Dallas ISD teachers call for return to all-virtual learning

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Teachers in Dallas ISD say the district should return to all-virtual classes because Dallas County has increased its risk level for COVID-19. Last week, Dallas County increased the risk level from Orange, "Extreme Caution," to Red, "Stay Home, Stay Safe."

At a school board meeting Thursday night, teachers lined up to talk about violations they say they have seen on campuses.

"After talking to hundreds of educators in schools, it is clear this problem will only worsen in the days and weeks to come," says George Rangel, the executive vice president of Alliance AFT, the Dallas teachers' union. "Many guidelines do not go far enough to keep our students and educators safe. The district has guidelines in place that look good on paper, but implementation has failed miserably."

Some teachers said students, other teachers and administrators have been been refusing to wear masks or wearing them improperly.

"Respectfully, I am at my breaking point. What is the district's plan?" asked Katrina Rasmussen, who said she is a high school teacher in the district. "We do not have the community buy-in needed to hold face-to-face classes safely."

"This is not a matter of being stricter about enforcing expectations. The expectations themselves are unrealistic," said high school English teacher Christine Elliot.

Dallas ISD reported 405 total cases of COVID-19 September 28 through Thursday. The district has posted an online dashboard to track cases.

Of those 405 cases, 222 are students, 152 are campus staff and 55 are central staff. Elementary schools have had the most cases, with 210, followed by high schools with 104 and middle schools with 56.

The district responded Thursday night, saying a return to virtual classes only is not an option. Dallas ISD would have had to request a waiver to extend virtual learning by October 5, when Dallas County was still at the "orange" level for COVID-19 risk.

"The [Texas Education Agency] now has restrictive requirements for districts to receive waivers, which are generally short in duration and includes a phased-in plan for in-person learning. For this reason, Dallas ISD is staying the course, offering the options of virtual and on-campus instruction. We remain committed to following the recommended safety protocols, including social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, and sanitizing classrooms and facilities," Dallas ISD wrote in a statement.