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Dallas ISD superintendent addresses concerns over district's handling of COVID-19

Parents and city leaders have questions about indefinite school closures, a COVID-19 case at a local middle school, instructional plans, and meals for students.

DALLAS — Schools across North Texas are shut down right now. However, neighbors near J.L. Long Middle School in Dallas still hear school bells ringing throughout the day.

Dallas Independent School District and Dallas County Health officials sounded the alarm about J.L. Long Middle School this week, after a student who tested positive for COVID-19.

RELATED: Dallas middle school student tests positive, officials say

“We’re heartbroken that we had a student identified with the virus," DISD superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said. 

Hinojosa spent Wednesday morning answering questions from the Dallas City Council and some families whose children are out of the classroom indefinitely.

RELATED: LIST: Dallas, Grand Prairie, Richardson ISDs closing indefinitely

Sara Fraga has a daughter who attends Mata Elementary School. She asked Hinojosa how parents should implement the lessons their children will be getting from their teachers.

Dr. Hinojosa said Dallas ISD will launch remote learning plans Monday. Some students will be able to pick up weekly lesson packets and grab-and-go meals at certain neighborhood campuses.

"Starting on Monday and Thursday, every week, we will have all of our secondary schools open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. where students can go and collect food for three days, and they can also collect their lessons," he said.

Instructional material will be available from those schools, especially for students who do not have internet access.

"Do you have any idea how many students do not have internet at home,” Councilman Jaime Resendez asked.

Dallas ISD believes as many as 40% of its students do not have internet connectivity at home. Dr. Hinojosa said Dallas ISD is looking into creative ways to add internet stations in some neighborhoods, and is asking for hotspot donations.

"What happens to our seniors," Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough asked.

Graduation is looming, and many parents want to know the District’s plan of action.

”We just don’t know that yet,” Dr. Hinojosa said in his presentation. “In the next two weeks, we’ll know a lot more. If we’re not even going to have school for the rest of the year, then we maybe figure out how we have commencement close to where we have them.”

As Dallas ISD continues to work on a contingency plan, campuses across the school district are being cleaned.

The superintendent said administrators are holding virtual meetings every other day. For now, they are planning to update community members every three weeks.

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