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Board hears update on first day of in-person school

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    Some Elgin ISD students returned to in-person instruction on September 21, with face masks, plastic barriers on desks and reminders throughout campus to stay six feet apart. Photo by Julianne Hodges

During the school board’s last meeting on Monday, September 21, Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron provided an update on the first day of limited in-person school.

Last Monday, about a quarter of the students who chose in-person were allowed to return to school buildings. The rest of these students are scheduled to return two weeks later on October 5. Duron said very few students showed up who weren’t supposed to on that first day.

“We had several (cabinet members) out and about today at the campuses to see how things were going,” Duron said. “The principals did a phenomenal job of organizing this day and being ready. … All of the principals reported that they had a good day, so I believe we are in a good place to keep moving forward.”

Elgin ISD has enrolled 4,621 students as of last Monday, which is “right on target” with the projected figure of 4,600, Duron said.

During the latest weekly phone conferences with superintendents and health authorities for Bastrop and Travis counties, Duron said they are seeing good news in both counties in terms of positivity and hospitalization rates.

“Things are still moving in the right direction, or they’ve just flattened,” she said. “We’re in a good place.”

The phone conference last Monday with Travis County mostly concerned athletics.

Duron said Travis County’s most recent guidance regarding athletics events is more conservative than Elgin ISD’s current plans, so the school district may need to slow down and scale back game attendance.

Elgin ISD originally planned to have between 20 and 25% capacity in the stadiums, Duron said. This could potentially lead to over 1,000 spectators in the stands, much higher than what is recommended by local health officials’ recommendations. Additionally, they are considering using the visitor’s side of the stadium for student groups, such as the band. For comparison, there were only 600 people in the stands on both sides of the stadium during high school graduation in June.

The initial plan was to sell tickets to the games online and limit the number of tickets that can be sold. However, if Elgin ISD wants to follow the new guidelines, attendance may have to be scaled back to families of students, Duron said.

On September 24, Elgin ISD sent out a letter to parents regarding the limited number of guests allowed at athletic events. According to the letter, two passes to the football games will be provided to all high school student participants who are allowed to attend football games, including football players, band members, dance team members and cheerleaders. No other spectators will be allowed at any home football games. Elgin ISD has arranged to live stream every home varsity football game, the letter said; more information will be shared later, and the link will be posted on the Elgin ISD and Wildcat Athletics websites at www.elginisd. net and elginwildcatathletics.

Board member Beth Walterscheidt asked how bus transportation is working. Duron said there is no guarantee of social distancing on the buses, since it depends how many students are riding the bus, but they are all required to wear their masks on the bus. Once the elementary students are dropped off at their schools, the buses are taken back to the bus barn to be sanitized before picking up students for the intermediate, middle and high schools.

On the first day, it took a long time to pick up all of the students, so the high-schoolers were picked up really late last Monday, Duron said; they are working on improving that time, she added.

The transportation department is contacting all families who selected in-person instruction and are eligible to ride the bus to see if they will require transportation. Duron said they are recommending that parents take their students to school if at all possible.

Before the end of the superintendent’s report, assistant superintendent Shannon Luis pointed out an item on the consent agenda which revokes a resolution that grants more authority to the superintendent during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the March 23 meeting, the school board delegated certain authorities to Duron in response to the state of emergency declared by the City of Elgin, Bastrop and Travis counties and the State of Texas.

This move has helped the school district make timely decisions during the pandemic, Duron said. One such change was adjusting the grading policy, changing the secondary schools’ grading period from six weeks to nine weeks in order to align with the elementary schools.

The resolution would remain in effect until revoked by the board of trustees; they voted to do so when they passed the consent agenda during last week’s meeting.

“With the authority that the Board has delegated to the Superintendent, we have been able to timely and effectively manage our operations without interruption during the crisis of this pandemic,” the action sheet for this consent agenda item says. “As we begin our Return to Learn Phase-In Plan, it is timely and prudent to return such authorities to our Board of Trustees. I appreciate the confidence and trust of the Board of Trustees for delegating this authority, in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, staff, and community.”