by April Cunningham
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closures of schools across the state and nation, including Lewisville ISD last March, there were many unknowns. School districts pivoted to remote learning, not knowing if it would be temporary or if this learning would trickle into the new school year. LISD, committed to the academic and personal success of its students, planned to be ready for any situation.
As dynamics began to change over the summer with many businesses reopening and people returning to work, the district offered families two choices for their student’s learning — in-person or virtual learning. However, knowing in a district of 50,000 students that many families would opt for in- person learning, LISD was prepared to go above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
In late July, LISD announced an Aug. 19 start date with temporary remote learning until Sept. 8, when school doors would open to students for the first time in months. District and campus administration spent the entire summer break planning and preparing for the return of students and staff to the classroom. “I can say one thing without a doubt, the health and safety of our students, families, staff, and communities are at the heart of every choice we make,” LISD Superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers said in a video message to families before the school year began. “We have spent millions of dollars to ensure students and staff can return safely such as the purchase of additional personal protective equipment, desk shields for classrooms and teachers, purchase of specialized machines to deep clean our facilities daily, and the list goes on.”
The list did go on. From sanitization stations to directional signage and floor clings, many protective measures were implemented. The district also announced it would enter the school year at “Level Orange,” where it remains today. Operating at Level Orange means face coverings for all, no outside campus visitors, limited gatherings, social distancing requirements, and more. Attendance is also capped at district sporting events. While more restrictive, the mitigation efforts mean the school can go on as thousands of students attend classes on campus each day.
“I feel that our staff and students have done a tremendous job of implementing and following safety guidelines in the classroom and around the building,” said Amanda Werneke, Principal of Hebron High School 9th Grade Campus in Carrollton. “From room arrangements to mask-wearing to directional traffic flows around the building to sanitizing between classes and lunches, our school community has shown a commitment to keeping everyone safe inside the school building. These procedures have become part of our new normal, and I am proud of the care and concern for others demonstrated daily.”
She added, “These safety measures have allowed for us to focus on learning and teaching inside classrooms and beyond.” Students, while not quite the school year they hoped for, are appreciative to be back on campus learning and seeing friends with their health and safety at the forefront of district and campus leadership’s minds.
“The district’s Level Orange protocols allowed us the chance to have the in-person experience while keeping us safe with social distancing and mask-wearing,” Lewisville High School senior Erin Bonehill said. “We have been limited by what we’re able to do like football games and the parade, which is a bummer, but it helps keep us safe and is for the overall good of the community.”
Although LISD, along with many other districts across Dallas-Fort Worth, has experienced higher COVID case numbers from time to time, thanks to the mitigation efforts through the various protection measures and protocols, the district has only had to temporarily transition four campuses of 68 to remote learning.
“Because of the thought through and collaborative decision making of the district leadership and Board of Trustees, I am confident our students and staff have remained safe from most ills of the pandemic due to the daily wearing of face coverings and use of individual desk shields, which contributed to a thriving learning environment for all in-person students,” said Tim Greenwell, Principal of Liberty Elementary School in Flower Mound.
Today, while in-person learning is still not taking place at many schools around the country, LISD is looking ahead to May commencement. Recognizing the Class of 2021 and reflecting on a school year wasn’t always easy, but still had much
to celebrate and commemorate. LISD does not yet know what the future will hold but hopes to return to a more typical school year in the fall. One thing is for certain, the district, as always, remains committed to its top priority — the safety and well-being of students and staff.