DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - As the Omicron surge sickens even the vaccinated, local schools are working harder than ever to keep classrooms staffed. Still. The announcements come almost daily that schools are being forced to shut down for several days because too many teachers and staff are out sick.
Larger districts, obviously, have more resources, but tell us that a lot is involved in keeping the doors open.
In August, now-outgoing Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa even defied the governor's order and mandated masks. Now, as Omicron surges, district leaders say that pandemic persistence and following safety protocols is paying off.
"We have kept our mask protocols in place," explains Robyn Harris, DISD Executive Director of Communications, "and quite simply, that really has helped! And that's one of the strongest reasons why we have been able to keep the doors open right now."
Dallas, North Texas' largest school district, also admits to being helped by having a very deep bench accustomed to filling as many as a 1,000 teaching vacancies per day, even prior to COVID-19. To help fill pandemic vacancies, central office staff and administrators - many of whom began their careers in the classroom - are returning to their teaching roots to help support campuses looking to manage a spike in cases.
"So, the good thing is, we are prepared," says Harris. "We have a plan in place, and we have already been using some of those strategies within our tool belt."
Dallas ISD continues to encourage vaccines for students and staff. They provide on-campus testing to quickly identify those who are ill... while also urging common sense precautions to stay well.
"Make sure you maintain good hygiene," adds Harris. "Washing hands, those things that we heard early in the pandemic still hold true today. We are going to have to watch and continue to do our part to insure we can have a safe and healthy space for children and students to operate in."
for more features.