By Robbie Owens

CROWLEY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – From Dallas to Weatherford to Cedar Hill, the spike in COVID-19 cases is having an inevitable impact on schools.

Now, Crowley ISD, just south of Fort Worth, is preparing to pivot the entire district to online learning starting Thursday.

“We definitely believe that the best place for our children, is in front of our teachers, in our buildings,” said Crowley ISD Superintendent Michael McFarland. However, “The board has been crystal clear: we do what we can to make sure that our staff is safe and our students are learning.”

Educators know that online learning is not ideal, but the rampant spread of COVID-19 leaves few good options. And the consequences of even possible exposure can leave districts scrambling to secure enough staff to cover in-person instruction.

“The number of positive cases that we have are probably pretty similar to most places,” said McFarland. “But the challenge is the staffing of the schools. As employees come in contact, then we have to extend to them the opportunity to be out, and that creates a sub shortage for us.”

Although the pivot to online learning until after the Thanksgiving break is a temporary solution, McFarland fears the worst may come after the holiday.

“We’ll be trying to communicate to our people this week and all next week, just reminding them about the importance of practicing good behavior during the time that we are out,” he said.

In spite of health officials’ warnings to avoid the large holiday gatherings, some schools are already preparing for a post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge.

“We are worried. We are concerned,” admitted McFarland, “and we’re attempting to make provisions now to address that.”

St. Mark’s school in Dallas already alerting parents that after the Thanksgiving break, the private school will proactively move instruction online through Dec. 4. All co-curricular programs also suspended during that week. The goal, according to an email sent to parents, is to mitigate any post-Thanksgiving spread and allow students to return to campus for the final two weeks leading up to the Christmas break.

For now, Dallas ISD administrators say a district-wide return to online instruction is not an option for the area’s largest district.

Sherry Christian, DISD’s deputy chief of staff tells CBS 11 News, “We are doing our best to keep schools open.”

Dallas and other districts pleading with the community to follow the guidance of health experts, to help them keep the school doors open.

“They’re constantly telling us how serious this virus is,” said McFarland, “and we feel like an action like this will hopefully communicate to our people ‘hey this is serious, let’s take it serious.'”

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