'No decision will please everyone': Round Rock ISD grapples with learning options 1 week before school starts

(Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Design by Katherine Borey/Community Impact Newspaper)

One week before an all-virtual start to the 2020-21 academic year, Round Rock ISD staff briefed the board of trustees on student learning initiatives.

Mandy Estes, RRISD's chief of teaching and learning, acknowledged the upcoming task facing teachers, as in-person learning halted mid-spring semester.

“The fact is, students haven’t been in face-to-face classrooms for five months," Estes said. "And so we are concerned about that.”

As it stands, the district plans to offer an in-person learning option beginning Sept. 10. To date, 76% of families have completed the district's Parent Choice Survey, gauging how many children are expected to return to campus in mid-September. Outreach is ongoing at the campus level to secure the remainder of responses, Estes said.

District-wide more than 2 out of 3 respondents said they would continue to elect a virtual setting should an on-campus option become available in early September.

McNeil and Westwood high schools' feeder patterns have the highest percentages of students who anticipate remaining virtual learners throughout the fall semester.

The survey also aimed to identify students who are requesting a Chromebook or a Wi-Fi hot spot. As of Aug. 12, 10,217 requests had been placed for devices, according to the Aug. 13 presentation. Additionally, 3,001 requests for hot spots had been submitted.

Superintendent Steve Flores acknowledged the challenges with navigating online and in-person learning options at the start of the school year.

“We know that no decision will please everyone," Flores said. "But as long as we stay grounded in our principles where we put students first, listen to guidance from health authorities, base our decisions on data, we’ll be able to sleep at night, knowing that we were doing the right thing in what at times seems an impossible situation.”
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.