Much Uncertainty Remains as We Head Back to School
Editor’s note: This column originally ran in our August issue of Preston Hollow People.
How quickly does the news about the return to school change? I wrote – and re-wrote – this column six times in a week – three times in less than 24 hours.
Our explanation of what is happening takes this form, instead of in a news story, because things are changing swiftly. This is no knock against Dallas ISD or Dallas County. The Texas Education Agency didn’t provide guidance until almost mid-July, and revisions kept coming as press deadline approached.
So here is what we know:
The TEA on July 8 said districts should offer in-person learning as well as distance learning, and any extended delays would put a district’s funding in jeopardy.
But as cases of COVID-19 continued to surge, it became clear that stance would need to change. A week later, the TEA said it would let districts offer distance learning through the entire fall semester if local health officials said it was needed.
A day later, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang issued an order banning on-campus instruction through Sept. 7 – including school-sponsored activities like sports – after conferring with local school superintendents.
Less than 24 hours later, the TEA issued even newer guidance.
School districts can now go a full month of online-only and then apply for a waiver to continue that if needed. However, students who lack internet access or need reliable access to technology will still be entitled to on-campus instruction. Districts with high levels of community spread are allowed to delay the start of the school year, and once on-campus learning returns, high schools may be able to adopt a hybrid system that is part on-and off-campus instruction.
Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa was candid as he spoke to MSNBC reporter Garrett Haeke, saying that he was reconsidering the notion of starting on Aug. 17. Parents and teachers were saying they were worried about returning.
School board trustee Dustin Marshall, whose district includes Preston Hollow, said he was waiting to hear from district administration on the merits of waiting until after Labor Day to start the year versus beginning the year on Aug. 17 with distance learning.
“I am still listening to community input to formulate my opinion,” he added. “I do believe that parents are in the best position to determine what is best for their own families.”
The school board was to meet July 23 to discuss a revised calendar.
Where’s the best place to look for the latest local and statewide information on the reopening of schools? Fellow Deputy Editor Rachel Snyder and I are keeping our readers abreast of changes at peoplenewspapers.com.
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