Tarrant County school districts resuming in-person classes amid omicron spread

Districts across Tarrant County will continue to have in-person classes even as COVID-19 cases continue to grow due to the omicron variant.

Education leaders locally and across the nation say remote learning isn’t as effective and they are doing what they can to keep schools and classrooms safe nearly two full years into the pandemic. 

Fort Worth ISD custodians sanitized campuses on Tuesday as part of preparing for the return of roughly 74,000 students on Wednesday.

"It’s hospital grade. Disinfects both the non-hard surfaces and also just helps provide an additional layer of protection and disinfecting the air," said Claudia Garibay, FWISD.

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The district is restocking personal protection equipment and strongly encouraging masks. It does not have a mask mandate like Dallas ISD.

"You know how kiddos, they will remove their mask, they will lose them or they will tear them, so we want to make sure there are plenty of PPE," Garibay said. "Masks, hand sanitizer is available for all students at every classroom."

Tuesday, roughly 30,000 kids returned to the classroom across Grand Prairie with masks strongly encouraged to prevent any positive cases. The district reiterated its protocols in place with face coverings and social distancing strongly encouraged.

As far as staffing, Grand Prairie ISD says it’s prepared to place administrators in classrooms if too many teachers and substitutes are out sick. 

"Right now, it’s not at a danger level," said Sam Buchmeyer with Grand Prairie ISD. "We are optimistic." 

RELATED: Omicron variant surge to peak in late January in North Texas, UT Southwestern says

In an attempt to prevent outbreaks from the start, school districts are scrambling to set up their own testing sites this week. 

Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD set up COVID-19 testing for students and staff for the return of students Thursday.

"We just traveled, we recently came back from California and was around many family members, some with coughing symptoms. So we just want to make sure we’re good before she gets back to school," said Brandy Gardin, parent.

"It lets those parents and those students know that they can come back to school in the next couple of days knowing that employees are taking care of themselves, making sure they haven’t tested positive," Andreas Espinosa, teacher assistant.

Mesquite ISD is also offering free PCR testing with in-person school starting Tuesday as well.

Administrators say they are ready to pivot if necessary. 

"We will adjust as needed," Garibay said. "This is something that’s happening today, but we’re always doing this."

But in Lancaster ISD, all technology has been officially handed out so this week students can learn from home. Lancaster is the only district in DFW to switch to virtual learning after the holiday break.

RELATED: Dallas ISD extends mask mandate, Lancaster ISD students to learn remotely due to omicron variant

Dallas ISD will return in-person Wednesday with a mask mandate in place.