AUSTIN, Texas — In a virtual room filled with parents, teachers and family members, the Round Rock ISD (RRISD) Board of Trustees discussed their preliminary plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
On Monday evening, RRISD Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores announced the district would conduct 100% of class virtually for the first three weeks. He also sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) asking them to extend the amount of time they are allowed to keep kids home until the coronavirus caseload settles in the area.
Once this time period ends, the district will give parents the option to continue learning either 100% virtually or 100% in the classroom.
"Either you're bringing your kid to school with proper healthcare and health protocols in place or you'd rather stay at home until all this thing clears. That boils down to choice, it all boils down to parent choice," said Dr. Danny Presley, RRISD senior chief of schools and innovation.
As of now, the district will not offer a hybrid option due to the challenges it presents for transportation, childcare and safety. A hybrid model splits learning during the week to both in-class and at-home instruction.
"It really doesn't improve safety," Presley added. "If you are bringing all your kids in some time, everybody is in the school sometime which creates a little bit of an issue."
According to a survey the district conducted that closed on July 9, about 50% of parents wanted children to return to the classroom, while the remaining half did not. The board found the results were fairly consistent across schools and school levels.
Regardless of a family's choice, the TEA requires that students must meet an attendance rate of 90%. RRISD will release a plan to track virtual attendance.
During Monday's meeting, families and teachers expressed concerns about the equity of the plan and making sure it is fair for all individuals, for example, students in low-income households, Spanish-speaking families, students in the special education program and high-risk teachers.
"As we know, COVID-19 has made the inequities more apparent. Communities of color are shown to be more impacted by the pandemic," said Gustavo and Lorena Higuera, RRISD parents.
In-class instruction is set to start on Sept. 11, meaning teachers will also need to return to the classroom.
On July 9, staff members were asked to decide whether or not they would return to work on-site and were provided with information from Human Resources about how to request accommodations or COVID-19 related leave.
While the survey does not close until July 16, according to the results so far, 97% of the staff stated they would be able to return to in-class instruction.
Staff who cannot return are entitled to aid through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which allocates 80 hours of paid time off to staff members who require leave due to the coronavirus.
Beyond that, RRISD leaders said they will work with teachers to help them understand their options.
"We need to help our teachers who do have concerning issues, personal issues on how to navigate the leave system on what they can do," Presley said.
While the district plans to release their comprehensive plan on Friday, July 17, that will address questions many people may have, as the coronavirus worsens in the county, Flores said this plan could change.
"We are still on schedule to share that plan," said Flores, "with the caveat that we must be able to change and shift with the prevailing conditions."
Once the plan is released, the district plans to hold four round-table discussions throughout July:
- Monday, July 20: Public health guidelines and safety measures
- Wednesday, July 22: Virtual learning and support services
- Tuesday, July 28: Elementary parents overview
- Thursday, July 30: Middle and high school parents overview
To hear more about what was discussed at Monday's board meeting, click here.
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