HPISD To Close Schools Indefinitely

Highland Park ISD will close schools indefinitely beginning March 23 to prevent community spread of COVID-19, district officials announced March 16. The district is on spring break this week.

The decision is similar to ones made by Dallas ISD and others and includes the cancelation of athletic practices and competitions, district events, and field trips.

Superintendent Tom Trigg said the district plans to reassess by April 5 when campuses might re-open based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health agencies, and the Texas Education Agency.

District officials say they have developed a plan for instructional continuity and support for students during the duration of the school closures, but Trigg said during a conference call with staff and trustees that people shouldn’t expect students to be interacting with lessons for the first three days of next week.

“We want to assure everyone that the health and safety of our students, staff, parents and community is our top priority. This is truly an extraordinary time, and it has brought challenges for our system of education unlike anything we have ever seen,” Trigg said. “While our buildings may be closed to students to maintain social distancing, our goal is to keep students engaged in learning in a number of ways. Our team has been working diligently to develop plans to ensure ongoing learning experiences.”

As the delivery of learning opportunities for students will involve technology, district officials say they will work with families who may need access to a device at home.

District officials say school staff across the district will receive training and support for sharing learning experiences with students through virtual platforms. Parents will receive guidance from their campuses, both via email and on their school’s website, regarding their role in implementing the instructional continuity plan.

“Our desire is to keep students engaged in learning even when school is closed,” Trigg said. “We appreciate our HPISD families and the support they give to our schools.  They serve as a critical partner for us as we provide ongoing learning opportunities for our students during this time.”

He said administration will include a resolution to allow the district to continue paying employees during the closure at the next board of trustees meeting set for March 24 and that he expects the board will approve it.

“Our school community has never had to take such drastic action, but we all need to do our part,” HPISD Board President Jim Hitzelberger said. “I trust that all of us will rise to the occasion and work together to protect our community. We will make it through this and become even stronger as a result.”

The decision comes on the heels of twin announcements Monday – Gov. Greg Abbott canceled STAAR testing for this year, and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced that public and private gatherings of 50 or more people would be prohibited as of midnight, and dine-in restaurant and bar service is no longer allowed

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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