By Erin Jones

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas school districts are set to address learning loss due to COVID-19 pandemic-related online education last year, while dealing with the new challenges of the delta variant.

More than 2,000 Dallas ISD students from five schools returned to campuses on Monday, August 2.

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Dallas ISD’s H.I. Holland Elementary started the school year in safety vests.

“Our actual theme for this year is under construction,” Principal Shanieka Christmas-McDonald said. “Redesigning today for a better tomorrow.”

Following an extended calendar in an effort to address learning loss, this year they’re offering students more built-in social and emotional learning time.

A morning meeting to check in and see how they’re doing and a closing circle to end their day.

“That was always an obstacle and a challenge for us, just having enough time to make sure we are meeting our scholars where they are so they can grow effectively,” Christmas-McDonald said.

As students head back to school, the number of pediatric patients across North Texas is now three times the amount it was on July 2 according to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

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“Although kids are at very low risk to have severe illness and complications due to COVID infection, it does happen,” UNT HSC’s Epidemiology Program Director Dr. Diana Cervantes said. “You want to make sure that you are promoting just good prevention measures.”

“If March 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s stay prepared,” Christmas-McDonald said.

She’s promoting social distancing, hand washing and enhanced cleanings.

“This morning we had boxes of masks already prepared,“ she said. “Once we offered them a mask they put them on. They keep them on.”

Per the Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, school districts can’t require mask but they’re recommended by the CDC and encouraged by Dallas ISD.

“The masks have never been a major issue for us, mandate or no mandate,” Christmas-McDonald said.

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“Those measures that were helpful last year, are going to be helpful this year and then on top of that, for kids who are 12 and older, we also have the vaccine which is another huge layer of protection,” Cervantes said.

Erin Jones