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Another Central Texas school district opens for in-person learning: Llano ISD

School started Aug. 13. Parents had the choice for their child to participate virtually or in-class.

AUSTIN, Texas — For the first time since May, Llano Independent School District students and staff headed back to school on Thursday, Aug. 13, but this time students chose between virtual or face-to-face learning. 

After months of planning following state guidance and receiving input from Llano ISD families, district leaders feel they have a solid and safe plan in place. 

"We have a lot of protocols. It is going to look different. As much as we want it to look the same, it's going to look different, but we are going to try with every ounce of our being to keep everyone safe and in the building," Llano ISD superintendent Mac Edwards told KVUE.

According to two different surveys sent to parents in July, of the responses they received, approximately 83% of families wanted their child to return to on-campus learning, while 17% decided to continue virtual learning. Twenty percent of families did not respond to the survey. 

From outside, the school grounds looked to be much of the same on the first day of school Aug. 13: pick-up, drop-off. But this time around, students must wear a mask, they cannot stand in groups and a staff member takes their temperature before the students head inside. 

While parents may want to go inside their child's school, Llano ISD does not permit it. Only staff and students are allowed. 

Once inside, Edwards said people will find social distancing measures and reminders throughout the schools. This includes posters, "X"s marking where individuals should and should not be and floor markings directing people where to walk.

Lunch and recess will continue as planned, however, Edwards said they spaced out cafeteria time to lessen the number of students that are together at once. 

"We believe we have the space to socially distance them where it can be done. The [Texas Education Agency] does understand it can't be done everywhere, but where it can be done we believe we have pretty solid plans for those kids," said Edwards. 

KVUE's Tori Larned asked parents dropping their children off why they chose in-class instruction versus online learning. Parents either wanted to give their child the socialization they needed or wanted for months, or they were not capable of teaching from home. 

However, some students stayed at home, starting up their laptops or tablets, ready to get going. 

Llano ISD leaders took months to format a much more comprehensive and rigorous online program than the emergency program parents and students quickly adapted to in May. 

Over the weekend, staff helped pass out tablets to students who chose to learn from home and needed the technology. 

While the curriculum is coming together, Edwards did worry about the connectivity in Llano County. 

"Certain hot spots work in certain parts of the county and certain hot spots don't work in other parts of the county, so that is a challenge we are trying to deal with," he said. 

While it will take time to determine if Llano ISD's plan for the beginning of the year is working, Edwards said they will tackle each problem as it comes their way. 

"Everyone is chasing a rabbit down a hole," he said. "You think you have chased every rabbit down the hole and there will be things that come up that you will have to address."

WATCH: Llano ISD welcomes its students back to campus

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