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'It's been extremely busy': Dallas schools balance COVID safety and cleanliness, as students return from winter break

COVID-19 testing on campuses, masks, continued cleaning and sanitizing efforts are in place as students return to schools across North Texas.

DALLAS — School campuses across North Texas were busy Wednesday, as tens of thousands of students returned from winter break. 

At some campuses, it appeared business as usual as parents dropped off their children for classes. 

The recent surge of the Omicron variant remains top of mind for some families, school administrators and staff. Many school leaders have been focused on finding ways to be proactive, even pivoting plans, amid COVID-19 concerns.

“My name is Ms. Jackson. I’m going to do a COVID test on you,” a nurse told a student at Uplift Luna Preparatory, as she began to administer a COVID-19 test in the school’s clinic.

Rapid tests are being provided for students at staff. It’s part of ongoing safety protocols in this school network during the pandemic.

A safe return to school for students and staff was priority as classes resumed on Monday.

“It’s been busy. It’s been extremely busy,” said Amy Cannon, senior director of Well Being and Health Services at Uplift.

Nurses are administering COVID-19 tests in school clinics across the Uplift education network of campuses. Masks are strongly encouraged in the buildings. Other proactive measures are also taking place.

RELATED: Where can you get a COVID-19 test in North Texas? It's complicated

“Our buildings are cleaned and sanitized all day long throughout the day. Frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and sanitized throughout the day,” said Cannon.

Students also showed up in strong numbers at some Dallas ISD campuses.

The school district was initially prepared to relax its mask protocols this month, until Dallas County’s COVID-19 threat level changed to 'Red.'

“That changed on a dime. And you have to be ready to pivot when you’re working in this kind of environment,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa.

In addition to extending mask protocols, Dallas ISD opened testing sites for staff on Monday and Tuesday of this week. It’s also partnered with Dallas County to open another testing site at Ellis-Davis Field House.

Each school campus in Dallas ISD now has nurses on-site to help administer COVID-19 tests to students and staff.

“I’m just very proud of the students, staff, and community for stepping up,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “All of us are looking for a better day.”

RELATED: 'Our context is working for us': The North Texas districts requiring masks, online learning are predominately low-income, Black and Hispanic

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