DALLAS, Texas — The Dallas Independent School District has postponed the return of district employees working in-person again, after Texas saw a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Central staff was supposed to return on July 6, but that date has now changed to Aug. 3.
The announcement comes as the district surveys parents about how they would prefer their kids to return to the classroom. The results for that survey have not been publicly released yet.
Plans regarding how the school year will formally look have yet to be released too, after the TEA delayed the announcement of statewide health guidelines.
A draft of those guidelines mostly leaves districts in charge of how to prevent COVID-19. Few mandates were outlined but students and staff were recommended to stay six feet apart, sanitize and wear masks.
A DISD task force is working on reopening efforts, an ever-changing math problem per Alliance-American Federation of Teachers President Rena Honea.
The union represents an estimated 6,000 educators within the Dallas Independent School District.
Honea's primary concern has been safety for teachers and students. But it's a hard balance considering in-person teaching is the most effective way to educate and boost state test scores, which has a correlation with teacher compensation.
"Teachers don't really think that their input has been heard about how they are going to need to feel safe," Honea said.
"It's a huge detriment for educators, not having clear guidance or clear directions."
Blended learning is to be expected in the upcoming school year, which is a mixture of in-person learning and virtual learning.
But Honea said that teachers have no idea if they're going to have to do one, the other or both.
Andrew Kirk is a teacher at Sunset High School in Oak Cliff. He said doing both virtual learning and in-person teaching would be a large expectation.
"It's really difficult to replicate your classroom community on something like Zoom," Kirk said. "The expectations we've had of teachers have been really onerous and transferring those over now during a pandemic -- it's really unsustainable."
Kirk fears that forgetting homework may evolve into forgetting masks and right now, he's unsure what a positive test result in the school would mean for him.
"How would something like quarantine be implemented and how would it impact district employees?" Kirk said.
Honea is also concerned about elementary and special needs students. For teachers in those situations, distancing and mask enforcement would be hard.
"Many of those students have a very difficult time making changes," Honea said.
Honea has also expressed to WFAA that she expects a number of teachers who are eligible to retire to do so before the school year begins.
Friday is the last day for DISD teachers to inform the state that they're retiring, to avoid penalizations to their record.
Honea thinks that can be prevented if more is known.
"Most of them have told me that they need more information to make a better decision for themselves and their family," Honea said.
Regardless, student achievement is at risk. The TEA has said that STAAR testing will resume for the upcoming school year.
Kirk said that teaching a test before the pandemic was already difficult.
He can only hope students don't get left behind.
"There are just too many variables that we can't control," Kirk said.