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The High-Poverty, High-Minority Neighborhood Where I Teach Has Been Ravaged by COVID-19

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

The High-Poverty, High-Minority Neighborhood Where I Teach Has Been Ravaged by COVID-19--How is Dallas ISD going to address our unique needs?

Toni Harrison-Kelly, Ed.D.

School Leadership for Social Justice |

July 27, 2020

Picture replicated from D Magazine

As I watch this pandemic unfold and follow story after story about the glaring inequities in testing availability and treatment in poor, minority neighborhoods, I have been concerned for the families that I serve at Zumwalt Middle School in the heart of the 75216 zip code (see the dark purple on the map above). My school is 72% African-American, 24% Hispanic and 99% low socioeconomic status families. Yet, unfairly, they have had to suffer the brunt of the blows that have been dealt by COVID-19. According to this June article from D Magazine, our zip code, 75216, was rated above all other zip codes on their Vulnerability Index. Meaning, residents of 75126 are the most disadvantaged when it comes to access to proper health care, high numbers of people with pre-existing conditions, housing and job opportunities and more. The article also points out how this map overlaps other compounding issues in 75216, including high rates of incarceration and high school dropout rates. To say that our community is in crisis would be an understatement.

Many questions remain. What types of psychological and academic interventions will be needed to support my students through this type of trauma? What type of additional training will teachers need to be able to provide these supports? Will Dallas ISD provide the necessary professional development required to help our students to thrive in the middle of this storm? A homogenous, district-wide, blanket approach to school reopening this fall will exacerbate the already glaring inequities for our community while dropping me and my colleagues into the middle of a COVID-19 warzone. Meanwhile, teachers and students returning in the least vulnerable zip codes have the privilege of focusing on teaching and learning without having to add disproportionate fear of COVID-19 infection.

Picture replicated from D Magazine

I have taught in the 75216 zip code for eleven years now. I could teach anywhere in the district, but my calling is there. My families that I love are there. My heart is there. But will Dallas ISD be there for us when we need support the most? Or will they ask us to literally risk our lives to continue to serve the students in our district who need help the most? My prayer is that the district acknowledges that some teachers will be asked to take larger risks than others, and for school reopening procedures to reflect these inequities. For example, schools in high-risk zip codes may automatically need to start the first reporting period with distance learning while schools with less risk may be allowed to choose between in-person or at home learning. Or maybe to address the disparities in internet access, students could attend school and move throughout the day with a cohort and one teacher in a controlled environment. According to these charts and maps, 75216 will require a different type of plan from Dallas ISD to ensure the mental and physical health of our students, teachers and families.

Relevance to the Domain Triangle: Beliefs, Behaviors, Knowledge

The goal of this article is to extend our existing knowledge of school inequities into applications related to COVID-19. Now that we know that high-minority, high-poverty zip codes have been disproportionately affected, how will this change the beliefs and behaviors of school administrators? How will principals and school leaders in communities directly and deeply affected by COVID-19 customize their approach to instruction and socioemotional learning to help mitigate disparities?



  • What beliefs did this information challenge? How were your beliefs shifted?

  • What new knowledge did you acquire?

  • What leadership behaviors will change as a result of this shift in beliefs and new knowledge?


Maddox, W. (2020, June 23). The COVID-19 pandemic’s most vulnerable zip codes in Dallas. D Magazine.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Dr. Toni Harrison-Kelly is a fifteen-year exemplary teaching veteran. For the last five years, she has taught at a Dallas ISD Accelerating Campus Excellence school turnaround. Dr. Kelly is also an education consultant, having worked with a variety of community partners, including KERA, the Dallas-area PBS affiliate. Dr. Harrison-Kelly earned her Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M University, where she focused on increasing student engagement in high-poverty, high-minority schools.


APA 7th Edition Reference List Citation for This Article:

Harrison-Kelly, T. (2020, July 27). The high-poverty, high-minority neighborhood where I teach has been ravaged by COVID-19--What does that mean for my health? School Leadership for Social Justice.

© SLSJ 2020

COVID Inequities in Education, Dallas Co
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