'It’s extremely difficult to solve a problem without knowing all of the variables': Eanes ISD officials discuss plans for 2020-21 school year

Trustees discussed several options for the 2020-21 school year during a May 26 meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Trustees discussed several options for the 2020-21 school year during a May 26 meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Trustees discussed several options for the 2020-21 school year during a May 26 meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Several Eanes ISD parents submitted public comments for the May 26 regular board meeting, some asking the district to reopen schools and some requesting continued remote learning.

Following those comments, Superintendent Tom Leonard provided the community with an update on COVID-19, discussing a number of potential plans for the fall.

However, at this time the district has not made an official decision. EISD is aiming to present more concrete information by late June.
Leonard noted much is still unknown regarding the feasibility of reopening school in August.

“It’s extremely difficult to solve a problem without knowing all of the variables,” Leonard said, adding that regardless, that is the situation EISD administration is tasked with.

A team of staff including Chief Operations Officer Jeremy Trimble, Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnett and more is working to develop a plan.

EISD is looking at three options for student and staff re-entry. The first option and perhaps the most desirable, according to Leonard, is to return to campus for the 2020-21 school year. The second option is to continue to implement remote learning, and the third option would include a hybrid model.

Much of this decision could be based on input from staff and parents, according to Leonard, who said the district has already received feedback from an initial survey.

“The wisest choice might be for us to offer a choice but within the parameters that we have,” Leonard said. He said capacity limitations, social distancing standards and other guidelines may fall outside of EISD’s control.

The results from that survey indicated 20% of parents and 20% of staff members said they would not feel comfortable returning to campus prior to the presence of coronavirus vaccination.

Trustees are set to review the survey’s full results during the next board meeting June 23. EISD will also hold a virtual public meeting in June. Community involvement will continue to be emphasized throughout the process, according to Leonard.

“The situation may change in August from the answers we got last week,” Leonard said. “But it’s interesting that our staff and parent community on that survey mirrored each other.”

It’s possible that re-entry will be based on the community’s decision, within the district’s legal parameters. Reopening at all is contingent on state or county permission.

If 50% of staff members chose to teach in-person and 50% of parents chose to send their children to campus, then Leonard said that plan would be feasible, presuming the state allows for capacity at that level.

However, complications will arise if 70% of parents want to return their children to school and only 30% of teachers want to teach in-person.

“The most difficult situation would be if the members of our community and staff wanted to be more in person than the state would allow,” Leonard said.

Throughout the process, Leonard is regularly meeting with a group of 12 local superintendents as well as superintendents across the country. The district is also conducting virtual meetings with instructional staff, bus drivers, operations staff and other employees to gather insight.

EISD is also analyzing potential costs associated with increased cleaning, personal protective gear and additional bus routes if those practices are required.

“We have to try to be prepared, and we have to be able to be prepared as a situation and variables may change throughout the next 12 months," Leonard said.

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.


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