Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic forced local school districts to re-evaluate year-end plans following the annual spring break, the news cycle became dominated by the arduous process of returning children, faculty and staff to classrooms. Community Impact Newspaper readers kept up with news on how children would learn remotely and what decisions district leaders made to keep students safe.
Here are the 10 most-read education stories of 2020 from the Lake Travis-Westlake area.
1. Several dozen Westlake community members recall long history of racial impropriety, call for action within Eanes ISD
During a July board meeting, more than 60 Eanes ISD students, parents and alumni recounted district incidents involving racism. Prior to the meeting, EISD officials received a letter signed by more than 400 individuals petitioning for action. The district has since hired a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, launched its first DEI advisory group and has made commitments to promote racial and social awareness on campus. Read the full story here.
2. Lake Travis ISD changes plan to reopen campuses
With the 2020-21 school year already underway, Lake Travis ISD officials decided during an August meeting to change their approach to reopening classrooms. Approximately 60% of district families chose to return to in-person learning after Sept. 8, in accordance with local health orders. However, LTISD passed a waiver that allowed the district to welcome students back in stages over the course of four weeks. Read the full story here.
3. As AP exams begin online, College Board is checking social media and discussion groups for cheating
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, districts throughout the country conducted Advanced Placement testing online. The College Board, the entity that oversees the tests, took steps to discourage cheating. Leander ISD also worked to detect plagiarism. Read the full story here.
4. Eanes ISD calls for suspension of STAAR testing for 2020-21 school year
Officials at Eanes ISD urged Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency to suspend the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exam for the 2020-21 school year. Trustees met Oct. 20 to pass a resolution regarding the annual exam and its corresponding district accountability rating, which ranks ISDs on an A-F scale. Read the full story here.
5. Eanes ISD community members rally to reopen schools
As all students at Eanes ISD began the 2020-21 school year virtually, a combination of parents, students and community members rallied to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. Grassroots group Eanes Kids First held a rally in August outside of the district’s administration building to advocate for the reopening of classrooms. Read the full story here.
6. Eanes ISD officials to consider rescinding waiver that extends remote learning
In September, officials at Eanes ISD worked to reopen classrooms for in-person learning. Amid community criticism and reported improvement in local COVID-19 cases, the board of trustees considered rescinding a Texas Education Agency waiver that allowed the district to extend remote learning. Read the full story here.
7. Eanes ISD updates grading guidelines for the remaining 2019-20 school year; final exams will not be administered
After Gov. Greg Abbott mandated the closure of all schools in March, many districts, including EISD, quickly pivoted to a new virtual learning platform. As students began studying through a new system, EISD officials canceled final exams and made temporary changes to the district’s grading guidelines. Read the full story here.
8. Lake Travis ISD names Paul Norton as lone superintendent finalist
After more than eight years with the district, Lake Travis ISD Superintendent Brad Lancaster announced his retirement plans. Following a search that spanned several months, former Texarkana ISD Superintendent Paul Norton was named the lone finalist for the position in June. Read the full story here.
9. Lake Travis ISD Superintendent Paul Norton to hold annual State of the District
Each year, the Lake Travis ISD superintendent holds a state of the district luncheon alongside the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon, held Oct. 19, was the first district event hosted by new Superintendent Paul Norton. Read the full story here.
10. Eanes ISD proposes 2020-21 tax rate, calls November voter-approval tax election
Amid a year of challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, officials at Eanes ISD also grappled with budgetary concerns. Facing a potential deficit of more than $2 million, the district called a voter-approval tax rate election to shift its tax rate formula. The election passed in November by a majority of local voters. Read the full story here.
Iain Oldman contributed to this report.