'We want to open and stay open': Round Rock ISD fine tunes in-person learning plan

Round Rock ISD Trustee Cory Vessa listens to a presentation by district staff about the fall 2020 campus reopening plan. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD Trustee Cory Vessa listens to a presentation by district staff about the fall 2020 campus reopening plan. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Round Rock ISD Trustee Cory Vessa listens to a presentation by district staff about the fall 2020 campus reopening plan. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)

As the district prepares to reopen campuses in mid-September, staff briefed the board of trustees Sept. 3 on ongoing preparations to do so safely.

“We are reinventing education in the district and all around the world," said Mandy Estes, RRISD's chief of teaching and learning. “This is truly an issue that weighs on everyone’s heart. We want to do the best that we can by everyone, and everyone has greatly different opinions on this.”

A key focus of the district's plan is to implement protocols to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, Estes said. This includes limiting capacity, distributing personal protective equipment and training teachers and staff.

“We want to open and stay open," she said. "We don’t want to get caught if at all possible in that cycle of open, close, open, close.”

In order to do so, Estes stressed the importance of serving a smaller number of students and opening in phases. As it stands, on Sept. 10, RRISD will open campuses to students in self-contained special education settings, which represent approximately 1% of the student body, said Daniel Presley, RRISD senior chief of schools and innovation.


"This allows for greater social distancing, enhanced adherence to health protocols, less person-to-person contact," Presely said. "All of this allows us to minimize spread."

On Sept. 15, the district plans to open classrooms to the students who elected to return to in-person instruction. Approximately 30% of students districtwide have chosen this option, he said.

Parents have the opportunity to change their child's learning settings at the end of each grading period. In addition, students who choose in-person learning can go virtual at any time, but they must remain remote until the conclusion of that grading period.

"Parents can make decisions based on current health information and the percentage of students returning for on-campus instruction at their child’s school," Presley said.
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.