Based on the Denton County Public Health Department’s recommendation as well as feedback from district families, Lake Dallas ISD will begin its 2020-21 school year with hybrid virtual instruction on Aug. 26, using special in-person accommodations for families who need that support.

On July 27, county health officials recommended school districts begin their academic years with virtual instruction through at least Sept. 7. To meet this recommendation, most Lake Dallas ISD students will begin the school year virtually, though schools will have learning groups at campuses for families who need in-person support. These groups will be kept as small as possible to implement social distancing. Learning groups will include students who lack internet access, students of families who lack childcare and students with special needs who require in-person support.

These learning groups will be based on family responses to the recent survey regarding learning environment choices. Families who have not completed this survey should do so as soon as possible, and campuses will reach out to families who have not responded. All bus routes will be run as normal for students who are in learning groups to start the year. Families who qualify for bus service should register as soon as possible to denote their need.

Once the county’s recommendation expires, each Lake Dallas ISD student will continue the school year on Tuesday, Sept. 8, through a parent or guardian’s decision for in-person or virtual learning. Families will have the opportunity to switch between in-person or virtual learning at the conclusion of each grading period. Extracurricular activities will continue to follow UIL rules and protocols for health and safety.

Gayle Stinson, superintendent of Lake Dallas ISD, said the district’s decision will respect the county recommendation while supporting families who need in-person assistance.

“Most of our families have told us they want their children to return to schools, and we’re also eager for in-person learning as educators,” she said. “But for the sake of public health, we have to do our part for our community and follow the recommendations of county health experts. We know parents and guardians face challenges with their personal and work lives, and we have to meet the needs of our community. This is a difficult time for everyone, and we’re working hard to balance the advice of health experts with what we’re hearing from our families.”

All students will have the opportunity to receive school meals starting Aug. 26. Free and reduced-priced meals will be provided to those who applied and meet qualifications. Traditional breakfast and lunch service will resume for students in learning groups, while students in the virtual start will have the opportunity to pick up meals.

All students who are at schools for learning groups must follow the health practices and procedures Lake Dallas ISD has created for the 2020-21 school year. These practices and procedures include wearing face coverings, being self-screened for COVID-19 symptoms by a parent or guardian, not sharing items with other students, and social distancing when possible. Face coverings will be required on buses and campuses for students of all grade levels based on the newest CDC recommendations. Additionally, campuses will restrict visitor access to their front offices.

According to DCPH statistics, COVID-19 cases in Denton County have continued to rise, with a notable increase in positivity rates among those tested in recent weeks. The county positivity rate of those tested for COVID-19 now exceeds the state average. The positivity rate spiked from 11.3 percent the week of July 5 to 15.5 percent the week of July 12 to 23.4 percent the week of July 19.

“It’s very important that everyone on campus follow our health practices and procedures, because we want families who need in-person learning for their students to have that option,” Stinson said. “That means wearing face coverings and keeping our schools as safe as they can be. Once all our students whose families have selected in-person learning return, we want to keep it that way for the entire school year.”

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