Back-to-school in Central Texas: Austin area district start dates and COVID-19 safety measures

Education
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CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — It’s just weeks before Central Texas schools return for their second year of pandemic-era classes and fall 2021 will bring no shortage of decisions for families to consider.

It’s important to note that while Texas school districts aren’t able to require masking, many are encouraging both students and staff to do so.

Austin ISD

First day of classes is August 17.

Safety policies: Masks are mandated beginning Wednesday, Aug. 11. Austin ISD staff will not be required to screen for symptoms and temperature upon entry. COVID-19 testing will be available on all campuses.

Virtual learning option: Students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be eligible for a semester-only virtual option.

Bastrop ISD

First day of class is Aug. 17.

Safety policies: Social distancing will be implemented when possible, including lunchtimes, when eating will be allowed outdoors and possible in classrooms. The school will also have assigned seating on buses to make contract tracing easier. NOTE: Bastrop ISD says it won’t require fully vaccinated students and staff to quarantine for 14 days if they’ve been exposed to a COVID-19-positive person as long as they aren’t showing symptoms.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Blanco ISD

First day of class is Aug. 17.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Burnet CISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Coupland ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: Coupland ISD says custodial service will ensure daily disinfecting of all classrooms and “touch points” in the district. Teachers will be directed to have organized handwashing times.

Virtual learning: Coupland ISD is not currently planning to offer virtual learning.

Del Valle ISD

First day of class August 18.

Safety policies: Del Valle ISD mandated masks for staff and students in all district campuses and buildings at a board meeting August 12. That goes into effect August 13. All surfaces at all campuses will be sanitized daily, the district says. Temperature checks will be required to enter all buildings and buses. Rapid COVID-19 tests will be available to staff and students. Vaccines will be available for staff and students over the age of 12.

Virtual learning option: Del Valle ISD is offering a virtual academy but registration has already closed and families should have received notification about the program if their child was accepted.

Dripping Springs ISD

First day of in-person class is August 17. First day of virtual class is August 24.

Safety policies: In reference to encouraging staff and students to wear masks, DSISD says it “emphasizes the importance of respecting and accepting personal decisions of others related to wearing or not wearing a mask.” Families will be able to request dividers for students in classrooms, but physical distancing of students will be decided based on what is “appropriate” for class instruction, DSISD says. Buildings and cafeteria will operate at full capacity. Classrooms and common areas will supply hand sanitizer. Distancing and measures may be changed as situations develop.

Virtual learning option: Dripping Springs ISD will offer a virtual academy for kindergarten through sixth grade students who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated. Families will have to apply for a limited number of student spots. Application closes August 10. Students will be placed on a waitlist once capacity is reached.

Eanes ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: In regard to mask wearing, Eanes ISD says: “While we cannot require mask wearing, we will respect student and staff preferences for personal safety and/or for the safety of their families.” The district says it will impose frequent cleaning and sanitizing.

Virtual learning option: Eanes ISD does not currently have plans for virtual learning.

Elgin ISD

First day of class is August 17.

Safety policies: Masks will be strongly encouraged for students and staff. Hand sanitizer will provided at each exit. Parents will need to call ahead to pick up children so they can be escorted to parent vehicles. Classrooms and other high-traffic areas will be disinfected throughout the day, Elgin ISD says.

Virtual learning option: Elgin ISD isn’t currently offering virtual learning.

Fayetteville ISD

First day of class is August 16.

Safety policies: Fayetteville ISD will encourage face mask wearing. Hand sanitizer will be available at entrances and in common areas. Elementary and secondary students will report to different designated waiting areas for classes to start. Classroom desks and tables will be distanced as much as possible. The district has organized a COVID-19 Response Team to address ongoing safety concerns.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Flatonia ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Florence ISD

First day of class is August 12.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: Florence ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Fredericksburg ISD

TBD

Georgetown ISD

First day of class is Aug. 19.

Safety policies: Georgetown ISD safety plan indicates that frequent disinfection will be implemented and hand sanitizer will be readily available at main entries to campuses and other common areas.

Virtual learning option: GISD says instruction will be fully in-person for all students in all grade levels.

Giddings ISD

TBD

Granger ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: Granger ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Hays CISD

First day of classes is August 19.

Safety policies: Hays CISD strongly encourages masks for those who are not vaccinated. Hand sanitizer will be available at all campus entrances, in classrooms and other facilities. The district says staff and students will be expected to habitually and thoroughly hand wash. Paper towels will replace hand dryers in bathrooms. High-traffic areas will be cleaned daily by custodial staff but employees will additionally disinfect their own work stations throughout the day, the district says. Distancing will be encouraged as possible.

Virtual learning option: Most Hays CISD students will return in-person, however, certain students will be able to qualify for the “Hays Homebound Academy,” if they provide documentation from a physician explaining medical conditions that make potential COVID-19 exposure more dangerous.

In a statement on August 10, Hays CISD said: “We pledge to do whatever we can, even if we’re not required by the state, to ensure that safety is paramount… Some have reached out to the district asking that it defy the governor’s mask order. At this time, I believe that without any enforcement power, which the district does not have, we cannot actually “require” masks.”

Hutto ISD

First day of class is August 17.

Safety policies: Hutto ISD says it strongly encourages masking and vaccination (for all over age 12) for everyone. Students will be required to hand wash and/or sanitize before meals and after recess/PE. Hand sanitizer will be required for visitors, staff and students upon entry of any facility. Classroom doors will remain open to allow circulation. Outdoor space use will be strongly encouraged. Safety shields will be available for those who want them.

Virtual learning option: Hutto ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Jarrell ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: Jarrell ISD is recommending masks. Social distancing will be implemented to the highest degree possible, JISD says. School facilities and buses will be sanitized daily. Jarrell ISD says it will review its safety plan no less than once per month going ahead.

Virtual learning option: Jarrell ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Johnson City ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: Johnson City ISD says mask wearing will be optional, since it does not have the authority to require it. The district says it will work to provide a safe learning environment through cleaning and disinfecting areas. Hand sanitizer will be available and social distancing of at least three feet will be promoted when possible.

Virtual learning option: Johnson City ISD is not currently offering a virtual learning option.

La Grange ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: La Grange ISD says it will provide face masks for those who choose to wear them. The school district says it will not conduct contact tracing should student or staff test positive for COVID-19. Additionally, La Grange ISD will not mandate a quarantine for those who may have been exposed. The will not be any campus-wide notifications of positive cases and notification of positive cases will no longer be posted on the website, LGISD says. Find more on La Grange ISD’s Return to In Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.

Virtual learning option: La Grange ISD is not currently offering a virtual learning option.

Lago Vista ISD

First day of class is Aug. 12.

Safety policies: Lago Vista ISD says it will make disposable masks available to students and staff upon request. Social distancing will be implemented as possible. The district says it may in the future ask students to voluntarily report vaccination status to determine whether or not quarantine will be recommended if they encounter someone who tests positive.

Virtual learning option: Lago Vista ISD doesn’t currently have plans to offer virtual learning.

Lake Travis ISD

First day of in-person class is August 18. First day of virtual learning is August 23.

Safety policies: Lake Travis ISD is strongly encouraging mask wearing. Hand sanitizer will be available for students and staff and the community will be “expected and encouraged” to regularly wash their hands. The district says it will implement enhanced cleaning protocols for high-traffic areas, including cafeteria tables and bathrooms.

Virtual learning option: LTISD officials said they are currently accepting applications for families who want to have their children in kindergarten through sixth grade learn virtually. The application window closes at noon Wednesday.

Lampasas ISD

The first day of class is August 12.

Safety policies: TBD.

Virtual learning option: TBD.

Leander ISD

First day of class is Aug. 12.

Safety policies: Leander ISD is recommending mask wearing for all staff and students while indoors. The district has its own colored guidance protocols in place and is currently in its “Yellow” phase, indicating moderate or worsening COVID-19 risks. Yellow-level indicates that students should keep three feet of distance between each other when possible. Cohorting (or certain groupings of students sticking together) will be highly recommended at the elementary level. Find more information on district’s Yellow level here.

Virtual learning option: Leander ISD virtual learning will be offered only to families with health concerns. Enrollment is currently subject to a waiting list, the district says.

Lexington ISD

TBD

Liberty Hill ISD

First day of class is August 19.

Safety policies: Liberty Hill ISD says protocols will be announced Tuesday, August 10.

Virtual learning option: Liberty Hill ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Llano ISD

TBD

Lockhart ISD

TBD

Luling ISD

TBD

Manor ISD

First day of class is August 23.

Safety policies: Hallways and sidewalks will feature physical guides on the floor to create one-way passing routes. There will be limited entry and exit points. Schools will be provided PPE, including hand sanitizer (stationed at entrances and exits), masks, face shields, and desk shields. Visit the Manor ISD COVID-19 Dashboard for up-to-date developments.

Virtual learning option: Manor ISD is not currently offering virtual learning, however, Superintendent Dr. Andre Spencer said the board is meeting August 9 to discuss exploring options. TBD.

Marble Falls ISD

TBD

Mason ISD

TBD

McDade ISD

TBD

Pflugerville ISD

First day of class is Aug. 12.

Safety policies: Pflugerville ISD is strongly encouraging unvaccinated individuals to wear masks around those who are not in their immediate household. Staff will not be subject to temperature checks and symptom screenings.

Virtual learning option: A limited Pflugerville ISD virtual learning will be available for K-12 students. Families who applied for the Virtual Learning Academy in May should have received emails notifying student acceptance. Students who participate in virtual instruction will not be assigned home campuses or PfISD teachers, but will be taught via a third-party vendor.

Rockdale ISD

TBD

Round Rock ISD

First day of class is Aug. 18.

Safety policies: Round Rock ISD says hand sanitizer will be provided and encouraged for students. Masking will be encouraged. Lunch times will be staggered to allow for social distancing. Parents and students may request desk shields inside the classroom.

The district will also offer COVID-19 testing Monday through Friday at a centralized location in the district. More details are to come.

Virtual learning option: A one-semester virtual learning program will be available to K-6 students and begin Aug. 18. Instruction will be facilitated by Round Rock ISD teachers. Families who want to enroll their students must submit a transfer form before Aug. 9 at 11:59 p.m. Beginning Aug. 10, families will be able to request student transfer to virtual learning through their home campus. Students will be able to transfer back to in-person learning at any time.

San Marcos CISD

Safety policies: On August 12, the San Marcos CISD board approved a mask mandate 6-1.

San Saba ISD

TBD

Smithville ISD

TBD

Taylor ISD

First day of class is August 18.

Safety policies: Taylor ISD will encourage mask wearing for students, staff and families. Cleaning protocols will be implemented for high-traffic areas, including classrooms.

Virtual learning option: Taylor ISD is not currently offering virtual learning.

Thorndale ISD

TBD

Thrall ISD

First day of class: August 9

Safety policies: Masks are being encouraged in Thrall ISD. Those with positive cases will be isolated.

While parents will be informed if a child has been exposed, no one will be required to quarantine after being exposed.

This year masks won’t be required, but the district is strongly encouraging teachers and students to wear one. They are also encouraging social distancing and hand washing.

Cleaning practices will continue as well as the district says they will continue to disinfect surfaces

Wimberley ISD

TBD

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