Alexander Elementary counselor Joe Guerin (right) tries to make first-grader Tripp Watkins laugh as his mom Katy Watkins, a math interventionist at Alexander, takes a photo by the first day of school display Aug. 15, 2018.

Delaying face-to-face classes until Sept. 8 is one of a few recommendations Denton County Public Health issued Monday to independent school districts in the county.

Denton County Public Health officials said they're making countywide recommendations due to high community transmission in the county in a news release Monday afternoon. Health officials recommend school districts should begin the academic year with virtual, remote or distance learning on their approved start dates until Sept. 8.

“We remain in continued communication with superintendents throughout Denton County as we navigate this unprecedented time due to COVID-19,” Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson said in the release. “These recommendations are due to growing case counts, growing positivity rates, and the likely disease transmission that occurs days before symptoms occur. We take these and other factors into consideration when making this recommendation.”

Denton ISD released a formal response early Monday afternoon letting the public know if would consider the recommendations. It mentioned ongoing discussions with districts across the county but that each district would 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."

Any on-site virtual instruction activities like UIL sports, band, choir and competitions can be held outside with participants wearing masks and practicing social distancing, county officials said Monday. Special education can occur when necessary and in compliance with guidance from the Texas Education Agency, the release states.

Health officials also recommend schools should create a safety plan to resume in-person instruction on or after Sept. 8, provide the plan to school boards and disseminate the plan to parents and stakeholders two weeks before campuses reopen.

Staffers can return to campus to conduct virtual classes, distribute free and reduced lunches and perform administrative duties.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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