Round Rock School District addresses health and safety protocols

In a town hall to address concerns about COVID-19, Round Rock school district officials said on Tuesday they were trying to keep parents up to date with protocols and answered questions about appearance classes next year.

In the first of three meetings, the district spoke to more than 300 people about its health and safety protocols it has implemented for the 2020-21 school year.

“It has been a complicated journey since last March and we are doing our best to meet the needs of our community, students and staff,” said Daniel Presley, Acting Superintendent.

School district coronavirus coordinator Sharon Wilkes said notifications are crucial any time a campus has a positive case of COVID-19.

“We really want to make sure everyone understands when we let people know and how we communicate,” Wilkes said.

Based on feedback received from the community, Wilkes said the district changed its COVID-19 dashboard updates from weekly to daily in early December.

“We received a lot of questions on our dashboard and wanted to share that we only report the number of positive or probable cases of learners or staff on campus,” Wilkes said. “Campuses should notify the district when they receive a positive or probable case and then the next day the dashboard is updated at noon.

More: Cedar Ridge High School Goes 100% Virtual For A Week After Rise In Coronavirus Cases

Wilkes also said the district’s COVID-19 self-report button had been well used during the vacation the district planned to continue throughout this year. The COVID-19 self-report button allows students and employees to mark themselves either as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or as a probable or positive case.

“We’re glad so many families and staff have used it to let us know what’s going on while on vacation,” Wilkes said.

District health services director Brandy Hafner said school districts are not receiving vaccines at this time.

“The state decides who gets the doses, but for now we are working with our community partners to connect our eligible staff to the doses as more vaccines become available,” Hafner said.

Hafner said the district is often asked whether parents will be required to immunize their children once it becomes available to them.

“This is something the state health department decides and since pediatric doses have not been reviewed by the FDA, we are a long way from knowing this information at this time,” Hafner said.

More: Round Rock School District Begins Administering COVID-19 Vaccines to Staff 65 and Over

At the end of the district presentation, teachers and parents were able to ask questions and voice their concerns.

Some of the questions were about mask-wearing and social distancing next school year, and whether virtual learning will be offered in the fall.

“Our recent calls with Austin Public Health indicate that a very high percentage of our community should be vaccinated in order to curb some of our mitigation strategies,” Hafner said. “They plan that we will continue to wear masks until the fall semester.”

Presley said it is up to the state to decide whether or not the district will pursue a virtual learning option for the next school year.

“In January 2021, we’re trying to figure out what August 2021 will look like for the next school year,” he said, “so we’ll have more conversations as we go along, but we really don’t know at this time. . “

More: Meet Daniel Presley, Acting Superintendent of Round Rock School District

Round Rock resident Meenal McNary asked why the district was continuing its extracurricular activities when Austin Public Health advised against it while in stage 5.

Austin’s interim public health authority Dr Mark Escott told a press conference on Dec. 23 that officials recommended area superintendents suspend or “significantly limit” extracurricular activities where masking and social distancing is not possible.

“(The varsity inter-school league) has its own set of rules and our athletics department respects UIL,” Wilkes said. “On the sidelines, masks should be worn, but we still have guidelines from UIL that say sports players on the pitch don’t have to wear masks,” Wilkes said.

Presley said UIL is the district’s governing body for extracurricular activities in sports and academics.

“For example, at the start of the school year, for any site where we have an activity, the UIL parameter is that our sites cannot exceed a capacity of 50% of attendance, therefore all our facilities, gymnasiums and stages were marked with this, ”Presley said.

Westwood area superintendent Becky Donald said no in-person banquets are scheduled to be held this school year.

“The rewards for seniors, banquets, prom and graduation are all coming, but over time we may not be able to do it anymore because it cannot be done safely,” said Donald. “All of our school principals are already working on alternative plans that can be put in place to celebrate children and try to keep the traditions we have while making them safe.”

Donald said she encourages parents to contact their campus principal if they are interested in helping and supporting these safe events.

“Parents of seniors will be receiving information this week and, just like at the end of last year, we will make sure to honor these seniors and do all we can,” said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, District Manager.

The district will host its next virtual town hall at 6 p.m. Monday, when it focuses on curriculum and instruction, as well as the learning procedures in place in elementary and secondary schools.

The last virtual town hall will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and will focus on the district’s current protocols regarding athletics, fine arts and additional extracurricular activities.

Those unable to watch town halls live can submit their questions in advance on the district question submission form and can watch the recorded meeting on the district Youtube page.

School District Coronavirus Coordinator Sharon Wilkes gave a presentation on the district's COVID-19 health and safety protocols at her virtual town hall on Tuesday evening.

Daniel E. Murphy