DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The look at Fair Park is different than any other year, but a social distancing drive-thru version of the Dallas Mayor’s Back to School Fair is underway.
Friday morning there were hundreds of vehicles lined up for their turn to have a box of school supplies loaded.
As it has for more than 20 years, the event speaks to the need in Dallas. But this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic takes a financial toll on so many families, the giveaway means even more.
Fifth grader Jose Flores said, “I’m excited to get my school supplies because my mom needs a lot of money to buy the supplies for school.”
There was a different kind of excitement for adults. “Every little bit helps,” one parent admitted. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to get school supplies. We normally don’t have to do this [but] this year we’re having to do it.”
Starting school in the middle of a pandemic is an added stress for families, but Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wanted to move forward with the event and provide back-to-school supplies for students who need them.
Keeping with COVID-19 recommendations, the city organized what they consider to be safe drive-thru pickup system.
In years past, the back-to-school fair was an indoor event that included haircuts and health screenings, but not this year.
The limited in-person contact for students and teachers also extends to the classroom. On Thursday Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced that all classes will be online only when students return to school on September 8 and that the virtual education will continue for at least four weeks.
Mayor Johnson says he isn’t exempt from the effects of the decision. “I work, my wife works and we’re having to try to balance our careers with educating them [children] and being their parents and so it’s very difficult,” Johnson admitted. “I know that the parents in the district that are affected by this decision are going to be in for another tough four weeks of balancing. But I also understand why that decision was made.”
Instead of offering supplies on a single day, the event was spread out over two days — a walk-up event was held Thursday and the drive-thru option runs through 2 p.m. Prior registration was required.
In all, some 9,000 students are expected to benefit from the back to school fair.