Face masks, health screenings, social distancing are several components of Eanes ISD’s school reopening plan

Eanes ISD officials discussed a tentative re-entry plan approaching the start of the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Eanes ISD officials discussed a tentative re-entry plan approaching the start of the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Eanes ISD officials discussed a tentative re-entry plan approaching the start of the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Following districtwide surveys, staff meetings and virtual community forums, Eanes ISD announced an extensive campus reopening plan during a June 23 meeting. Families can likely expect several procedural changes for the 2020-21 school year, including required face masks, daily health screenings and social distancing measures.

The plan, referred to as Ready to Re-Engage, or R2R, was drafted utilizing input from four task forces composed of 70 teachers, administrators, staff and parents. A detailed outline of the plan can be found on EISD's newly launched webpage.

At this time, these procedural decisions are tentative and subject to change based on district decisions or state guidelines.

Amid the possibility of evolving health requirements, the R2R plan was designed to navigate any potential changes, according to Superintendent Tom Leonard. The plan was also designed to allow individuals to shift from in-person to remote learning if necessary.

A new learning environment

One major policy change students and staff can expect is the requirement of face masks when developmentally appropriate, an idea that has previously been rejected by community members.

“Face coverings will likely be mandated,” Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnett said. “Take that word ‘likely’ to mean, you can count on it.”

Several parents disputed the potential use of face coverings during the meeting’s open forum section, with some parents opting for the use of clear face shields as opposed to masks. Parent Pilar Taylor submitted a comment outlining the benefits of shields.

“I feel this will allow for safety, ease of breathing, ability to read faces and expressions, audibility of the speaker and generally a more comforting environment for the kids,” Taylor said.

In addition to face masks, EISD will implement social distancing restrictions, according to Arnett, who said this practice will limit campus capacity. In-person classrooms will accommodate 10 students on average and could potentially be moved to larger spaces such as cafeterias or gymnasiums.

Reduced occupancy rates can also be anticipated for school buses and restrooms, Chief Operations Officer Jeremy Trimble said. According to EISD information, each bus will likely hold 12 students, and routine cleaning will become more frequent.

Disinfection efforts will be ramped up for all district facilities, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state agencies. Certain amenities, such as the elementary school playscapes, will not be available. Trimble noted entry points, deliveries and visitors will be significantly minimized.

EISD is still determining the feasibility of serving lunch in either a classroom or cafeteria setting, according to Trimble.

As an added safety measure, all students and staff on campus will undergo daily health screenings conducted by district nurses.

In order to determine who will be eligible to return to campus, several criteria are being considered. Families and staff will be asked to complete applications for re-entry, which will run from June 29-July 8, according to Executive Director of Special Education Molly May.

These applications will be timestamped upon submittal, and a waiting list will be established for individuals seeking in-person classes, May said.

Certain students may receive priority for in-person learning. Those groups will include economically disadvantaged students, students with significant academic gaps and students who have challenges with virtual learning.

Students from families experiencing child care difficulties may also fall into the priority category, among several other groups.

Criteria have also been identified for staff including access to reliable internet connection and child care availability. Staff who may fall into the COVID-19 high-risk category may opt for virtual teaching.

Remote learning schedules and grading procedures

Those engaging in remote learning can anticipate a different program than what was administered in the spring. The new learning plan was designed for a full school day of instructional time and will likely reflect a student’s traditional schedule.

EISD will also shift to its traditional grading system rather than continue the temporary plan adopted in the spring amid the outbreak, said Dianne Carter, West Ridge Middle School principal.

Modifications may be required regarding how teachers conduct student assessments. Furthermore, academic integrity will be emphasized by teachers, according to Carter.

“Various options will be considered for assessment,” Carter said. “Some may be open-book assessments, portfolio, self-assessment. ...”

Trustee input

Though several questions arose, the board of trustees thanked the district for its continued work amid the unprecedented health crisis.

Board President Jennifer Champagne stressed the importance of equitable learning experiences for students whether they engage in remote or in-person classes.

Champagne also noted the complications of implementing this plan without additional full-time or equivalent staff members.

The conversation surrounding these concerns is ongoing, according to Leonard, who will conduct a secondary community meeting June 24.

“We’re going to acknowledge upfront [the R2R plan] is far from perfect,” Arnett said. “We admit that we’re being vulnerable here in sharing it with you.”

The plan may be a work in progress, but the development was undoubtedly a collaborative community effort, according to Arnett.

Leonard concluded the meeting with a simple statement of, “We promise you we will do our best.”

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.


Work could begin on the Bee Creek Sports Complex by mid-April. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Construction on Bee Creek Sports Complex could begin in April

Bee Creek Sports Complex, located on 70 acres at 4400 Bee Creek Road in Spicewood, will include seven synthetic multiuse fields, restrooms, team meeting facilities, playground areas, trails, hundreds of parking spaces and a maintenance building.

Expansion of the city of Bee Cave's hike and bike trail will be a topic of conversation at the April 13 Bee Cave City Council meeting. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bee Cave council to discuss growth of its hike and bike trail system April 13

Bee Cave city staff are expected to discuss funding the construction of a second phase of projects.

Recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine wait after receiving their shot at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
National supply issues with Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect Austin-area shipments

After a manufacturing error ruined 15 million doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the supply will not increase until the plant in Baltimore is once again allowed to participate in production.

Eanes ISD will hold a special meeting April 13. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Eanes ISD returns to in-person board meetings April 13, but attendance will be limited

Eanes ISD community members will again have the opportunity to attend in-person board meetings, according to an April 12 update from the district.

River Place is located in the northwest region of Austin. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Featured neighborhood: Austin's River Place community

Get to know April's featured neighborhood, River Place.

Bee Cave city maintenance crew members are rebuilding the existing median at Bee Cave Parkway and Bee Cave Road to make room for a longer left-turn for eastbound motorists heading north on Bee Cave Road. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Median reconstruction underway at Bee Cave Parkway and Bee Cave Road

Construction will lengthen a left-turn lane to accommodate more vehicles.

Work crews from the the Texas Conservation Corps remove fallen and dead tree debris from Hamilton Greenbelt. The team is under the direction of Lake Travis Fire and Rescue and the City of Lakeway. (Greg Perliski/Community Impact Newspaper)
Preventing wildfires in west Travis County an ever-present effort

Community activity takes many forms to prevent spread of destructive wildfires.

Clara Kistner, Farmacy master gardener, said the community garden operates without the use of chemical fertilizers.
Spicewood community garden grows its support at Bee Creek United Methodist Church

Through hard work and dedication, a group of volunteers in western Travis County have transformed a plot of scrub and rocky land into a community garden that makes a difference in the lives of area residents in need.

Romeo's Pizza held its Georgetown groundbreaking April 6. (Courtesy Romeo's Pizza)
Romeo's Pizza coming to Georgetown; Vacancy Brewing opens in South Austin and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of a Moderna vaccine vial
Austin Public Health coronavirus vaccine portal opens to all adults April 12

APH will continue outreach efforts to high-priority groups.

Hill Country Galleria will host its annual spring art walk event April 16. (Courtesy Giant Noise Public Relations)
10 things to do in the Lake Travis-Westlake area in April, May

From outdoor art walks to live music, the Lake Travis-Westlake area is bustling with community events this spring.

Austin Public Health holds a vaccination clinic at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Coronavirus updates from Austin, Travis County; governor bans 'vaccine passports' and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.