CBRE Uses its Return-to-Work Playbook to Help Dallas ISD Safely Reopen

CBRE's roadmap for returning to the workplace has already allowed DISD to reopen its 16-story central administration building—occupied entirely by the district—to 25% capacity last month.

The Dallas region is home to a prosperous relationship between the private and public sectors, as the business community and government agencies regularly collaborate, align resources, and scale expertise for the greater good of the region. This is especially true for North Texas school districts—namely Dallas ISD, as illustrated by the district’s robust list of corporate partners.

When Dallas ISD needed guidance for reopening following COVID-19 closures, the district knew exactly who to call. After reaching out to the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa was introduced to CBRE, a global real estate services and investment firm, and fellow DRC member.

Informed by its own office reopening process, CBRE developed a roadmap for returning to the workplace. During a virtual meeting between CBRE’s local leadership, Dr. Hinojosa, and the Dallas ISD executive team, the firm walked through its playbook for safely reopening offices step by step and offered additional considerations for Dallas ISD’s unique circumstances.

“It was our pleasure to support Dallas ISD,” Michael Caffey, president of CBRE’s South-Central Division and Latin America, said. “CBRE is in a unique position right now given our industry and our own journey to reopen, and I’m happy we were able to share our resources for the benefit of district employees and students in our community.”

CBRE’s playbook breaks the return-to-work process into three phases: planning, reopening offices and bringing back staff, and ongoing workplace management.

Each phase includes a series of concrete actions and protocols to ensure worker safety. In the preparation phase, for example, CBRE recommends that offices set occupancy limits, establish seating arrangements to adhere to social distancing, evaluate staggered scheduling options, order and place signage to reinforce new protocols, develop rigorous cleaning processes, and survey employees to assess readiness. The second and third phases include similarly robust recommendations, including temperature screenings and digitally logging health checks.

The guidance from CBRE has already come in handy for Dallas ISD, who has leveraged the recommendations to reopen its central administration building, a 16-story building occupied entirely by the district, to 25% capacity for the month of June.

Dr. Hinojosa shared that CBRE’s playbook helped his team consider intricate details it may have otherwise overlooked, such as preparing an elevator usage policy or creating single-direction walkways throughout the workplace.

Dallas ISD has further adapted CBRE’s playbook into one of its own, tailored specifically to the unique needs of the school district. Now, the district is paying the favor forward: Dallas ISD shared its reopening strategy with the Council of Great City Schools, enabling the country’s largest urban school districts to similarly learn from and implement CBRE’s recommendations.

“We never would have made the progress we have without CBRE,” said Dr. Hinojosa. “We are grateful to Dale Petroskey from the Dallas Regional Chamber for facilitating the connection, and to CBRE for taking the time to share their expertise with us. Dallas ISD is fortunate to have such supportive partners from the business community who continue to support our students, families, and staff.”

A version of this story first appeared on the Dallas Regional Chamber site. Dallas Innovates is a collaboration of D Magazine Partners and the Dallas Regional Chamber. 

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Michael Wood currently serves as Manager of Education & Workforce for the Dallas Regional Chamber. In this role, Michael leads the DRC’s early childhood education efforts, promotes collaboration(...)