Absenteeism in Central Texas Austin Mayor Steve Adler (third from left) speaks alongside Central Texas school superintendents at the annual Regional Attendance Rally on Sept. 7.[/caption]

1. The Austin mayor discusses how absenteeism costs Central Texas school districts an estimated $91 million per year.

In Central Texas, there are about 2.4 million student absences per year, many of which could have been preventable with routine medical or dental checkups, according to the Central Texas education nonprofit E3 Alliance.

On Sept. 7, E3 Alliance hosted its fourth annual Regional Attendance Rally at the Long Center for the Performing Arts terrace in downtown Austin. In attendance were multiple Central Texas school district superintendents and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who spoke about the educational and financial impacts of student absenteeism.

“When students miss school, not only do they fall behind, it makes it harder for the teacher and the classroom,” Adler said. “But real significantly, the absenteeism in our schools here in Central Texas costs us about $91 million per year. If we could improve those rates just by three days per student, we could get an additional $34 million into our school districts [per year].”

It was also revealed at the rally that if a child misses 10 days of school, he or she is three times more likely to drop out than a child who has missed five days, according to E3 Alliance.

Austin ISD Police Chief Eric Mendez shows video of a driver passing a bus and hitting a student. Austin ISD Police Chief Eric Mendez shows video of a driver passing a bus and hitting a student.[/caption]

2. During the first week of school, 1,100 drivers were recorded illegally passing buses.

About 1,100 incidents of motorists failing to stop near a stopped school bus loading or unloading students were recorded during Austin ISD’s first week of school Aug. 22-26, AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez said.

He said motorists may not be paying attention to their surroundings. In some instances, motorists may have a green light to turn right but are not yielding to pedestrian traffic, Mendez said.

The district predicts that by the end of the 2016-17 school year, more than 6,000 citations could be handed out, Mendez said.

Two incidents on Aug. 29 and Aug. 30 in which students were hit by vehicles while crossing a road were captured on video through bus cameras that AISD installed in February. Neither student was seriously injured.

nwa-2016-09-25-23. Pflugerville ISD teamed up with an education nonprofit to roll out a new literacy program.

A new program created by Pflugerville ISD and the Pflugerville Education Foundation will help two schools focus on early childhood literacy intervention for the 2016-17 school year.

Through a partnership with The University of Texas’ Charles A. Dana Center, the two organizations will expand the Dana Center’s A Community of Education, or ACE, program at Delco Primary School in Northeast Austin and River Oaks Elementary School in North Austin. Through ACE, students in kindergarten through second grade will receive daily 30-minute lessons tailored for their reading level.

“We’re thrilled about our new partnership,” said Annette Villerot, PfISD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, in a news release. “Our goal in PfISD is to have all students reading on grade level by third grade. Together with ACE we move toward that objective.”

Joe Lee Johnson Elementary features sliding glass walls for greater collaboration among classes. Joe Lee Johnson Elementary features sliding glass walls for greater collaboration among classes.[/caption]

4. Round Rock ISD opened a new school Aug. 23 in Wells Branch area.

Some Round Rock ISD students headed to a brand-new school for their first day Aug. 23 at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School.

The school, located at 2800 Sauls Drive, Austin, was built to help relieve overcrowding at Wells Branch Elementary School, and it is designated as a STEAM school, which means it will focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

Principal Gabby Nino said she worked with the building’s architect to make sure the building accommodated 21st-century skills and learning techniques. She said the building is designed so there are common learning spaces between classrooms, with one wall serving as a sliding glass door so teachers can communicate and be cooperative with neighboring classes.

“Our building is an instructional resource for students,” Nino said. “You’ll notice immediately our building design is different from what kids might expect.”