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Rockwall ISD Board of Trustees approves delay school start until August 26

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The Rockwall ISD Board of Trustees approved the recommendation by Superintendent John Villarreal to delay the start of school for both remote and in-person learners until Wednesday, August 26. This decision comes after weeks of conversations and collaboration with Rockwall County, neighboring Royse City ISD, who is also considering a delayed start, and input received through an employee Start of School Survey. 

Dr. Villarreal presented input received from an employee survey, of which 70% of the 1,200 responses came from teachers, where employees asked for additional time to train on safety procedures and learn the new online platform, Canvas, for grades 3-12. The delay start of seven school days allows the District to continue facility safety modifications, provide additional teacher training for new instructional platforms and opportunities for in-person procedural expectation training for students and staff before returning to campus. Details about the date and times for future scheduled student walk-throughs will be released by each campus to parents soon. The amended school calendar will still end on May 27, 2021. The delay start date has no impact on UIL activities. 

Dr. Villarreal said, “We have heard from our parents and staff. They want to see our students back at school and, overwhelmingly, our parents want to have their children in school. We also want to make sure we do everything we can to provide a safe environment for our teachers, staff, and students. This delay will help us accomplish these goals without any disruption to the school calendar.”  

Parent Commitment Results

While the deadline for the commitment period for In-Person or Remote Learning for students is next Monday, August 3, Senior Chief Financial Officer David Carter presented information to the Board of Trustees regarding the current selection trend and its impact on effective social distancing in school facilities. “To date, approximately 6,000 commitments have been received with 68% choosing In-Person learning and 32% choosing Remote Learning districtwide. Given social distancing standards of 6 feet, school campus capacity would essentially be cut in half. Should the selection for remote learning not increase, social distancing would be difficult to achieve given the number of families choosing In-Person Learning, especially at the high school level,” said David Carter. 

Dr. Amy Ellis, Chief Curriculum & Instruction Officer, advised the Board of Trustees of the Texas Education Agency’s option for school districts to implement a hybrid learning model for students in grades 9-12 in addition to a remote instruction option. “A hybrid model for in-person instruction would help us reasonably achieve social distancing at our high schools where, if the current trend holds, we would be over the social distancing capacity by approximately 536 students at Rockwall High School and 185 students at Rockwall-Heath High School,” said Dr. Amy Ellis. Dr. Villarreal informed the Board of Trustees that the administration will watch the commitment numbers and an agenda item for a hybrid high school schedule may be on the August 3 Board meeting agenda for action should the trends continue.  

Safety Purchases

Mr. David Carter presented an update regarding safety purchases in preparation for the new school year, which total $1.8 million. These purchases are in addition to the $1 million expenditure already approved by the Board of Trustees for additional technology devices and Wi-Fi for students:

  • Campus modifications include social distancing floor markings and signage; contactless hand sanitizing stations; plastic shield barriers for receptionist areas, student and teacher desks/work tables, and cafeteria tables; disabling traditional water fountains and installing bottle refill stations. 
  • Custodial Service changes include electrostatic disinfectant sprayers for more effective cleaning; daily disinfection of ‘high-touch point’ surfaces; all cleaning products confirmed for safety around staff and students; custodial staff required to wear masks and gloves at all times; and hiring one additional day-time custodian for each of the 22 campuses.  
  • In the Child Nutrition area, modifications include limited meal options through Grab’N’Go; social distance markings and signage; plastic shield barriers in café lines; utilize school-designated eating areas to include gyms and classrooms to maximize social distancing; and all Child Nutrition staff are required to wear face masks and gloves at all times. 
  • For transportation, the changes include all students will be required to wear face masks at all times while on the bus; hand sanitizing dispensers on every bus; one student per seat unless siblings from the same household; daily in-between route and end of route disinfecting of buses; and all bus drivers will be required to wear face masks at all times.

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