Questions loom large as Lake Travis ISD plans for the 2020-21 school year

Lake Travis ISD discussed the 2020-21 school year during a virtual May 20 meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)
Lake Travis ISD discussed the 2020-21 school year during a virtual May 20 meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)

Lake Travis ISD discussed the 2020-21 school year during a virtual May 20 meeting. (Courtesy Lake Travis ISD)

Lake Travis ISD is approaching the end of the 2019-20 school year, with the final instructional day scheduled for May 22.

Historically, the end of one school year proceeds the planning of the next, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues, questions still loom large over the possibility of returning in the fall.

Superintendent Brad Lancaster confirmed during a May 20 board meeting much is unknown regarding the 2020-21 school year. It is possible students will be able to return at full capacity in August. He noted it is also possible students will continue virtual learning or begin a combination of both options.

The district announced May 7 all summer school classes will take place online. Furthermore, child care and summer recreational programs are suspended until at least June 30.

Beyond that date, LTISD has not made any officials decisions on if and how students will return to campus Aug. 19, partly due to the district awaiting further guidance from the state.

“It’s too soon,” Lancaster said. “It’s way too early to tell what kind of guidelines will be in place on Aug. 19.”

To continue planning, LTISD will also require community input. Whether through an online survey or another method, the district is asking parents if they plan on putting their children in in-person classes.

Traditionally, this is accomplished through annual registration. However, in light of the current climate, Lancaster said a secondary registration process would be helpful.

“Sooner or later, we’re likely to have some designation for how many children we can have in a classroom and maintain some safety,” Lancaster said, adding it is likely guidelines will be released by the state.

Updated guidelines have been released by the Texas Education Agency, which reported May 7 the 2020-21 school year is likely to be disrupted by COVID-19.

The recommendations, although optional, suggest implementing an intersessional calendar to accommodate the possibility of a second coronavirus wave in the winter. The modified calendar would also aid the expected learning loss that occurred throughout extended school closures.

At this time LTISD is not considering implementing these suggestions, according to Lancaster, who said if the board was interested, swift action would need to be taken.

The intersessional calendar, which builds in longer breaks dispersed throughout the year would pose a number of issues for the district. The first being contracts for staff, which have already been signed.

Each contract includes a set start date, which would need to be changed upon adjusting the instructional calendar.

Trustees did not express any further interest in the optional guidelines during the May 20 meeting.

Thanking Lancaster and staff, Board Member Bob Dorsett called the planning process “daunting.”

“I think we’re finding out what we’ve done since March is going to be easy in comparison to what we have to do in the fall,” Dorsett said.

Recognizing the challenges of the pandemic, LTISD is planning for a variety of possibilities heading into next year, according to Lancaster. Communication with the community will be a continued aspect of the process.

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.