EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to accurately reflect virus-related deaths in Denton County.
Students will head back to Denton ISD campuses on Aug. 26, two weeks later than originally decided.
The decision was made by Denton school board members during a specially called meeting on Friday.
The move is meant to give teachers and administrators enough extra time to prepare for what will be an unorthodox school year.
Susannah O’Bara, area superintendent, told board members: “It also allows for us to have an additional couple of weeks to be in receipt of all the [personal protective equipment] that has been ordered throughout the summer.”
The district plans to pass out clear plastic dividers, gaiters and masks to students.
Denton ISD students have not attended in-person classes since March 6, the last day before the district went into spring break and subsequently moved classes online.
Following guidance from the Texas Education Agency, parents would have until Aug. 12 to commit their children to either in-person or remote learning. Denton ISD is asking parents and students to stand by those commitments for a full nine-week grading period.
Reached by phone Thursday, Superintendent Jamie Wilson said normal schedule change procedures likely would be followed for special cases when those commitments can’t be honored.
Matt Richardson, director of Denton County Public Health, gave board members a short presentation about the state of the pandemic in the county before discussions of the calendar truly got underway.
He explained recent high positivity rates, an upward trend in cases and even announced the county’s 39th confirmed death. He also said health officials are investigating several other deaths to determine if they were attributable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
He also said the county has not seen a confirmed child’s death caused by COVID-19.
Mia Price, a school board member, asked Richardson several questions that she summarized as: “Is [the virus] ever going to go away?”
Speaking from a scientific and not an educational or operational perspective, Richardson said health officials have an ultimate goal of herd immunity, meaning 75%-80% of people in a certain population have a degree of immunity to the virus.
Two factors make up herd immunity, Richardson said — first, people who have recovered from the virus; second, people who have been vaccinated.
“We’re not going to have a vaccine before the start of school,” and we won’t have herd immunity either, Richardson said. The county will only be managing transmission.
Board members had 29 different people attempt to address them during the meeting’s open forum Friday. A typical meeting might have one submission.
Julie Zwahr, a district spokesperson, said only nine of those submissions were directly related to the board’s agenda for the day, so only those comments were read aloud. Board members were emailed the remaining 20 comments.