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Round Rock ISD superintendent talks all-virtual first day of school

Despite a glitch that was quickly corrected, Dr. Steve Flores says the first day of school was off to a great start.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — Thursday marked the first day of the 2020-21 school year for Round Rock ISD students, and it was a first day of school like no other.

Like many districts across Central Texas, students are starting the school year learning from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

KVUE's Tori Larned spoke with Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores about how the first day went.

Larned: How's it going so far?

Flores: "It's been a great start. It's a start like no other. I've been in education 37 years, and never before have we started in a virtual environment or a virtual way. ... Our staff has done a great job all summer, and our teachers are prepared. Our students right now [are] engaged in what we hope is three-week virtual learning."

Have there been any shortfalls you've had to troubleshoot?

"We did have a little bit of an Internet glitch [on Thursaday morning]. That glitch itself was corrected within 10 to 15 minutes. But it was not a server problem. It was not a capacity issue. It was a great learning moment for us all to say that the virtual experience is not going to be perfect. What we know and what we've been harking on all summer long is that we're not expecting perfection, but we are expecting progress."

Do you have any tips for parents and students right now from what you're noticing or as you go through and navigate this first week of school?

"There was a lot of confusion and a lot of individuals stating that, 'Oh, no, we can't go back to last spring's learning because it was so, so different,' or it was something that they were not really used to. And it really wasn't what we were prepared to provide. What we provided last spring to finish out the year was what we called crisis education. It was a crisis. What we've had is four months to get started and moving along to where we have a platform that will be user-friendly and will allow us to provide what we are very proud of in Round Rock ISD, and that's a world-class public education. So my tip is: don't expect to know everything about the learning management system on day one or day two. Flexibility is going to be a guiding principle. We'll provide as much flexibility as possible. And the other is if we can just, you know, provide grace to each other."

The first three weeks of school will be online, and then students will have the option to return to campus on Sept. 10 or continue online learning. How many families have chosen to continue online learning, and is that still the plan three weeks from now?

"What we're doing is making sure that we learn virtually as robustly as possible with every intention to get back in school on campus for the parents that choose the on-campus [option]. Seventy percent would want to extend the virtual [option] past the three weeks, and about 29-30% would want to return to on-campus learning on Sept. 10. However, before we get to Sept. 10, we need to assess just how safe it is for us to go back."

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