20% Of DeSoto ISD Students Are Back On Campus
DESOTO– Following the delayed start of the 2020-2021 school year on September 8, DeSoto ISD entered phase two of campus-supervised learning this week amid the recently elevated Dallas County COVID-19 risk level welcoming roughly 20 percent of the district’s student population back to campuses.
Safety systems were top of mind upon students’ arrival as staff conducted curbside COVID-19 symptom screenings and temperature checks prior to students’ entry into the building.
DeSoto ISD requires students and staff to wear face masks while frequenting a district facility, social distancing, and other protocols to ensure a safe and welcoming return for the students. Many campuses created welcome back signage, balloons, and red carpet-style drop off locations.
“We wanted to do something, to make it exciting and ease the uncertainty,” said Woodridge Elementary Fine Arts Academy Principal Lunkin whose campus staff team created a sports-themed welcome experience complete with balloons and tinsel, basketballs, and goals, and rows of smiling teachers lining the hallways as students entered.
With the new COVID-19 safety protocols in place, Frank D. Moates Elementary Blended Learning Academy Interim Principal Roberto Torres said first-day arrival lines were long due to parents becoming acquainted with the new procedures but that, by the end of the week, this portion of the school day became quicker and smoother.
Cockrell Hill Elementary Principal Angela Robinson spoke of teachers’ excitement to connect with students. “It was just good to have students back in the building. We have not had them here since March. The teachers were so excited to engage with the students in person.”
Teaching Virtual & In Person Students
A glimpse into East Middle School teacher Ronica Wilson’s sixth-grade science classroom shows Wilson working at the whiteboard with the majority of her students learning virtually while simultaneously instructing the two students who were physically present in her classroom.
“This is my 28th year teaching, so this was quite easy for me. I just told my students in the classroom to login to our virtual classroom so I could see both groups online,” said Wilson. “I teach and call on my in-person and virtual students equally during instruction. I also encourage them to stop me during instruction so that I can address their needs immediately.”
Campus administrators and teachers have been creative in their use of technology to facilitate instruction and enhance classroom engagement when students are in two different learning modes.
A ‘Return to Normalcy’
Curtistene S. McCowan Middle School Principal Dr. Kelli McWashington said, “To see teachers actively serving students online and in the classroom was amazing and to see the hooks in the instruction and the gradual release model being implemented with fidelity was a really great experience as an instructional leader this week, given all that teachers have overcome to do their jobs in this time of crisis.”
Deputy Chief Academic Officer, Deidre Hannible visited campuses to offer support and took time to review data and evidence of learning and safety protocols in action.
“As I walked the campuses, it was great to see learning in progress,” said Hannible. “Teachers and students are following safety protocols and engaging in their learning spaces. Given the circumstances, I’m encouraged to see some semblance of a return to normalcy.”
Focused On Students & teachers Feeling Safe
Principals are focused on ensuring teachers and students are comfortable and feel safe on their campuses following the implementation of extra precautions like increased cleaning, frequent disinfection of high-touch areas throughout the day, and limiting unnecessary traffic on campus.
New East Middle School sixth grade student Terrani Edwards was so excited to return to campus that she posted a message in the district’s learning management system, Schoology, about her campus-supervised learning experience.
“When I was at home, I got distracted a lot. I love being here so that I can listen and focus on my work. My teachers are really nice and respectful to me. They assist us and let us know what we are supposed to do,” said Edwards.
“I don’t mind wearing a facemask,” said Edwards. “Although it is really thick, I can still breathe and it is not really a bother and does not hinder me from learning.”
Each day this week, central office and campus administrators held daily recap meetings to review opportunities for adjustment as the district prepares for subsequent phases of school re-entry.
“While we are charged with the education of our students, we are also responsible for their safety. This week was critical for our district. It provided an opportunity to test and calibrate campus safety and learning systems,” said DeSoto ISD Superintendent Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver. “It was good to see our students and staff reconnect in person. While challenging, given the ever-evolving nature of what the entire world is experiencing as a result of COVID-19, it will be our mission to focus on the safety and academic achievement of our student community.”