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Students, parents decide if time is right to head back to school campuses



PLANO, TX – Students and parents in several North Texas school districts will have to make their second important COVID-19 decision this week:  whether to end their initial remote learning choice and head back to on-campus classrooms.

“I was like this is going to be so great. I’m going to be a teacher,” said Allen ISD parent Rebecca Joy Vautrin about the initial excitement of helping her fourth-grader and her high school senior take their first several weeks of courses online from home.

“But really I’m just a secretary,” she joked of the role she ended up playing.

And now at Allen ISD and other school disricts, it’s time to choose again.

School districts such as Allen and Plano ISD saw close to a 50-50 split between in-person and remote learning when school started. Now they need parents to commit to one or the other for the next nine-week grading period so they can plan teacher staffing and ensure that COVID-19 safety measures continue to be specific to the number of students on campuses.

But Vautrin has already made her choice.

“They’re going to stay home,” she said. “It’s a hard choice to make for each family.”

And families are making those hard choices while watching these latest numbers. The Texas Education Agency says there have been 3,720 students with COVID-19 in the state out of more than 1,101,000 students who have returned to school.

Plano ISD reports 12 active student cases or 0.02% of the student population with 27 students and 22 staff recovered. Allen ISD on Monday reported 10 active student cases or approximately 0.046% of the student population. Allen ISD, at the start of the school year, said it would use 10% as a threshold for active confirmed COVID cases for consideration of closing a campus.

Dallas County health officials say it remains in close contact with all school districts in the county.

“Our staff works very closely with the schools, school nurses, and trying to monitor what’s going on,” said Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang. “And if something is identified really get on it really quickly and identify what needs to be done to keep it from further spreading.”

“I’m impressed. I’m impressed with how they’re juggling it. And keeping a smile on their face,” said Rebecca Joy Vautrin of Allen ISD’s efforts to control any potential spread of the virus.

But while she praises her school district, she also works from home and is choosing to stick with remote learning for her two boys, partly because she can.

“It’s a hard choice because I want to do the right thing. But I don’t want them to miss out. So it’s a lot of mom guilt. Am I being too cautious?” Vautrin said.

Caution, and coronavirus data, that many North Texas parents are weighing again this week.