Thursday was the first day of school for Highland Park ISD — albeit virtually to start.
District leaders also announced that they will continue with their plan to offer in-person instruction beginning Sept. 8 despite guidance from Dallas County’s School Public Health and Education Committee that schools offer virtual learning only until “infection rates in the community are lower.” Parents could choose either virtual or in-person instruction after that.
“Our guidelines and recommendations respect the available science, decrease the risk of further spread, and contribute to the eventual elimination of the virus as a significant threat. The community of Dallas County, its schools, and our committee will need to frequently review the ongoing and rapidly evolving picture of the virus’s presence in Dallas County and in North Texas to make modifications that seem fitting,” the committee’s guidance noted.
The committee also recommended students not engage in the following activities at school or off campus: strength training or group conditioning; team drills; contact sports, including scrimmages; playing of musical instruments in groups, especially band and wind instruments; or any singing activities. Further, the committee recommended that schools not sponsor or condone organized sporting activities, music practices and events, theater, and choir and any other singing during times when the level of spread of the virus precludes in-person learning. We’ll have more about the new guidance on our website later today.
“Obviously, we understand and respect the county’s recommendation and know that it was not made lightly. At the same time, we have been paying very close attention to infection rates in the two zip codes that are in HPISD. Those numbers have been among the lowest in Dallas County since the beginning of the global pandemic and continue to remain very low,” HPISD Superintendent Tom Trigg said in a Thursday message to families. “We have a plan in HPISD to begin in-person instruction in our schools beginning Sept. 8 and we are going to continue with that plan. We believe that the extremely low number of cases in our community combined with the numerous safety measures that have been put in place allow us to move forward with that plan.”
The district noted safety measures in place include required face masks for all students and staff, Plexiglass dividers in high traffic areas, age-appropriate partitions for use by all elementary students and in the cafeterias at MIS/HPMS and HPHS, screening and daily temperature checks for all employees, screening of children by their parents every day before school, hand sanitizer available at every entrance, cafeteria and in every classroom, increased opportunities for handwashing by students and staff, additional supply of PPE, enhanced cleaning protocols for facilities, upgraded air filters on order for every district facility, face shields on order for every staff member, limited the number of visitors on campus, a hybrid schedule at HPHS, and continuing to encourage the need for social distancing.
Trigg noted that the district will be closely monitoring for any COVID-19 cases.
“As noted previously, closing down a school, a cluster of classrooms or even one classroom is a last resort but one that we will not be afraid to take, if necessary,” he said in the message.
A Quick Start guide is available to help parents get their students started with online learning.
For remote resources for learners, including a technology help desk request form for families, click here. Next week, a dashboard will be available to help students organize multiple classes. Students must engage in a live session or submit an assignment each day in order to be counted present.