A new reality for Central Texas students heading back to the classroom

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, students and educators in several Central Texas school districts are returning to school for either virtual or in-person instruction.

Thrall Independent School District was one of the first districts in Central Texas to return to school during a pandemic. Photos posted to Thrall Elementary School’s Facebook page show the new reality of in-person learning, with masks and social distancing in place.

Lampasas Independent School District started in-class instruction this week. Parents also have the option to chose virtual learning.

To date, nearly 75% of the district’s student body opted for in-person learning. Superintendent Chane Rascoe said he’s only had a handful of complaints and so far, the start of the school year is going much better than expected, but the week ahead will be the real test.

“If there are kids that are actually infected, and some of them are asymptomatic, that next week, when they go home, and their parents start showing symptoms we could see an influx, so we are trying to prepare for that,” said Superintendent Rascoe.

He speaks with the local health authority and the school nurse at least four times a day to make sure all entities have the latest information.

Classrooms across the Lampasas ISD are reconfigured for social distancing, fewer students are riding buses, and everyone is wearing a mask. There are also several safety protocols in place to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Most importantly, Superintendent Rascoe believes parents play a key role in screening their children before they leave for school.

“There is a great bit of nervousness, and I can foresee, we could potentially have to close a campus for a time period — that all depends on how the numbers go,” Superintendent Rascoe said.

Pflugerville Independent School District starts school Thursday and will be virtual for the first three weeks.

August Plock, a PFISD parent, teacher and the president of the Pflugerville Educators’ Association, hopes it stays virtual until COVID-19 cases drop significantly.

“Our association is asking that PFISD please take into consideration that we are in Stage 4 right now here in Travis County and looking at the Austin-Travis County Health Authority, we should not be starting in-person school until we are back to Stage 2,” Plock said.

According to the district’s website, “once on-campus learning is permitted, students will either attend school via on-campus learning or continue with virtual learning.”

For teachers, the uncertainty is scary. Plock says he’s already seen some teachers resign from their positions and leave the teaching profession because of their concerns surrounding COVID-19. 

“They may have a situation where their own health is compromised or they may have a family member whose health is compromised and they can’t risk coming to school and potentially contracting COVID-19 and taking that home to a child who may have issues or parents who may have issues,” Plock said.

Leander Independent School District was set to start school on Thursday, however the district is canceling Thursday and Friday for all high school students, due to an issue with the web content filtering tool that allows students to connect to the internet on their district-provided laptop.

Elementary and middle school students will start on Thursday, as scheduled. The district says the issue does not impact Chromebooks or personal devices.

Leander ISD’s assistant superintendent tells KXAN the district is working with any families dealing with connectivity issues.

Lago Vista Independent School District is slated to start virtual learning on Thursday.

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