Dallas ISD Works Out Kinks in Virtual First Day

As students returned to school Tuesday (some virtually, some in-person), Dallas County reported some of its lowest numbers since this all began in March. These are today’s bullet points:

  • Dallas ISD works out kinks in virtual first day;
  • With new cases below 150 Tuesday, county crosses fingers for no Labor Day driven spike;
  • Communities Foundation of Texas encourages volunteerism on 9/11.
Dallas ISD Works Out Kinks in Virtual First Day

There is never a good time for all the phone lines and the website to go down for an entire school district, but the first day of school is probably the worst time. 

Compound that with it being the first day of school when the entire Dallas ISD student body is learning virtually, and one might call it the biggest glitch you can have on the first day of school.

The district worked to distribute hotspots and electronic devices for two weeks, but discovered about 10% of its students (mostly sixth graders who changed school over the summer) didn’t have devices Monday. 

“We’re still deploying those devices, I’ve been told we got out 120,000; we’re anticipating 150,000 students so we still have a delta that needs to be accomplished in the next few days,” Hinojosa said.

Some families discovered their devices weren’t ready for school when they powered them on, too. Others had password problems, and couldn’t log on yesterday at all. 

“The mistake we made was sending out the ‘How to change the password’ too late,” Hinojosa said.

And with websites and phone lines down, getting technical help was much more difficult. In Facebook groups set up by parents and PTAs, many parents began helping each other through some of the glitches.

“Anyone know how to fix this?” a parent queried about some wonky screen settings on their child’s Chromebook. Soon, three or four parents had provided the fix.

It may take a few more days to fix all those issues, but the district says that students who can’t connect just yet will have excused absences, and they won’t count against them.

A positive note? The district expected roughly 60% of its teachers would return, and on Tuesday, 58% did just that.

Most students (with the exception of pre-K, kindergarten, and some special education students, who can report on Sept. 28) will be able to come back to campus for in-person instruction on Oct. 5. But the district said yesterday that only about 20% of parents have responded to a survey that allows parents to choose distance or in-person instruction. So far, 44% of that 20% has indicated they will come back to campus.

Hinojosa said that the district does plan to have most of the biggest glitches ironed out by the end of the week.

“Hang with us,” he said.

New Cases Below 150 Tuesday; County Crosses Fingers for No Labor Day Driven Spike

Dallas County health officials reported 139 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, and three additional deaths, bringing the total confirmed cases to 74,100, including 948 deaths. 

An additional 3,226 probable cases were reported, and 10 probable deaths. 

Of the 139 new cases, 63 came through the state reporting system, and all were from September.

Among the dead are two Dallas women in their 50s and a Dallas man in his 60s. All had underlying high-risk health conditions.

“Today we report a total of 139 new confirmed cases and three additional deaths. The lower number may be due to decreased reporting over the holiday weekend,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “Hopefully we won’t see a rise in cases from the holiday weekend if we all wore a mask, maintained six-foot distance, and avoided unnecessary trips and crowds. Today was the first day of school for Dallas ISD and many of our students here in Dallas County although many children experienced their first day of school this year online.

“With the decreasing numbers, I’m hopeful that more schools will be able to welcome back our youngest scholars soon, and if we keep the numbers down, that more and more kids will get the opportunity for in-person learning.”

UT Southwestern’s latest forecast projects that by Sept. 17, Dallas County hospitals could see concurrent hospitalizations decline to between 260 and 460 cases, with roughly 680 new cases per day on average.

In the county’s Sept. 8 aggregate report, most confirmed cases continue to be between the ages of 18 and 60, with the 18-40 age group accounting for 46% of the cases, and the 41-64 age group accounting for another 34% of the total cases.

From Aug. 15-28, 317 school-aged children between 5 and 18 years of age were diagnosed with confirmed COVID-19.  About 50% of these cases were high school age.  By zip code of residence, 167 (53%) of these children were projected to have been enrolled in Dallas ISD, and one case in Highland Park ISD.

Of the testing done, positive cases accounted for 10.8% as of Aug. 29, with 668 positives coming from 6,199 tests. Testing for the week prior found that positive cases accounted for 11.3% of all testing.

Ten percent of all cases ended up hospitalized – 24% ended up in intensive care, and 13% ended up on a ventilator.

In a city-by-city breakdown, Dallas still comes in with the highest number of cases – 38,985 confirmed cases and 1,658 probable cases. Highland Park has 75 confirmed cases (up from 73) and another 24 probable cases, and University Park has 157 confirmed cases, and 157 probable cases.

Communities Foundation of Texas Encourages Volunteerism on 9/11

During the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Communities Foundation of Texas will encourage volunteerism with a Freedom Day community service event. 

Hundreds of volunteers representing CFT for Business member companies, sponsors, CFT fund holders, staff, and DFW-area veterans will join in service around the theme of “Equity” and “Justice for All.” 

“The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, recent economic crisis, and urgent demands to end systemic racism have created tremendous need in our community,” the organization said. “This year’s Freedom Day will activate volunteers to help nonprofit partners meet growing needs related to these issues, with a focus on building thriving communities for all.”

Volunteers will be activated in 18 virtual, remote, and physically distanced projects throughout the day Friday, beginning with an opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m.

At 11:45 a.m., a special lunch and learn program will be offered featuring Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.

For more details and volunteer opportunities, click here.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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