COVID-19 Live Updates: Austin ISD Extends Spring Break, Gov. Abbott Waives STAAR Tests

2 hours ago

We'll be updating this story throughout the day Monday with the latest local news on the coronavirus. If you'd like to go through a roundup of Sunday's news on COVID-19, read it here. If you have a news tip or question, email it to us at news@KUT.org. 

  • Confirmed cases in Austin: 6
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  • If you are uninsured and/or don't have a doctor: call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015. CommUnityCare will talk to you over the phone and send you to the appropriate location.
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Update at 12:12 p.m. – Austin ISD, other Central Texas school districts extend spring breaks

School districts across Central Texas are extending their closures in an attempt to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. The Austin, Hays, San Marcos, Leander and Eanes school districts are among those announcing they will stay closed at least until Monday, April 6.

In a letter to the Round Rock ISD community, Superintendent Steve Flores says the district will keep schools and district offices closed through Friday, April 3, unless conditions warrant an extension. The school district's administration is finalizing a plan to use virtual and distance learning.

Pflugerville ISD plans to keep schools closed at least through Friday, March 27. Superintendent Douglas Killian says the district hasn't decided yet whether to continue closures beyond that.

The Texas Education Agency is periodically updating a list of Texas school district closures.

 

Update at 11:52 a.m. – Austin Animal Center closes, seeks volunteers to foster animals

The Austin Animal Center will be closed to the public until at least March 30. That means the center will not be taking animals from the public or offering animals up for adoption. But it is asking for volunteers to serve to foster animals “to provide animals relief from the shelter environment.”

To do that you can sign up by emailing animal.foster@austintexas.gov or visiting its website. The city’s goal is to get at least half the animals into foster homes during this closure.

If you find a lost or stray animal, you can take it to a fire station to be scanned for a microchip to help find its owner.

The Austin Animal Centers says veterinarians’ offices, emergency animal hospitals, pet stores and certain recreation centers also have the capacity to scan for chips. But, it's worth remembering some of these locations may be closed due to the pandemic.

The Animal Center also recommends filing a "Found Animal Report," by calling 311 or using the Austin 311 app, and posting information about lost and found animals to social media.

Update at 11:47 a.m. – Old Settler's Music Festival postponed until fall

The annual Old Settler’s Music Festival, planned for mid-April near Lockhart, is being postponed until the fall. Organizers made the announcement Monday following Caldwell County’s decision to prohibit public gatherings of 250 or more people.

They say they cannot give refunds, but say tickets already purchased will be honored when the festival is rescheduled.

Update at 9:03 a.m. — Gov. Abbott waives STAAR testing requirements 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has waived the state-mandated STAAR testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. The governor said he has requested the U.S. Department of Education waive federal testing requirements as well.

Public school students in grades 3-12 take STAAR tests. The standardized tests – which assess reading, writing, writing and math skills – determine if a student is ready for the next grade level.

The governor's office said it's working the Texas Education Agency to make sure students are being taught while schools are closed and to tailor instruction for students with special needs. 

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said it has become apparent that, with schools closing across the state, "schools will be unable to administer STAAR as they would normally."

"Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families," Abbott said. The governor said superintendents should continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty, and their families. 

Austin Public Libaries close starting Monday through March 29

The Austin Public Library announced Sunday that all library locations, the Austin History Center and Recycled Reads will be closed to the public starting Monday through March 29 "to balance the safety and health of our community."

That means all programs and events, including story times and computer classes, are canceled.

Holds and due dates on books and materials will be extended a full renewal period (3 weeks), the library said, and book drops will remain open during the closure.

APL's Virtual Library is still up and running, providing access to e-books, audiobooks, e-learning, entertainment, magazines and newspapers, homework help, and research and databases. The library is also extending its services on the virtual library, including: KANOPY (play credits extended to 5 per month), CLOUDLIBRARY (checkouts extended to 10 days) and HOOPLA (checkouts extended to 5 per month).

The library says the decision to reopen the library system or extend its closure will be based on the coronavirus situation.

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