Students head back to school in Garland, Duncanville and on 5 Dallas campuses

The school year has begun for tens of thousands of students in North Texas.

Monday was the first day of school in the Garland, Duncanville and Athens school districts. 

Plus, five campuses in Dallas ISD started Monday as part of the district’s effort to help kids who fell behind last year.

The three elementary schools and two middle schools have a redesigned calendar that allows time to help deal with learning loss due to the pandemic.

All of the school districts have outlined processes and protocols to try and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all staff and students.

They're recommending face coverings, disinfecting high-touch surface areas, doing occasional temperature checks and continuing social distancing where possible.

MORE: Back to School COVID-19 Q&A

Dallas ISD actually has three different school calendars for the coming academic year.

Dozens more campuses will open next week, but most Dallas ISD students will start in two weeks on Aug. 16.

The district said it will encourage everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear a mask inside school buildings.

"We have to deal with this," said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. "Our students need to be back in school, and so we're gonna make the best of it."

The goal is to address learning loss brought on by COVID and virtual learning.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring school districts from requiring face coverings.

Holland Elementary Principal Shanieka Christmas-McDonald talked about some of the protocols in place.

"I can’t make someone wear a mask, but it’s all about presentation," she said. "And my goal is not to offend anyone but to let them know we’re trying to keep everyone here until we find out more about how it’s transmitted."

Christmas-McDonald said policies and procedures may evolve this year depending on the status of the pandemic.

"Concerns have changed. Even this weekend as we were preparing, looking at classrooms, we reinstalled the plexiglass back into the classrooms. So yes, there were a lot of concerns," she said.

Dallas ISD said three to six feet of social distancing will still be maintained in the classrooms, along with enhanced cleaning and ventilation.

But unlike last school year, there is no at-home learning option for students this year. The only exception is at Dallas ISD’s new hybrid prep school, which serves fourth through sixth grades. 

Duncanville ISD welcomed all students back to class fully in-person Monday with no virtual option this year.

The district shared pictures on social media. Many students could be seen wearing face coverings.

Garland ISD also began the school year Monday. The district said staff and parents will self-screen students, including bused students, for COVID-19 symptoms. Plexiglas in the cafeteria will be available for students upon parental request.

The biggest concern for Dr. Devika Rao, a pediatric pulmonologist at UT Southwestern, is children passing COVID-19 to vulnerable family members who are still unvaccinated. 

"The delta variant is a game-changer because it is so much more transmissible," she said. "Masking and vaccines are effective in preventing the transmission. We can mitigate the surge in cases, and I think we still have time to ensure children are as safe as possible going back to school." 

The school districts also have plans in place to let parents know if and when a student or staffer at a school tests positive for COVID-19. For instance, Garland ISD will send out a letter once a week.