Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told trustees during the Aug 13 board briefing that Dallas ISD will follow the guidance of the Dallas County Heath and Human Services (DCHHS) in deciding whether to start the school year on Sept. 8 by only offering distance learning or offering the choice of distance or on-campus learning.
Hinojosa said a meeting next week with DCHHS will guide the district’s decision on how to start the school year. The district has the option of only offering distance learning for the first four weeks and, if a significant Covid-19 threat remains, the board of trustees has the ability to extend this period by an additional four weeks into mid-November.
“Science will guide our decisions on reopening and we look to the (Dallas County) Health and Human Services for that guidance,” Hinojosa said.
Regardless of distance or on-campus learning, Chief of School Leadership Jolee Healey said teachers and schools will be prepared to provide high-quality instruction and social and emotional support guided by seven commitments to all students when school starts Sept. 8.
The district’s virtual learning option will use an asynchronous model, which Chief Academic Officer Shannon Trejo said provides the flexibility and funding to best support the needs of each student.
Students who choose this model will see a combination of guided learning, which includes in-real-time instruction and pre-recorded lessons from their teacher, and independent learning, which includes guided software lessons and homework.
The student’s teacher will provide the parent with a detailed schedule for each day. Districtwide parameters that ensure equity and high-quality instruction will guide the campus when creating the customized daily schedules.
“Our distance learning option will meet all Texas Education Agency requirements for remote instruction and go beyond these requirements to strive for equity and excellence,” Trejo said.
Dallas ISD this school year is providing the technology each student needs to successfully learn from home. A $20 million investment by Dallas ISD will allow the district to deploy iPads to approximately 46,000 students in pre-K through 2nd grade and Chromebooks for 14,000 students in grades 3–5 prior to the start of school on Sept. 8, and any secondary student without a working device will be provided one prior to the start of school.
Hybrid model at high schools
When school buildings open, high schools will implement a hybrid model where students spend some days distance learning and other days on-campus. The students will be split by grade level or alphabetical order and spend two consecutive days on campus and another two days distance learning. Wednesdays will be “at-home” campus flex days where only designated students will be on campus.
High school students will still have the choice of only distance learning.
Once the district’s decision on student return is known, Dallas ISD will send all teachers a work remotely or report-to-the-work-site survey by the end of the week (Aug. 17), due back on Monday, Aug. 24 based on the start of school decision. The district will determine with the guidance of the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department on the instructional model for Sept. 8.
If Dallas ISD starts in a distance learning model for all students on Sept. 8, teachers will have an option on whether they want to return to the campus or teach from home during this time. The campus principal has the authority to develop a campus process and approve or deny requests based on campus need.
Once it’s known when students will be returning to campus in a face-to-face model–or a hybrid model at the high school–an Alternative Work Arrangement (AWA), ADA Accommodation or an approved leave will be needed by teachers to not be required to report to the campus.
Campuses will survey parents or guardians regarding their option for an instructional model to determine how many students will return for on-campus learning. Campuses will then set the date for all teachers to return, as teachers have been identified as essential campus staff. Once the return date has been determined, teachers may fill out the AWA form if they do not wish to report to the work site. This form will go through multiple recommendations that include the campus principal, executive director, chief of school leadership and benefits department.
If the AWA request is not approved, the benefits department will follow up individually with the teacher to determine if an ADA accommodation is appropriate or if there is a leave type applicable to the individual situation.
Hinojosa and district leaders went over the comprehensive safety measures being implemented at each campus, from a weekly spraying of electromagnetic disinfectant and gallons of hand sanitizer to air purifiers, social distancing measures and redesigned spaces.
One update provided at Thursday’s board briefing is that, based on feedback from the Center for Disease Control, the district will no longer rely on students just wearing face shields at certain points in the day. Students must keep a mask on throughout the day.
“We will do everything in our ability to keep our staff, students and families as safe as possible,” Healey said. “Even though this will not look like what we are used to, we are looking forward to a successful school year.”