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Coronavirus: Austin, Texas, Schools Hold Virtual Meetings

The Austin school board will conduct their regular board meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. virtually on the videoconferencing platform Zoom as a health safety measure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

by Aaricka Washington, Austin American-Statesman / March 30, 2020

(TNS) — Austin schools Superintendent Paul Cruz and school board President Geronimo Rodriguez on Monday will provide updates on the district's response to the coronavirus and its search for a replacement for Cruz, who announced last month that he was stepping down.

The Austin school board will conduct their regular board meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. virtually on the videoconferencing platform Zoom as a health safety measure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March 13, district schools have been closed. Cruz said the district will remain closed until at least April 13, which is when stay-at-home orders from Austin and Travis County authorities could be lifted.

But several Austin-area school districts are preparing for an even longer time away from campuses. Last week, the interim public health authority for Austin and Travis County, Dr. Mark Escott, recommended that schools remain closed for the rest of the school year. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that schools be closed for up to 20 weeks to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

District administrators earlier this month launched an online learning website where parents can use courses and resources for their kids until the district can provide teacher-led instruction in the upcoming weeks. The Learning At-Home website, features sample daily schedules as well as resources for special education and gifted and talented students.

Though it is unclear what distance learning will look like across the district, teachers and staff are continuing to prepare for their new normal this week.

In a video uploaded on the district's Twitter account, Cruz said April 6 is his target date to have a continuous learning system for students.

"We're going to get it right, but we are going to make some mistakes along the way and I ask you for a little grace time and I thank for your patience," Cruz said in the video posted on Friday.

As of right now, district administrators say eighth graders and high school students, as well as middle school students from five out of the 19 district schools have devices for online learning. Elementary school students will have printed materials.

Brooke Elementary School parent Gloria Vera-Bedolla tweeted out a message to Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other technology companies to provide devices for Brooke students. Although she has not heard from the tech companies, she has heard from the district. The district administrators told her that they are working on getting equipment for students.

"The school is shutting down," said Vera-Bedolla, whose children go to a school that was approved by the school board to be closed this year. "It's been a traumatic year and if we could make it easier even for a couple of months that would be my goal."

Along with adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, school district administrators and trustees have a lot on their plates, including a vote to potentially modernize and expand the Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten campus to create the future Rosedale School.

Community members can view the streamed meeting on AISD.TV and on the Austin ISD Facebook page. Public agenda comments will be collected from recorded phone messages, according to the district, but no live public comment will occur.

©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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