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Dallas ISD Gears Up for Coronavirus Threat

Dallas ISD officials are working on a plan to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading at school once students return from spring break.EXPAND
Dallas ISD officials are working on a plan to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading at school once students return from spring break.
Thor Deichmann / Pixabay

As Dallas ISD students and their parents get ready to head off for spring break, the district is working on a plan to keep everyone safe once they get back.

The district's spring break is next week, and officials are asking parents to fill out forms detailing any domestic or international travel plans their children have over the break. Those surveys are part of an effort to keep students and teachers who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus from bringing the virus to school.

The district is also hiring contractors to disinfect every building in the district while schools shut down over spring break. The contractors will be spraying the buildings with an antiviral and antibacterial agent that's designed to attract and kill germs for 90 days after it's sprayed. Workers sprayed the same disinfectant in each of the district's school buses last week.

Sherry West Christian, the district's deputy chief of operations, said the district is asking parents to voluntarily report if their children are planning to visit any countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have designated a Tier 2 or 3 coronavirus threat — China, Japan, South Korea, Italy or Iran.

The district has been working on a spring break plan for about three weeks, Christian said. The district gets regular updates from Dallas County Health and Human Services and the CDC, she said. Much like they did in 2014 when the Ebola epidemic arrived in Dallas, district officials are trying to keep parents informed about what to expect.

"We don't want them wondering what's going on," she said.

District officials are also preparing for the possibility that they may need to shut down individual schools if an infection breaks out, Christian said. If that happens, classes will move online and the district will work out plans to distribute food to students who rely on school lunches.

The district has had to shut down entire campuses in the past, notably when a tornado tore through North Dallas last year and damaged or destroyed several schools. But those closures lasted only a few days until the district could get students relocated to other sites. The quarantine period for coronavirus is 14 days — a longer period than the district has ever had to cancel classes, Christian said.

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Health officials confirmed the first case of coronavirus in North Texas on Monday when a Frisco man tested "presumptive positive" for the disease. On Tuesday morning, Collin County health officials announced the man's wife and 3-year-old child had also tested positive for the disease.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the first case of COVID-19 had been reported in the county. A 77-year-old out-of-state traveler tested presumptive positive for the disease and was immediately taken to a Dallas-area hospital.

In the Houston area, 12 people have tested positive for the disease, according to Texas Health and Human Services.

Earlier this week, district officials in Plano and Frisco announced that students and employees who travel to any of the Tier 2 or 3 countries over spring break would be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to school.

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