DALLAS (1080 KRLD)- Congressman Colin Allred [D-Richardson] held a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday evening where parents could ask questions of local school leaders in his district. Allred's district includes parts of Dallas, Garland, Highland Park, Richardson and Wylie ISDs.
Dallas ISD has delayed the beginning of its school year until September 8 and plans to start with a combination of remote and in-person learning. Garland ISD will begin with remote learning August 10; Highland Park begins with remote learning August 20. Richardson and Wylie ISDs will let parents choose between remote learning and in-person classes after Labor Day.
Dallas County has issued an order that does not allow in-person learning until after Labor Day.
"That may change with the attorney general and President Trump and all these other people pressuring schools to open faster, so that may change. We'll have to see," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said during the meeting.
Allred said the meeting gave people a chance to hear from experts about how to safely reopen schools.
"Policy makers in Washington D.C. and Austin should be working with our public health officials and school boards," he said.
Richardson ISD is asking parents to make a decision by the end of this week whether they will choose online or in-person classes.
"I've been an educator in Texas my entire career. This is going to be my 31st year to start a school year, but I have to say, for sure, this is definitely going to be the most challenging," says Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone. "I also want to speak with confidence that we're ready to meet the challenges of our 39,000 students."
Richardson ISD says masks will be required both for students and staff.
"For our teachers, that is non-negotiable," Stone says. "We won't have our teachers in front of students, even though we know the transmission rate is very low for children, that's not the case for adults, so that double-masking has made me feel better about that."
Deputy Superintendent Branum says the district will use staggered arrival and dismissal times, masks will be required in schools and students will be protected with plexiglass shields in classrooms and the cafeteria. She says the schedule will also be changed to limit the amount of time students spend transitioning among classrooms.
"In elementary, whether they're going to PE, art or music or the playground, we are at all times limiting how students are interacting, and that goes to the secondary level," Branum says. "We have completely changed our bell schedules so there are less transitions."
Stone says the district has worked through the summer to develop safe ways to allow face-to-face learning while slowing the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Stone says second to mitigating the spread has been setting up a "rigorous, high quality remote learning environment" for students.