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As school approaches, Dallas parents share feelings on the upcoming year

Between rising COVID-19 cases and the safety of returning to in-person classes, parents are anxious and split over how the upcoming school year will go.

Rocio Romero was ready for her four grandchildren to return to classes in person. But now she’s concerned she doesn’t have the control to protect them with the uptick in cases, especially since virtual learning isn’t an option.

“It’s like sending your kids to an unsafe zone without having a parent,” she said, noting that two of her grandchildren will soon receive the vaccine since they turned 12.

Romero was among thousands of families who arrived at Fair Park early Friday morning for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s Back to School Fair.

Along with school supplies, anyone above the age of 12 could get vaccinated at the drive-thru event. Before supplies were handed out, Johnson stressed the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of school starting.

“We need our kids back learning and socializing in the classroom,” he said. “We need to help our educators, our students and their families to stay safe this year.”

Cars wait to receive school supplies during the mayor’s back to school fair at Fair Park on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in Dallas. (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News)(Elias Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

COVID-19 cases are rising in North Texas, with the more contagious delta variant accelerating the surge.

While some parents vaccinated their children at the event, others were hesitant.

Maria Gomez is concerned about the after-effects of the vaccine on her middle and high school children.

She mentioned how some people feel pain in their arm or feel sluggish after a dose.

“I don’t know how their bodies would take it,” she said. “We’re just trying to be cautious.”

Kayla Wooten said she’s concerned about the handful of people who developed blood clots due to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Even though her 10-year-old son is ineligible for the vaccine, she worries how the vaccine would affect her own child.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused for evaluation and was ultimately resumed as U.S. health officials declared its single-dose method beneficial.

Wooten said she and her husband battled the virus in December, but got past it. She likened the COVID-19 variants to those of the flu and questioned if the vaccine would work against the different strains.

For most school districts virtual learning is not possible due to a lack of funding from the state government. Some parents wish the option was available, while others say kids need social interaction.

Gomez would rather keep her kids at home with virtual learning if she could.

Carla Pichardo also would prefer to have her kids at home for virtual learning but said the distractions are too high.

She has five small children and said they get distracted easily by playing with each other instead of focusing on classwork. Being in the classroom atmosphere would help them concentrate, she added.

“They’ll listen more to the teacher than mom,” she said.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in May barring any governmental entity within the state from requiring or mandating masks. Meaning school districts have no say in the matter, and parents are taking it upon themselves to decide what to do.

Wooten will send her child to school with a mask but doesn’t feel like he needs it. She would rather he be prepared so he can wear it if he chooses to do so.

On the other hand, Romero said her grandchildren will be wearing masks when they get back into the classroom.

“They’ll be carrying hand sanitizer with them too,” she added.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.


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