Year in review: The 10 most-read Northwest Austin education stories in 2020

Round Rock ISD commencement
Round Rock ISD's commencement walks were held at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex from May 18-23. (Courtesy Round Rock ISD)

Round Rock ISD's commencement walks were held at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex from May 18-23. (Courtesy Round Rock ISD)

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic forced local school districts to reevaluate 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 were making to keep students safe.

Here are the top ten most-read education stories in Northwest Austin in 2020.

1. Round Rock, Pflugerville, Hutto ISDs announce extended school closures

Area school districts announced extended school closures March 16 in response to recent health updates concerning coronavirus. Read the full story here.

2. TEA: Districts must offer some in-person classes for 2020-21 school year

After Gov. Greg Abbott told state lawmakers June 18 that students would return to Texas public schools in the fall, guidelines released by the Texas Education Agency on June 23 fell in line with the governor's comments, mandating school districts offer some form of on-campus instruction during the 2020-21 school year. Read the full story here.

3. Around 900 Round Rock ISD students could be rezoned this fall

Approximately 915 students in Round Rock ISD could attend a different campus starting in the 2020-21 school year if the board of trustees approves preliminary attendance zone adjustments as proposed. Read the full story here.

4. Austin ISD planning for blended teaching approach for school year beginning Aug. 18

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said during a board presentation June 1 that the district is working toward a blended approach for classes for the 2020-21 school year. Read the full story here.

5. Round Rock ISD launches e-learning, postpones Round Rock High School, Westwood proms

Round Rock ISD launched the Home Learning Hub on March 22 for use in at-home learning during extended school closures amid concerns about COVID-19. Read the full story here.

6. 'I’ve cried almost every day': Inside Round Rock ISD's return to in-person learning

Sixteen-year-old Madison Talkington said she loves school—or, at least, she used to. A junior at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock ISD, Talkington is a varsity-level water polo player with a 4.0 grade point average. But this semester, she said, she is barely treading water. Read the full story here.

7. Austin ISD trustees approve calendar for 2020-21 school year

Austin ISD students will officially return to class for the 2020-21 school year Aug. 18, and that school year will end May 26, 2021. Read the full story here.

8. Round Rock ISD schools now closed through April 13; district weighs possibility of closing through end of academic year

Round Rock ISD Superintendent Steve Flores announced the district will extend school and office closures until April 13 in response to coronavirus-related concerns. Read the full story here.

9. Round Rock ISD class of 2020 seniors to receive May in-person commencement walk

Round Rock ISD's class of 2020 seniors will get the opportunity to walk across the stage in an in-person commencement ceremony, the district announced. Read the full story here.

10. The path to closure: How Round Rock ISD decides to close a school due to COVID-19

With the closure of Stony Point High School until Dec. 1, students are now at home learning virtually, but many Round Rock ISD parents have been left wondering if more campuses could close. Read the full story here.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


Ice covered utility lines across Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
SHARE YOUR STORY: How did you survive the Texas freeze?

We want to hear how the winter storms affected you.

Williamson County distributors are expected to receive 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines the week of March 1. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Williamson County distributors to receive 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines week of March 1

This is the largest number of weekly doses distributors in the county has collectively received.

Q2 Stadium
Austin FC preseason scrimmages planned for late March start

Preseason matches for Austin FC will be held in South Austin ahead of the team's inaugural MLS season.

Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Reports surfaced Feb. 22 of dogs falling ill after swimming in Lake Travis. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Blue-green algae toxic to animals found in Hudson Bend area of Lake Travis

Solid organic material was taken for testing from the edge of Travis Landing located on the east side of Hudson Bend. Those samples indicated the presence of algae and decaying algae containing cyanotoxin, which is fatal to dogs and other animals.

Full-time staff would receive a $500 allotment for personal protective equipment, while part-time employees would be given a one-time $250 payment. (Screenshot courtesy Pflugerville ISD)
Pflugerville ISD approves one-time PPE, vaccine incentive stipends for staff

Full-time staff would receive a $500 allotment for personal protective equipment, while part-time employees would be given a one-time $250 payment.

Samsung's proposed $17 billion chip-making plant would dwarf other recent megaprojects that sought tax incentives in the region.
Samsung’s request to pay no property tax on $17 billion plant tests Austin’s incentive policy

Samsung is asking for 100% property tax reimbursement over 25 years, which would mark the most aggressive corporate tax break in Austin history.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.