Denton County health officials recommend delaying school reopenings

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The Denton County health department is recommending that local school districts delay face-to-face instruction until September, with some exceptions.

Denton County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson and DCPH Health Authority Dr. Marty Buchanan issued recommendations to independent school districts within Denton County on Monday, to provide guidance on the upcoming school year, according to a DCPH news release. The recommendations allow local district boards to make district-wide decisions while COVID-19 health and safety precautions remain prioritized.

In light of continued high community transmission of COVID-19 in Denton County, and in addition to the available scientific knowledge of transmission across Texas and the United States, DCPH is making the following countywide recommendations to school officials:

  1. Delay face-to-face instruction until Sept. 8

The following exceptions may be necessary, and should require continual use of facial coverings and physical distancing:

    • On-site virtual instruction activities by administrators, teachers and staff school-sponsored events/activities such as UIL sports, bands, choirs, competitions and similar events may be conducted outdoors with the use of masks and physical distancing.
    • Self-contained special education instruction may occur when necessary and in accordance with TEA guidelines, as feasible.
  1. Schools should conduct virtual, remote, or distance learning activities, in compliance with their approved start dates, prior to Sept. 8 to meet TEA requirements.
  2. School administrators, teachers, and staff may return to school campuses to provide virtual learning instructional activities, provide food distribution including free and reduced lunch services and to perform administrative duties, as consistent with TEA guidelines.
  3. Schools should create, maintain, and provide a safety protocol/plan for resuming in-person instruction on or after Sept. 8 to the school boards and disseminate the plan to parents and stakeholders two weeks prior to re-opening campuses, per ISD approved calendars.

“We continue to utilize the latest information available to us locally and through the scientific community in order to provide recommendations to best protect all community members in Denton County,” Buchanan said. “School district boards remain the decision makers in determining their school calendars, methods of education provision, and daily education operations.”

Leaders from the following Denton County school districts are collaborating to share how the recommendation affects their respective schools: Argyle ISD, Aubrey ISD, Carrollton- Farmers Branch ISD, Denton ISD, Krum ISD, Lake Dallas ISD, Lewisville ISD, Little Elm ISD, North Texas Collegiate Academy (all campuses), Pilot Point ISD, Ponder ISD, Westlake Academy and Sanger ISD. Each school district will make its own decision separately based on the best interests of its community, and those decisions will be communicated directly to families by district leaders, according to a news release from Argyle ISD.

Northwest ISD is already delaying reopening until Sept. 28 because of a Tarrant County order.

“We remain in continued communication with superintendents throughout Denton County as we navigate this unprecedented time due to COVID-19,” Richardson said.  “These recommendations are due to growing case counts, growing positivity rates, and the likely disease transmission that occurs days before symptoms occur. We take these and other factors into consideration when making this recommendation.”

The recommendations comply with the intent of Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order, as well as guidance for school districts provided by the Texas Education Agency.

About The Author

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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