HPISD Pandemic Response Committee Updates

Highland Park ISD’s pandemic response committee met this week and district officials say decisions on when to conduct classes remotely will be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department. 

As we previously reported, officials said during an August 28 school board meeting that a kindergarten class at Armstrong Elementary had to temporarily pivot to distance learning because of COVID-19 cases. Since then, HPISD’s chief of staff and director of communications Jon Dahlander said two classes at University Park Elementary also had to temporarily pivot to distance learning. 

(Read: HPISD Again Mulls Mask Policy; No Changes Made)

There are nine active student cases at Armstrong, 30 active student cases at UP as well as two active staff cases as of Sept. 3, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Districtwide, there are eight active staff cases and 162 active student cases as of Sept. 3, according to the dashboard.

The committee also updated requirements for students and families who may have been exposed to COVID-19, added two medical professionals to the committee, and updated language to note that masks “are strongly recommended for indoor use at all HPISD schools,” according to a newsletter sent to district families.

The committee, which includes the district’s lead school nurse, campus and district administrators, as well as trustees Bryce Benson and Jae Ellis, added Dr. Julie Trivedi, medical director of infection prevention at UT Southwestern and Dr. Tana Roberts, a board-certified pediatrician, the newsletter read.

The district noted updated Texas Education Agency guidance authorized districts to require siblings of any student or family member living in the same household who tests positive for the virus to remain home during the incubation period after exposure. Students may return to campus if it’s been 10 days since the date of exposure, or the student has obtained a negative PCR test on or after the seventh day of exposure.

One possible exception district officials noted is if a verified vaccinated child aged 12 or older has been exposed to the virus in a household and is not showing any symptoms, he or she may still attend school only after being cleared by the school nurse. Absences will be excused and homework will be provided for students, district officials say.

Volunteers with a family member who has tested positive for COVID-19 are prohibited from volunteering on campus through the incubation period regardless of vaccination status, the district says.

The district says they will also evaluate large indoor gatherings and events on a case-by-case basis amid the recent surge in cases attributed to the highly contagious delta variant.

District campuses will conduct their remaining curriculum night events this fall remotely, officials say.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the trustees on the district’s pandemic response committee)

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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