Summer ends for students in the Dumas Independent School District (DISD) August 11 when they return to class for the 2020-2021school year, according to information published July 14 on the DISD website. School officials say the plan for the return to school follows the guidelines that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issued July 7. The school year calendar was approved by the DISD Board of Trustees in their regular meeting June 15.
August 11 will be the first time students enter schools for in-class instruction since they left in March for spring break and did not return for the rest of the semester as schools closed in the district and the rest of the state for the COVID-19 health crisis, and students finished their instruction through various methods of remote learning.
Students this year will have a choice of returning to classrooms for in-person instruction, modified to comply with safety guidance from the Texas Education Agency, or continue with remote learning, though that too has been modified from what was offered this past semester to be "significantly more demanding."
Students wishing to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, as well as welding and other career and technical education courses, will have to choose the in-person option.
Students have to register for the new year beginning July 20. Those choosing the remote option will have to remain in it for an entire six weeks grading period. The school district has Chromebooks and other devices to accommodate all students and teachers.
District officials have also modified the school day. Except for the North Plains Opportunity Center, where students will begin their day at 7:45 am and end it at 4:00 pm, the rest of the schools of the district will begin at 8:00 am and end at staggered times. Sunset, Morningside, Green Acres, and Hillcrest Elementary Schools and Dumas Jr. High School will let out at 3:45 pm. Cactus Elementary School, Dumas Intermediate School, and Dumas High School will send students home at 3:55 pm.
The return to school is taking place as Texas has become one of the COVID hotspots in the nation with near daily record-setting increases in the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Some teachers and officials in districts elsewhere in the state have called for delays in returning to in-person instruction, and the TEA is allowing districts additional flexibility. The situation in Moore County has improved considerably since the spring, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott singled the county out for having the highest per capita infection rate in the state and sent a so-called surge response team to conduct testing and contract tracing at JBS in Cactus, nursing homes, and elsewhere in the county. Now, while much of the rest of the state is surging, Moore County is seeing few new cases, no hospitalizations, and no deaths since June. The number of active cases, according to the most recent data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, has declined to 35, and the latest seven-day average of new cases on July 15 was two.
In line with TEA guidance and executive orders from Gov. Abbott, district officials have come up with a program to disinfect schools, enforce social distancing, and ensure students and staff are as safe as possible. All persons above the age of 11 will have to wear masks. Visitors to campuses will be restricted, and they will have to have their temperature taken before entering a district building. District facilities and buses, which will be operating, will be sanitized with an antimicrobial misting system twice a day. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up at each building entrance and in each classroom, and their use by students and staff will be mandatory.
Large events will occur either virtually or in "small in-person gatherings that comply with CDC guidelines."