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Parents worry, anticipate 'rollercoaster' as Texas kids return to school amid COVID surge

Keren Carrión
Paul Andres gives a pep talk to his daughter, Mea, 5, before her first day of school at Lakewood Elementary. Andres said his daughter is double-vaccinated. "We're doing the best we can," he said.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state as classes resume for most Texas school kids after their holiday break.

Many school districts across North Texas resumed classes this week after a couple weeks off for winter break.

Some parents at Lakewood Elementary School in the Dallas Independent School District shared their complicated feelings about sending children back into classrooms, as the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge.

Uncertainty persists

Amid the hugs and "love you's," help with backpacks and face masks, mom Lauren Cureton was ready for a return to the daily schedule when school resumed Wednesday. Her family was able to get away to France over the winter break.

"We all got tested before we went and after we came back," Cureton said. "Over there, you have to have a health pass to go into every restaurant and every store...so we felt safe. But it was awesome to just get away and feel normal for a bit.”

But Cureton said the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases means uncertainty and worry persist.

“I feel like it gets better and then it gets worse and it gets better and it gets worse,” Cureton said. “How long is that going to last? I mean, I feel like until everyone gets vaccinated and gets on board with taking care of each other, it's going to be this roller coaster for a while.”

Keren Carrión
Kids return to in-person learning on January 2022 as the omicron variant surges.

Jim Barrett said his entire family had been vaccinated and also received their booster shots. He’s aware, however, that many Texans remain unvaccinated.

“I don't understand why everyone's so reluctant to get shots,” said Barrett. “You know, we've been doing it for decades with all the shots required to go to school anyway. Everyone's had their measles, mumps, rubella shot. Why not (the) COVID shot?”

Another Lakewood Elementary parent, Joe Hildebrand, likes that his kids are back in class. They’re also all vaccinated and the district makes them mask up.

“By a long shot. It's far more important for the kids to be in school than to be at home,” he said. “The importance of education far outweighs the risks of the virus.”

To mitigate that risk, Dallas ISD insists everyone on any school property wear a mask. That runs counter to the governor’s order against any mask mandate.

Keren Carrión
A little girl takes a mask from the crossing guard at Lakewood Elementary in Dallas, on the first day back to school, on Jan. 5, 2022.

With omicron’s spread, a few Texas school districts chose to postpone in-person classes. Lancaster ISD for example will hold virtual classes this week. It’ll welcome students back on Monday, Jan. 10. Other Texas districts re-opening later than planned — because of omicron — include Weslaco, Driscoll, Mercedes, Kingsville and Bishop.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

Copyright 2022 KERA

background:white">Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at Dallas NPR station KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues. He’s won numerous awards over the years, with top honors from the Dallas Press Club, Texas Medical Association, the Dallas and Texas Bar Associations, the American Diabetes Association and a national health reporting grant from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Zeeble was born in Philadelphia, Pa. and grew up in the nearby suburb of Cherry Hill, NJ, where he became an accomplished timpanist and drummer. Heading to college near Chicago on a scholarship, he fell in love with public radio, working at the college classical/NPR station, and he has pursued public radio ever since.