RISD staff provided trustees with a pandemic update the evening of Jan. 10. RISD staff and trustees reiterated that the district’s goal is to remain open for in-person learning as safely as possible. Teacher and staff absences, coupled with a shortage of substitute teachers, are currently the most critical issues that could result in schools or classrooms temporarily shifting to virtual instruction. Key points of the presentation included:
Volunteers and Substitutes Needed
Many school districts in the area are experiencing a substantial shortage of available substitute teachers and staff in other operational areas. In order to keep schools open during the current surge of positive COVID cases, RISD is asking parents and community members interested and available to volunteer to help fill gaps caused by staff illness and required quarantines. All volunteers are required to undergo a background check, and volunteers can help a school in the cafeteria, monitoring students, assisting in the front office, arrival or dismissal duties, or substituting in a classroom depending on qualifications and experience. To volunteer to help a school, please complete the RISD volunteer application at this link.
To apply to be a paid substitute for the district, please complete the online application.
Central RISD staff have been filling in as substitute teachers and in other campus positions to help keep schools open for in-person learning since last year and continue to do so.
Important: Volunteers should wait for an approval/confirmation message from the school before going to a school to volunteer. Needs at each school can change each day, and schools will confirm with volunteers after they sign up if volunteers are needed in that area on the day chosen. Please do not go to a school unless you have received an approval/confirmation message.
Positive Cases & Data
RISD Health Services staff continues to track positive reported cases among students and employees, including at the classroom level. Overall, RISD has remained at pandemic-high levels since returning from winter break. New cases reported each day since winter break ended have exceeded previous single-day highs since the pandemic began: Jan. 3 – 266; Jan. 4 – 307; Jan. 5 – 242; Jan. 6 – 174; Jan. 7 – 167; Jan. 10 – 404; Jan. 11 – 375
According to public health authorities, the current surge in cases attributable to the contagious omicron variant is expected to continue for approximately three more weeks. RISD Health Services continues to collaborate with Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) as RISD’s local public health authority.
Thresholds for Decisions
The current temporary K-12 mask requirement is in place in an attempt to keep as many schools and classrooms as possible from shifting to virtual instruction during the current surge of cases and high levels of virus transmission. The K-12 mask requirement is in effect through Jan. 28, and RISD will determine prior to that date if it should be extended based on case and absentee data at the end of January. RISD is using these DCHHS-approved thresholds for determining actions, and any campus or classroom shift to virtual instruction is considered only after other options are exhausted.
Temporary Districtwide Mask Requirement – based on overall positive active cases, trend of new daily cases reported, trend of teacher and staff cases reported, trend of substitute teacher availability.
Temporary Campuswide Mask Requirement – threshold to be determined after temporary districtwide mask requirement expires; based on total percent of active positive cases on a campus.
Temporary Classroom Mask Requirement and parent awareness message – three active cases within a classroom that are linked. Linked cases mean that transmission is believed to be occurring among people in the classroom setting and not from exposure outside of school.
Temporary classroom shift to virtual instruction – 25% of students/staff in a classroom have active cases that are linked.
Temporary grade level shift to virtual – multiple classrooms within a grade level have linked cases – consult with DCHHS.
Temporary schoolwide shift to virtual – consult with DCHHS for possible action when overall campus absentee rate reaches 15% and/or a lack of available healthy staff impacts RISD’s ability to conduct in-person school safely and effectively.
Updated CDC Guidelines
On Dec. 27, the CDC revised guidelines for returning to work for the general public from 10 days for a positive case to five days under some circumstances. At that time, the CDC did not apply those guidelines to school settings, but did so last week.
On Jan. 7, RISD adopted the revised guidelines as an option for teachers and staff. RISD is currently evaluating the differences between state of Texas guidelines for students and the updated CDC guidelines before making a decision to extend the new CDC guidelines to students.