Central Texas schools navigate in-person schooling ahead of TEA guidelines

Williamson County

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — It’s a waiting game for parents trying to navigate what the next school year will look like.

The Texas Education Agency announced that in-person classes will resume in the fall and while some central Texas schools are already making major changes, they’re still waiting on specific guidelines. ​

“The thought of having another nine months of isolation terrifies me,” said Pflugerville mother Anna Speichinger.

Plenty of parents say they feel the same way.

“My daughter does great in school. The hardest part was not sharing that connection with her teacher,” said Leah Keese, a Pflugerville parent.

The Round Rock Independent Scool District says it’s preparing to transition quickly from face-to-face to blended or an all-virtual learning environment, if necessary .

“I have confidence that online education will look different and better than what we saw in the Spring,” said Speichinger.

Round Rock officials confirm they’re making changes, which include:​

  • Assessing needs for additional Chromebooks and hotspots to ensure equitable access to technology
  • Transitioning curriculum, instruction, and assessment into a learning management platform that is user-friendly for students, educators, and families
  • Redesigning curriculum, instruction, assessment, and grading practices
  • Designing an all-virtual learning option for families who want an at-home learning experience
  • Analyzing campus capacities and determining what percentage of students can safely be on campus at a given time to create a plan for learning

Ultimately, deciding whether or not to send a child back to school falls on the parent.

“It’s a very difficult decision for me. I have an incoming sixth grader and ninth grade. It’ll be their first year in middle school and high school,” said Speichinger.

Round Rock ISD says its safety task force is also working on social distancing measures, which include:

  • Temperature checks upon arrival for each student (Specifically, if adequate thermometers are available given worldwide equipment shortages)
  • The feasibility of using masks and/or face shields during the school day
  • Decreasing student occupancy in each classroom
  • Staggering class start times to minimize the number of students in hallways and common areas

It’s no small list, with just two months left of summer.​

Other districts say they’ll similarly be taking on a hybrid approach.

Similar to the Austin Independent School District, Pflugerville ISD also has an online survey up for parents.

The Round Rock Independent School District sent this to its parents Friday:

Physical Environments
We are working to ensure the safest environment possible when our students and staff return to school. This includes an on-site coordinator from the District’s Operations team for each campus to oversee all sanitation and ensure new protocols are followed.

Other work includes:

  • Installing additional hands-free sanitizer stations throughout campuses
  • Installing water bottle filling stations throughout campuses
  • Designating isolation rooms and student isolation protocols
  • Training all District and campus staff (such as teachers and educational assistants) in the participation of sanitation and cleaning of high-touch surfaces and other areas
  • Installing plexiglass shields where needed
  • Implementing portable hand washing stations where needed
  • Upgrading HVAC systems air quality
  • Using hospital-grade disinfectant to continuously clean high touch areas and hospital-grade products to routinely fog classrooms and other areas
  • Contracting with GermBlast, an industry-leading disinfection and cleaning services company specializing in eradicating the spread of viral and bacterial infections

Social distancing
A subcommittee of the Task Force focused on safety protocols in District facilities is designing processes to manage student arrival and reconfigure the space occupied on campus by students and staff to allow for social distancing.

Their work includes examining:

  • Temperature checks upon arrival for each student. (Specifically, if adequate thermometers are available given worldwide equipment shortages)
  • The feasibility of using masks and/or face shields during the school day.
  • Decreasing student occupancy in each classroom
  • Staggering class start times to minimize the number of students in hallways and common areas

Transportation
The District will register transportation students to determine family transportation needs and coordinate bus route capacities and accommodation limitations.

Breakfast and Lunch Service
Students will pick up packaged breakfast in the cafeteria and eat in their classrooms. Checkout procedures will be adjusted to avoid the exchange of ID cards.

Lunch service will continue in the cafeteria with limited numbers of students at each table. Food Service staff members are currently in the process of counting and measuring cafeteria tables to determine how many students can be in the space safely, a minimum of six feet apart.

Floor and table decals will be placed to indicate where students will stand while picking up their lunch and the seats they can occupy at each table. Food service staff will have their temperature verified each day and wear masks during all food preparation and service. 

Communication
Please continue to stay connected with us through our Round Rock ISD website, smartphone App, and the District’s Facebook and Twitter pages and be on the lookout for important updates sent directly to your email inbox.

The District will be hosting virtual town halls via Zoom in July and August and will share dates and times soon via email and social media, as well as posting on the District website, where you can find the latest updates on and FAQs on our COVID-19 webpage.

Round Rock ISD Superintendent, Steve Flores wrote:

“I know this is a difficult time, and our families and students want concrete answers on what the school year will bring. We plan to provide a detailed plan in mid-July. Our District and campus leadership are working on an adaptable plan that places student safety as the top priority and provides a platform for learning to continue on or off-campus. We understand the critical importance and value of students learning in a classroom setting and participating in activities with their peers. It is my utmost hope that we can return to that environment as soon as possible. But we also must provide options for students who are high risk, have family members who are high risk, or are not comfortable in a school setting absent a COVID-19 vaccine.  Thank you for your patience and support during this time. I hope your family is enjoying a safe, healthy and restful summer. We’ll be in touch soon.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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