Denton ISD

Denton ISD's Dennis E. Stephens Central Services Building

Denton ISD school board members Tuesday will consider various strategies to face another school year during a pandemic.

The district has a shrinking supply of such meetings before classes are scheduled to resume on Aug. 26.

School districts in Denton County have long said they were waiting on the advice of medical professionals when it comes to concrete plans to open campuses for in-person classes. Denton County Public Health answered those calls early Monday afternoon with several recommendations, including advising that school districts keep classes virtual until Sept. 8.

Denton ISD released a formal response Monday afternoon letting the public know it’s considering the recommendations. The response mentions ongoing discussions with districts across the county but says each district will make an individual determination.

A move toward an online start for the 2020-21 school year would fall within recommendations from the Texas Education Agency. On July 17, the agency announced districts could hold classes online for the first four weeks of the school year, with waivers available to double that period.

Roughly 60% of Denton ISD students have recently expressed interest in taking classes online. Most parts of the district showed closer to 65% interest, but Guyer High School and its feeder schools fell closer to 48% interest.

That’s a departure from a survey collected in late June that showed 52% of respondents “uncomfortable” with an entirely online school year.

As of Monday morning, the section of Denton County that includes Guyer High was facing a slightly higher number of virus infections, according to information from Denton County Public Health.

As with all plans put in place since March, everything discussed might be altered over the coming month.

Safety proceedings for in-person classes aren’t up for a vote Tuesday, but board members will be presented a working model early during the evening’s meeting.

The presentation lays out a high-altitude summary of what campuses will do if somebody were to test positive for the coronavirus, including a thorough cleaning of all areas the person was in.

Students also will be ushered into and out of campuses through multiple entrances in order to split up large groups. Teachers will wear face masks when they can’t socially distance, but they will likely wear clear face shields when leading classes.

Students will be expected to wear face coverings during arrival, dismissal, transitions between classes, during class and while in the restroom, according to guidelines set to be presented Tuesday.

Limited meal options will be pre-packaged, and students will eat distanced from one another in designated areas.

Some federal waivers have been extended through the school year, which will allow districts to continue a semblance of the widely popular meal distribution programs they have maintained over the past several months.

Parents of students who opt to take classes remotely will still be able to pick up meals, but not everybody will be able to receive free food unchecked. Parents must have school IDs for their students present. People who qualify for free and reduced meals will still receive those discounts, but others must still pay full price for the meals.

The district is meant to vote on an employee emergency relief fund for people who test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Employees who qualify could receive $1,000. The item to be presented Tuesday would allow the district to set aside $200,000 for the relief fund.

Denton ISD employed more than 4,000 people this time in 2019.

Board meetings begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday. To access the meeting, visit www.dentonisd.org/trustees. Those wishing to address the board must fill out a form at the same site by 4 p.m.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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