Back-to-School Starts Early for Some Local ISDs

Students get onto a Garland ISD school bus. | Image by The Texan

North Texas’ fifth largest school district returned to the classroom on Monday.

With its 55,000 students and 71 campuses, Garland ISD opened its doors to start off the 2022-2023 school year.

In addition to Garland ISD, Mesquite ISD, Duncanville ISD, Mineral Wells ISD, Palo Pinto ISD, Chico ISD, and Quinlan ISD all started school on August 8.

“The joy is back in the air, the hallways are full of laughter, and excitement is being shared in every classroom,” tweeted Magaly Mancera, a curriculum support teacher at Garland ISD.

Even as the back-to-school spirit was on display, so were some safety protocols.

Masks and social distancing were both evident, but a new emphasis on safety against armed intruders made manifest across the state in the months following the Uvalde school shooting in May has become a high priority at Texas public schools.

According to the Texas Education Agency, safety audits on all school campuses had to be conducted before school started.

Arlington ISD classes will not resume until August 15, but the district launched its safety alert system and website for students and parents on Monday.

The system is a real-time, seamless system that alerts students, parents, staff, and the community about emergencies such as lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, inclement weather, and hazmat situations.

“They can get it via text, on our website, and it is a security tracker,” Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos told Fox 4 News.

While school security discussions have ramped up due to the Uvalde tragedy, Cavazos said Arlington ISD has had a plan and strong partnership with the Arlington police for many years.

Cavazos said that the latest developments in school security are just an “evolution” of his district’s existing safety system.

Arlington’s security tracker allows for constant and concise communication throughout all Arlington ISD’s district and social media channels. The district has also hired a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team (MTAT) to monitor any threatening behavior from students who may pose a risk to themselves or others.

Meanwhile, Dallas ISD’s new safety plan for the school year is said to include resources for reporting issues pertaining to potential violence and outreach to parents to support school safety at home, according to district officials. The district has had a history of gun safety issues and on-campus violence.

Additionally, it has fallen behind the rest of the state when it comes to academics. Dallas ISD’s STAAR scores for the 2020-2021 school year clocked well below the statewide average across the board. A four-year longitudinal study on the class of 2020 indicated that only 82.8% of the district’s students graduated high school on time, compared to a statewide rate of 90.3%.

Dallas ISD will start the school year next Monday, August 15.

Allen ISD, Frisco ISD, Plano ISD, and Lewisville ISD will open for classes this Wednesday, August 10.

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