Irving — Monday, Sept. 28, officially was not the first day of school for Irving ISD students as school began on Aug. 17 with virtual learning only classrooms. However, the first day of in-person instruction for students who opted to return held the same excitement associated with the first day of school.
“When [the district] pushed [the first day of in-person learning] back initially, it was somewhat of a disappointment. It was bittersweet,” Sherry Thompson, a fifth-grade teacher at Thomas Haley Elementary School, said. “Once the actual day came, it was like the first day of school all over again. It was a really good feeling. It was definitely worth the wait.”
Irving ISD’s return to in-person learning for those families who chose in-person learning resulted from months of planning by district officials and staff. Originally, the district planned to resume in-person learning on Monday, Aug. 17. However, after COVID-19 spiked in the Dallas area during July, Irving ISD determined all learning would be virtual for the first six weeks of the fall semester.
Irving ISD chief of marketing and communications Dr. Nicole Mansell feels credit for such a smooth return to campuses goes to everyone involved: administrators, parents, students, and teachers.
“Our staff and our students have been incredible,” Mansell said. “The district leadership team, we’ve been preparing for this day for months and months. I can’t tell you how much time we’ve spent and invested in a safe return. To see it come to fruition yesterday [Sept. 28], it was just a beautiful thing.
“Everywhere we visited, you couldn’t have asked for a better in-person return. It was like clockwork. We put in the work and it paid off.”
Teachers were ecstatic to see students in person for the first time in months, a feeling shared by the students.
“It has been a much smoother transition than I ever would have imagined,” Thompson said. “Our admin had things in place already prior to the kids coming in, and it was all about us working together as a team, making sure we’re communicating with each other to execute the plan.
“The kids came in with shiny faces, and everybody who came through those doors was so happy to be back. They’re excited, definitely excited.
“It’s hard to say [things are back to] normal. However, we’re making the best of what we have. The hardest thing is not giving the students hugs or seeing the kids on the playground social distance. That’s our new norm but they’re OK with it. Our kids are still smiling,” she said.
For parents whose children resumed in-person learning, the feedback the district received proved overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve gotten lots of feedback, lots of chatter,” Mansell said. “We posted some fabulous pictures of first-day learning, and all the comments were very positive. [Comments said] thank you so much for allowing our children to go back to school in a safe environment.
“Other comments were thank you so much for all the work you’ve put into this so our kids can go back to school. For those parents that have children in-person learning, they’re very grateful for all of the protocols we’ve put into place so their babies can return to school safely.”
Ultimately, the return to district campuses was the culmination of months of planning.
“It takes a lot of people,” Mansell said. “There were a number of people from across the district who came together and worked so hard on this.
“We have a great leader in our superintendent [Magda Hernandez], she’s incredible. Our Board of Trustees were extremely supportive. We are very blessed here in Irving ISD.”
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