are still figuring out specifics to keep students and staff as safe as possible this fall.

Options include: at-home learning, face masks, and more.

The TEA hosted a call with superintendents across the state Tuesday and gave some guidance. But instead of giving them a comprehensive list of guidelines for reopening amid a coronavirus pandemic, the agency said it will leave many decisions up to the individual districts so they can cater to their community.

For now, the TEA is not requiring districts to mandate social distancing, sanitization or face masks but recommend it.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers wants those in power to listen to advice of health professionals, as well as members of every community across Texas.

Cook Children's Medical Center put out a list of recommendations from doctors.

Wearing masks is one of them, and another is changing up normal lunch periods.

“That the students eat their home rooms and meals be delivered there or brought from home,” said Dr. Marc Mazade, with Cook Children's Medical Center.

RELATED: TEA, medical experts release guidelines for reopening Texas schools

In the Fort Worth Independent School District, families have a choice. They can sign up for full-time instruction online or in-person.

“Students will be engaged every day. Teachers, different than last spring, will report to a FWISD school or facility to provide that instruction whether in person or virtually. We want it all to originate from school or a facility to ensure guidance and also quality instruction,” said Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner.

Dallas ISD will also offer in-person and online learning.

The district already purchased reusable face masks that students and staff will be required to wear on property. They will change into face shields for instruction in the classroom where there will also be Plexiglas barriers on desks.

Students will also have their temperature checked and hand sanitizer will be accessible throughout the buildings.

Other districts like Garland and Frisco ISD have also announced they will let families choose between either full-time in-person instruction with social distancing and safety guidelines or full-time online instruction with the needed equipment.

Parents are eager for answers

“We've been waiting on a lot of clarification from the state, the TEA, and locally,” said Colleen Tiller.

Tiller is trying to figure out what's best for the health of her 11-year-old boys, Cohen and Callum.

The twins, who attend Plano ISD, start 6th grade in the fall.

“It's a transitional year for our family. They're going into a school they've never attended before,” Tiller explained.

Tuesday night, Tiller watched the Plano ISD School Board meeting online.

The district is working on a remote and in-person option.

“At this point, we are comfortable with them going back with clarity of what those provisions are,” Tiller said.

Plano ISD trustees met for more than three hours Tuesday night trying to finalize a plan for reopening schools. At the end of the night, there were still many unanswered questions about what the start of the school year will look like, but trustees did rule out a hybrid model where students would attend class in-person on some days and online on other days.

And smaller districts like Sunnyvale ISD are hoping to get creative to provide the best learning experience for all students.

“We are going to have to provide the opportunity for students to attend in person every day. So with that in mind, we’ve got to start crafting some thought around that concept,” said Superintendent Doug Williams. “We are not ready to announce the plan going forward. We were waiting on the TEA guidance that we received to fill in the last piece of the puzzle.”

During Tuesday’s call, the TEA also gave some guidance on how to track attendance when it comes to distance learning. That’s important since attendance is how the state measures funding for each district.

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