Schools in Dallas County will be online-only until at least Sept. 8, following an order by county health officials.
Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, issued the order Thursday afternoon. The order, which applies to both public and private schools in the county, allows teachers, administrators and support staff to go to schools "to facilitate the online learning process," provided they practice social distancing.
The order also bars schools from holding activities like clubs, sports, fairs or athletic events until they resume in-person classes. Two weeks before they plan to begin in-person classes, districts must submit written plans for returning to school and resuming extracurricular events to the county health department.
Although the order is set to expire Sept. 8, Huang said in a news conference Thursday evening that it could be extended.
Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins and Dr. Philip Huang have declared a public health emergency. It is immediately declared that the reopening of schools is banned until September 7. Before September 7 only virtual or distance education will be allowed. pic.twitter.com/vsYX8FwmRe— Dustin Marshall DISD (@MarshallforDISD) July 16, 2020
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the county will convene a committee, chaired by an "eminent" child psychologist, to look at when and how it's safe for districts to return to in-person classes. The committee will also look at the ramifications the shutdown has for children, including mental health effects and access to nutrition, as well as how it effects special needs students.
"We recognize that this is more than just keeping teachers and students physically safe," he said.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In a tweet, Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis said he supports the order.
"The safety of our children and teachers must be priority number one," he said.
On Wednesday, the Texas Tribune reported that school districts would be able to keep their doors closed after the scheduled beginning of the school year without risking state education funding, as long as their county health officials ordered them to remain closed.
Dallas ISD's first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 17. But Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has floated the idea of pushing back the start of school, possibly until after Labor Day, as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.