Meet the new RR Chamber President
Different celebrations for NY Eve
New for 2021: Golfinity
Table of Contents New state-of-the-art “Golfinity” to open in 2021
Meet Avis Wukasch - Realtor & Incoming Round Rock Chamber Board Chair The Well-Season Private Chef Dark - Chocolate Fruit Nut Bark Drinks to make for the holiday season
Local New Year’s Eve events happening for all ages Simple workouts for that holiday weight gain Where to volunteer during the holidays
Round Rock ISD names interim superintendent as of December 1 Looking to 2021for Covid-19 situations in Round Rock schools
Restaurants & food trucks in Williamson County offer eclectic flavors Phase II of Deerbrooke is open and ready for home buyers Williamson County Pets of the Month
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How to manage teaching children from home
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Letter From The Editor Pamela A. Cosel Welcome to the pages of the December 2020 issue of “Round Rock Living Magazine.” I am honored to be in the role of Editor for this publication, which is part of the Made Media Group. With holiday season comes food, lots of food, and this issue has plenty of it. Ideas for where to eat, what to cook, and how to exercise afterwards for getting rid of the excess weight gain. Eating is a pleasure we all enjoy, and readers are sure to find yummy places to order from that are not too far from home. Our cover story is about the incoming Round Rock Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, Avis Wakusch. She has some uplifting comments to say about this fair city, as well as what the Chamber plans for 2021. Coming from a small town with just 700 residents, her life as a Realtor in Round Rock has shown her what a large community has to offer – and how she enjoys giving back to this place she calls home. Volunteers are always welcome to get involved! Another feature story is about Aaron Bergman, who is the owner and idea-man behind the new business opening in 2021, called Golfinity. For those who have never taken up the sport, once the new facility opens, people of all ages are sure to head out to take advantage of both the indoor an outdoor fun at Golfinity. The monthly column by The Well-Seasoned Chef, Catherine Carpenter, teaches readers about the holiday favorite, “Mendiant” – otherwise known as chocolate bark. She offers ideas on some mix-ins to use, and also how to “temper” chocolate, for those newbie dessert makers. Let’s not forget the drinks. This issue features a couple of classics that one can easily make at home for Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and New Year’s Eve. Schools and teachers have had challenges this year, as have parents and students, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Read the article, “How to manage teaching children from home” to see if any of the ideas offered may help your family get through this season until 2021 (possibly) brings relief. This year of 2020, as we all know, is unlike any other. Yet we must all live our lives, love our families, take care of our responsibilities. It is my desire to provide readers something to feel good about, warm hearts, and something to look forward to with each issue. Stay safe. Be kind to one another. Smile. And have a Happy New Year! Cheers to 2021! Sincerely, Pamela Cosel, Editor
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Catherine Carpenter, “The Well-Seasoned Private Chef,” has been working with food in Austin since 1995, proudly in service to Texas Governors, members of the Texas House, small business, families and individuals throughout Central Texas. She locally sources and handcrafts meals and baking, one happy client at a time. A small-business owner specializing in food as a healing art, she is skilled in cuisine for state dinners, special events, and meals for family. Catherine is active in sourcing from Texas farms and vendors, keeping it local and Texan whenever possible. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Lance Catchings is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. His writing career includes stops at The Port Lavaca Wave and The Liberty Hill Independent along with various freelance opportunities. Originally from Victoria, TX he relocated to the Austin area summer of 2015. An avid hiker, biker, and lover of all things fitness related. A long-time motorcycle track day enthusiast, football fan and beer connoisseur.
April S. Kelley has been documenting the stories of local communities as a working journalist for over a decade. A little over a year ago, she followed her love for music from Louisiana to the Austin area. You can probably find her roaming parks or trails in the area or listening to music way too loudly at her home in Round Rock.
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New state-of-the-art “Golfinity” to open in 2021 AUSTIN, Texas – With ties to Round Rock, Aaron Bergman has taken what was just a dream many years ago and turned it into a business with a new facility to serve golfers of all ages. “Golfinity” is set to open in February.
ocated just west of downtown Round Rock, at 12332 Ranch Road 620 North, the business started from Bergman’s home when he moved here from Tacoma, Washington. It began as a “Golf In Schools” program. “I came to the Austin Area in December 2009 to visit and see if this would be a good place to start my company. The first house I rented was in Round Rock.” Bergman said. “Once I began my after-school program, Round Rock was one of the very first partners to adopt our programming. In 2013 ‘Golf in Schools’ was named District Partner of the Year for RRISD. We partnered with the district to provide grant programming in Title I schools. It was an amazing experience and some of my most
cherished memories of sharing the game and working with youth.” Golfinity’s exterior is unique and eye-catching. With curves and swoops, any passer-by knows there is something special about the place. Bergman has figured out a way to keep going with golf during times of the pandemic. “We’re very fortunate that we have an existing concept store, the Golfinity Preview Club, which has allowed us to navigate how we can serve our customers while also maintaining a safe environment for them and our staff,” he explained. “We have implemented several safety measures that have proven to be extremely successful. We were also fortunate to still be in the construction phase of our
new building when COVID hit, so were able to incorporate some design and structural changes into our building.” It was the after-school golf program that led to the creation of Golfinity and branching out to also work with adults as a learning and practice center. “Golfinity is a concept that has been 10 years in the making,” Bergman said. “In 2010, I came to Austin to start an after-school golf program in Elementary Schools. As we expanded our classes throughout Central Texas we realized we were introducing the game of golf to students and their families, but we were not providing development beyond the introductory class. In fall 2015, we opened
an indoor academy as a training ground for students from after-school classes to continue their development. Interestingly, not only did the students from the after-school program start taking lessons, but so did the rest of their family members. Very organically, we became a golf learning center for the whole family.” And thus, Golfinity grew from the groundup, one could say. Memberships are available at different levels for individuals or families. “Golfinity really is a first-of-its-kind offering,” Bergman explained. “There has never been an indoor golf training center with a membership model, built on development and service. In a way, we’re a new-age golf club. Most indoor golf centers are focused on entertainment, with food and drink as the centerpiece of the business. And those facilities that are training focused are usually very small and are targeting ‘elite’ players. “At Golfinity, we’re development-focused, but our programming and instruction is designed to attract golfers of all abilities. Cutting-edge technology shouldn’t just be for the top one percent of ability. It can be fun and educational for everyone!” Golfinity will likely have 65 percent as family memberships, with 50 percent students and 50 percent adults, according to Bergman. The facility will have a proprietary app, called “Golfinity Skills Development Experience (SDX) which will be available to members. The business is using technology for both instruction and social events. Bergman explained the technology side of things. “Golfinity is built on innovation, development and performance and we feature a blend of cutting-edge technology around those
“Golfinity is built on innovation, development and performance and we feature a blend of cutting-edge technology around those tenets” tenets,” he said. “Our simulators will be a blend of Trackman, Foresight and Uneekor. All three provide their own qualities to a training experience. We will also feature Gears 3D technology that can map the exact movements a golfer makes in 3D. Another really cool piece of technology is our Virtual Green. With the touch of a screen, the green can change shape and undulation to simulate different types of putts. Projection mapping on the green shows the golfer where to aim to accommodate the change in the break.
“We also feature technology that can measure the pressure and weight shift a golfer makes on the ground,” he continued. “Players will be able to see how their balance changes throughout the swing. All of our technology has been carefully tested and selected to provide the best learning and training environment.” Golfinity will feature tournaments and leagues, as well. Bergman said that will likely be the most fun of being a member at the facility because playing is not weather-dependent. “It opens up the game and competing to so many more people.” Bergman is not doing this alone, as he knows the importance of staying connected to family with fun. He has a wife and two children, and his parents and sister live in Round Rock. His mother, Barbara Bergman, is retired from Round Rock Independent School District where she worked as an elementary school principal. Likely we can expect to see them in the near future, playing as a team in a Golfinity tournament. And there’s more: Aaron has plans to develop a second location for Golfinity in southwest Austin. 7
Meet Avis Wukasch
Realtor & Incoming Round Rock Chamber Board Chair 8
By Pamela Cosel Editor | RRLM
ROUND ROCK, TEXAS
She has been a Realtor in the area for the past forty years and knows the city well. In January, Avis Wukasch will also become the Round Rock Chamber Board Chair, having been a volunteer for the past five years. She said others have talked with her for a while about getting involved in Chamber work, and now seemed the right time to do it.
“Some past leadership has attempted to get me involved for many years,” Wukasch explained, “and because of other volunteer obligations I kept saying no. About two years ago, I finally said yes.” In these months of COVID-19 and the pandemic, businesses have been run differently and the Chamber function has had to change with the times, of course. Chambers of Commerce are known for being friendly, supportive and outgoing, as the Board of Directors together promotes the community and its businesses. “We have learned many new skills,” Wukasch said. “How to have meetings without being in the same room, how to help others without any ‘hands-on’ involvement. How to encourage people through stories and examples of other times in our history where ‘times were worse’ than this pandemic.” All challenges that will continue into 2021 as Wukasch takes the helm. Yet, she explained that the work does not all fall onto her shoulders alone. She said that the best thing about volunteering at the Chamber is the people with whom she connects. “Nothing is accomplished by the Board Chair alone,” she said. “The work of many, many
“We have a concerted effort to develop a thriving ecosystem that supports high growth-entrepreneurs and start-up business in Round Rock”
people will continue, work already started in economic development, support of the business community, developing leaders and entrepreneurs, talent development and attraction, business attraction and retention, business advocacy and of course, organizational stability. This work will continue done by many both staff and volunteers, and for a few months I will sit in this seat and do whatever I can do to help and to not get in the way of progress.” Progress won’t stop in 2021; in fact, the Chamber of Commerce staff and Board members all know they can’t let the energy sag. There is much to do for the city. Wuckash explained the projects for the coming year. “We are focused on continuing to bolster the economic vitality of Round Rock by proactively recruiting companies in identified target industries,” she said. “Taking care of the businesses we already have here is of utmost importance, and we have an outreach program that will be enhanced in 2021 to ensure we are assisting business where we can. Even in times of the pandemic, our region has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. For that reason, it is critical that we enhance and expand our workforce availability and talent development programs for employers and employees. “We have a concerted effort to develop a thriving ecosystem that supports high growth-entrepreneurs and start-up business in Round Rock,” Wukasch continued. “With the 2021 legislative session kicking off, our public policy advocacy efforts will promote pro-business policies through our regional relationship building and influence infrastructure investment that supports growth and mobility. Last, but not least, we are so thankful for ‘Momentum’ and Chamber In-
vestors who help us drive this important work for the community.” Wuckash and her husband, who is a Real Estate broker, are parents to two and grandparents to four children. Born in McKinney, Texas, and raised in Anna, Texas, she was used to small towns, with a population of 700, in her younger years. “Now there are more than 13,000 residents,” she said. However, the big city drew her to Austin for college, and she never left the area. She said that home sales are on the increase and inventory is down in her town of choice. “Round Rock is an amazing place to be in the Real Estate business.” Looking forward to 2021, Wukasch highlighted the many partnerships that make it such a great city in which to live and work. “2020 has been a difficult year for all of us,” she said. “The Chamber is proud to have partnered with the City of Round Rock, The Greater Round Rock Community Foundation and Dell Technologies to implement the ‘Round Rock Cares’ fund this past spring. The Chamber gave a significant contribution in seed money to the charitable fund which ended up raising a total of $400,000 and providing financial relief to over 160 small businesses in Round Rock at the height of the COVID-19 shutdown. This effort showed that Round Rock is a community that takes care of each other and we are so thankful to be a part of a place where life is well, life and community thrives!” She believes that the Chamber must stay relevant to the business community and, thereby, contributing to the entire community of Round Rock. “The way I learned the world is, ‘don’t complain, be engaged, make a difference for the greatest good of all.’” For at least the next year and longer, that is just what Wukash’s focus will be. 9
The Well-Season Private Chef
The History of Christmas Bark (or Mendiant)
endiant, (French word for ‘mendicant’, meaning beggar in English) were traditional French Christmas confections. There was a theme of the beggar metaphorically relying on the handout of the candy, pointing also to religious orders who relied on alms to survive. The nuts and fruits added were not only visually appealing, but represented the four mendicant or monastic orders, each ingredient referring to the color of the monastic robes of Augustinians (raisons), Carmelites (hazelnuts), Dominicans (almonds), and Franciscans (dried figs). Today’s Christmas Bark, the base ingredient being dark chocolate, may have a wider variety of added layers and morsels ranging from: shattered peppermint, candies and drizzles; toffee, Saltine crackers and pretzels; grahams crackers and marshmallows; to nuts and dried fruit. The options are endless- creative license to the maker! These may become your favorite holiday treat-making. Mendiants are made into large slabs and broken down into smaller pieces (bark). The final products are edible decorated jewels -- eye candy for holiday homes, tables, and platters abound.
A Lucious Landscape: Dark Chocolate Fruit Nut Bark Recipe Ingredients 14 oz bittersweet chocolate Chopped 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (optional) 1 cup salty Marcona Almonds (or other toasted nut of choice) 1 cup giant dried Bing Cherries and Golden Raisons (or other dried fruit of choice) Flaky sea salt for sprinkling sparingly at the end
Recipe Preparation 1. Plan recipe by starting with your favorite chocolate, suggested dark chocolate, but ranging from dark to white. The higher the quality the finer the end product. Plan additions (in our case we are using nuts and dried fruit with an occasional bit of zest just for color). 2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or preferred silicon mat). 3. Melt and temper the chocolate over a lightly simmering double boiler. I put a metal bowl over a pot filled with one or two inches of water and melt chocolate in the metal bowl (Or place in microwave for 30 second bursts, gently stirring between until the melted chocolate is completely melted and consistent. Do not overheat the chocolate. I never use a thermometer and it’s not necessary unless you just want to. Also be careful not to let steam from the double boiler get into the chocolate or drop water into the chocolate as it could cause ‘ghosting’ on the chocolate after it dries. *SEE TEMPERING BELOW for detailed tempering. 4. With an offset spatula immediately while chocolate is still warm and melted, spread chocolate onto prepared baking sheet, bringing out to the edges of the sheet. Immediately before the chocolate starts to set, sprinkle and arrange artfully the nuts, raisons, dried fruit, zest (optional) and/or any other delights of your choosing. Lastly, sparingly sprinkle flaky sea salt here and there, being careful not to over-salt, for the occasional burst of salty flavor. 5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. 6. Break into random sized pieces by hand OR cut into precise planned shapes with a knife. It’s important that the chocolate is set enough for the shapes to be more successful. 7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until it is time to arrange bark artfully in your favorite footed crystal candy bowl or on festive holiday platter. This can be made up until a week in advance of eating. 10
Drinks to make for the holiday season
hristians celebrate Christmas. Jews celebrate Hanukkah. Kwanza is a Swahili word that means “first fruits” and has been celebrated for just 44 years, while Hanukkah has been around for more than 2,000 years, as has Christmas. Regardless, all of the holidays are for celebrating. Food, drinks, merriment abound, though things look a bit different for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few suggestions to mix up for family and friends – or perhaps just for yourself.
Hanukkah: Bourbon & Blood Orange Martini
Kwanza: Stinger – Country Club Style
1.5 ounces bourbon ½ cup blood orange juice 8 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig of mint for garnish, if desired
1 jigger of brandy 1 pony white Crème de Menthe
*How to temper chocolate Finely chop the chocolate. In general, 1-1/2 to 2 pounds is an ideal size to work with. It is more difficult to control the temperature with smaller or larger amounts. Place 2/3 of the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. If you don’t have one, put a metal bowl atop a pan of water. In either case, be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the metal above it. Place a candy thermometer into the chocolate. The temperature should not exceed 120°F for dark chocolate or 105°F for milk and white chocolate. Stir frequently with a spatula. When the chocolate is fully melted, remove bowl from heat and wipe condensation from the bottom and sides. Put a lid on the bottom pan so the water remains simmering. Stir in the remaining chocolate a bit at a time, allowing it to thoroughly melt before adding more. Let the chocolate cool to 82°F. If it is warmer, keep stirring it until the temperature lowers. If it is cooler, begin reheating (see next step). When the chocolate is 82°F, place it over simmering water. For dark chocolate, heat to 88°F to 91°F. For milk chocolate and white chocolate, heat to 85°F to 87°F. Remove bowl from heat. Spread a small spoonful of the chocolate on a piece of wax paper. If it dries quickly with a glossy finish and no streaks, it is in temper. If it is dull with streaks, you need to re-temper it, beginning with How To Temper Chocolate Step 2. Immediately proceed to Preparation Step 4 and add the inclusions. Tempered chocolate must be used before it cools and sets. Otherwise, you need to re-temper it.
Preparation Mix together the three ingredients in a shaker. Pour over ice in a short glass, and garnish with a spring of mint. Makes one drink.
Preparation Pour into a large mixing glass or shaker and fill with ice chunks. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve. From The Ideal Bartender, 1917
Christmas: Hot Buttered Rum Ingredients 1 pound butter 1 pound brown sugar 1 pound confectioners’ sugar 1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened 1 T ground cinnamon ! teas. ground nutmeg From All Recipes.com
Preparation Step 1 - Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Blend in brown sugar and confectioners’ sugar. Remove from heat, and whisk in the ice cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour mixture into a plastic container, seal, and freeze. Step 2 - In a coffee mug, measure 1 tablespoon Hot Buttered Rum Batter and 1 ounce of rum, then fill cup with boiling water. Stir, and sprinkle top of drink with nutmeg. 11
Local New Year’s Eve events happening for all ages By April S. Kelley
rior to the pandemic, New Year’s Eve meant a night buzzing with energy and people out and about, staying up late, celebrating the end of a year and the hopeful, exciting beginning of another. This year, though, has shaped up to look a lot different than anyone ever expected. And so, too, has New Year’s Eve. While there are fewer celebrations than normal and most will likely choose to stay home with loved ones and a bottle of champagne, here is a list of all the events happening for those who need to end this year with a bit of normalcy, while complying with all CDC-recommended safety guidelines, of course. Don’t forget that most of the favorite local bars, restaurants and businesses will likely be open, serving curbside and limited seating inside, even if they aren’t having an official celebration.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY CELEBRATIONS New Year Buffet When: 5 - 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 31 Where: Kalahari Convention Center Hall, 3001 Kalahari Blvd., Round Rock
ADULT CELEBRATIONS New Year’s Eve Party! When: Thursday, Dec. 31, beginning at 7 p.m. Where: Craft & Racked Wine Bar, 1400 E. Old Settlers Blvd. Suite 203, Round Rock Join Craft & Racked Wine Bar to kiss 2020 “Goodbye (and Good Riddance)” with DJ 5-oh spinning, tons of drink specials and a champagne toast at midnight. For more info, visit https:// www.craftandracked.com/.
New Year’s Eve Celebration at Rockey’s When: Thursday, Dec. 31, beginning at 6 p.m. Where: Rocky’s Piano Bar, 111 W. Main St., Round Rock Ring in the New Year at Rockey’s Piano Bar, with party favors and a bottle of champagne included in the cover charge. A table for four costs $100; however, for those who choose not to make a table reservation, the cost to walk in and stand is just a $10 cover. For more info or to reserve a table, call 512-840-1302 or visit https://www.rockeysrrtx.com/. 12
Oasis New Year’s Eve Celebration When: Thursday, Dec. 31, beginning at 7 p.m. Where: The Oasis on Lake Travis, 6550 Comanche Trail, Austin. If a fancier New Year’s celebration is part of the plan, reserve a spot at The Oasis on Lake Travis. Their celebration includes an extensive buffet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., party favors, hats, tiaras, noise makers and a complimentary champagne toast served in commemorative champagne flutes for each guest at midnight. Local band Dysfunction Junction will provide live entertainment, beginning shortly after 9 p.m. and lasting until 12:30 a.m. New Year’s Day. Table sizes range from 4-10 guests, and formal attire is encouraged. For more info, pricing and reservations, visit http://oasis-austin.com/.
NYE Surprise! When: Thursday, Dec. 31 Where: Willard’s Brewery, located at 2400 Patterson Industrial Dr., Pflugerville More info to be announced at http://willardsbrewery.com/.
Ring in the New Year with an unforgettable celebration, while enjoying a buffet that includes ribs, rotisserie chicken, and other hot and cold delicacies plus an amazing dessert selection. To make a reservation, call 512-953-9565. Prices: Adult - $62.99 (13 years and older); Children $29.99 (ages 4 to 12 years); 3 years or younger are free. Reservations are strongly recommended. For more info, visit https://www.kalahariresorts. com/texas/.
Noon Year’s Eve Party When: 11:30 a.m. - noon, Thursday, Dec. 31 Where: Austin Aquarium, 13530 US-183 #101, Austin. Celebrate a kid-friendly New Year’s Eve at the Austin Aquarium, with a Balloon Drop when the clock strikes noon. Come enjoy all the fun of New Year’s Eve without missing bedtime. The event is free, with paid admission. Visit austinaquarium.com for tickets or more info.
New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop When: 12 - 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 31 Where: Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann Dr., Austin Enjoy a family skate day to celebrate New Year’s Eve, with a Balloon Drop at 4 p.m. and party favors while supplies last. For more info, visit http://playlandskatecenter.net/.
Simple workouts for that holiday weight gain By Lance Catchings
During the holiday season many Central Texans are looking for ways to keep off the traditional holiday weight gain and jump start their New Year’s Resolutions for 2021. Covid-19 has made many conscious of their personal health and Texans are taking charge of their physical fitness whether it be at the gym, track or burning up calories while making laps around the neighborhood. Here are three holiday workouts that can be done alone or with family to help keep off the traditional weight gain.
WALKING/RUNNING/HIKING – These activities may seem over-simplified but are some of the most efficient ways to burn calories for beginners. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and you’re set for these activities. Start small and build on distance each week. Listen to your favorite music or audio book and the time (and distance) will fly by.
CYCLING - This is another activity that can be done from home, at the gym or down your favorite less traveled road. This can be a great lower body and core workout, and should you take a class will quickly realize how fast the level of intensity can be raised.
3 H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training) – HIIT workouts are very popular and extremely effective by raising the level of cardiovascular intensity followed by short periods of rest. A favorite HIIT warm-up workouts is 4x1 (four movements followed by one minute of rest). Air Squats, burpees, push-ups and sit-ups. Start with Air Squats and do as many as possible in one minute. Once the minute is over, go right into burpees, followed by one minute of pushups and one minute of sit-ups. After sit-ups take a one-minute rest. Repeat this process for four rounds, and there is a quick 20-minute home workout for beginners or a nice warm-up for those who are more experienced. 13
Where to volunteer during the holidays Many families have a tradition of volunteering to help those less fortunate during the holidays, such as donating gifts, money or time. Each year, many cities support the Blue Santa Program, and that is one way to give to families who need extra help with Christmas gifts. Many opportunities exist in the Williamson County and Travis County region throughout the year for people to help in a variety of ways.
he Round Rock Area Serving Center (RRASC) is one nonprofit working to provide food, help with funds for rent and utilities and also distributing coats via its “Keep Round Rock Warm” program. The food pantry is sponsored by the Central Texas Food Bank and distributes food three days a month, on the first, third and fifth Thursdays. Healthy Options Program for the Elderly and the Community Gardens operate in coordination with Williamson County Master Gardeners. RRASC also operates Treasures Charity Resale Shop & Boutique is thrift store with used clothing, furniture, electronics, in all sizes. RRASC accepts new volunteers throughout the year; complete the online form via the website.
Other agencies that fall under the umbrella of RRASC and The Volunteer Center include LifeSteps Council, Footprints Children’s Grief Ministry, Annunciation Maternity Home, United Way of Williamson County, Christ Image International Church, and Faith in Action Georgetown. Another way to find opportunities to volunteer this holiday season is via Volunteer Match. There are so many different opportunities to volunteer, which range from hospice work, to serving as an interpreter, helping with pet therapy, diaper delivery drivers, Meals on Wheels delivery, and helping to handle or walk horses. Why not get the family together and review a few of the options to give time to those who can use a bit of extra help this holiday season? It could just turn into a year-round family activity. 14
Round Rock ISD names interim superintendent as of December 1 After the resignation of Dr. Steve Flores last month, the Round Rock Independent School District has announced Dr. Daniel Presley will now serve as Acting Superintendent.
Dr. Flores has served as superintendent since 2013. He will remain on staff to assist in the transition until March 31, 2021. Dr. Presley will begin his new role as of December 1, according to an announcement by the Board of Trustees. “I am proud and honored to serve Round Rock ISD, a District I love deeply, in this role and I appreciate the Trustees for placing their trust in me,” Presley said. “This year has presented the most challenging circumstances for public education in our lifetime and I am committed to providing steady leadership during this transition.”
Dr. Presley has served in his current job is as Senior Chief of Schools and Innovation with RRISD, second in command to the superintendent role, since 2014. He has more than 30 years of experience in Texas and Louisiana and a former principal of Cedar Ridge High School. He earned both his undergraduate and master’s degree from Centenary College in Louisiana, and his doctoral degree from Texas A&M University. The Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of Dr. Flores at its meeting held on November 13. He was named as the Texas PTA Superintendent of the Year in June 2020.
Looking to 2021for Covid-19 situations in Round Rock schools
ROUND ROCK, Texas – Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) staff, teachers, parents and students – as those in other school districts around the country – have been greatly affected by the disruption in daily lives due to Covid-19.
ooking toward 2021, the expectation for returning to normal in-classroom attendance will be based on the number of cases of the virus, with hopes that everyone may return to in-classroom instruction, if the cases remain low and the spread under control. This information is based on the plan as noted on RRISD’s website. RRISD will be under new interim superintendent leadership, with the resignation as of November 30 of Dr. Steve Flores. He remains on staff in a lesser role in the transition period with Dr. Daniel Presley taking over until a new superintendent is hired. If any changes in schooling is made, it will be under Dr. Presley’s direction. For now, parents have access to a Dashboard on the RRISD website for directions to follow for their children’s learning. They can choose to be taught at home virtually or be in the classroom. A new plan for 2021 will be posted on the RRISD website, with the most recent “On-Campus & Virtual Learning Plans” being published in Fall 2020. “Families may choose to continue to keep their students in virtual learning for as long as they choose,” as stated on the RRISD website. “They can also move from on-campus learning to virtual learning at any time.” The district is adhering to safety and cleaning protocols as directed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local health care agencies. It will continue to do so when the new semester begins, though “...changes to the public health situation in the coming months may necessitate changes to the” TEA guidance. The school district updates every Friday online the number of current and active cases of Covid-19 among students and employees, with a breakdown by schools of all levels. As of press time, current cases numbered at 123, with total positive cases cumulative at 376, total close contacts current at 190, and total close contacts cumulative at 1,653.
Restaurants & food trucks in Williamson County offer eclectic flavors Going out to eat has taken a twisty path since COVID-19 shut down many eat-in restaurants for a time in 2020. Looking ahead to 2021, the following restaurants and food trucks remain open and offer unusual tastes and menu items that are sure to please customers who want something tasty and different this holiday season.
The Oaks at Forest Creek, 95 Twin Ridge Parkway Serving burgers with names like “Double Bogey” and “Triple Bypass,” hungry customers can eat curbside and on the patio. Soups, salads and chili are also available. There is a breakfast menu and a weekend brunch. Live music is also on the menu, though recently the business went through a rezoning hearing with the City of Round Rock. Fresh waffles, donuts, hash browns and breakfast sandwiches are served during Saturday and Sunday brunch hours.
Snack Room, 1400 E. Old Settlers Blvd. Bring a sweet tooth and be ready to sugar-up when eating at the Snack Room! With 40 flavors of ice cream, popcorn, spiked shakes and plenty of mix-ins, this business is family-owned. The Snack Room features alcohol-infused flavors for the over-21 crowd, and kid-friendly flavors for the younger set. Touting a hot drink shop, as well, no need to wait for summer to return to enjoy a sweet treat. The business also offers non-dairy shakes for vegans. Orders can be picked up curbside, carryout, or delivered via DoorDash or UberEats. The Snack Room is closed on Mondays.
Hula Pig Hawaiian BBQ, 5430 US Highway 79
Rock N Grill – Indian Cuisine & Bar, 1702 N. Mays St., Suite A This restaurant is part of a chain which says it is “an emerging Indian restaurant for the foodies” in the area. The food cooked here brings aromas, spices and tastes from India, using natural ingredients and meat with no hormones or antibiotics in the preparation. The menu includes curries of goat, lamb, chicken and vegetables. Biryani is sold in single or family-size servings. The restaurant is open seven days a week during lunch and dinner hours.
Opened in Round Rock in summer 2020. The veteran-owned food truck business offers outdoor seating, takeout, and curbside pickup. Open from Tuesdays through Sunday. The menu includes Hawaiian BBQ dishes made with chicken, shortribs, shrimp, pork and beef burger. Fries, coleslaw, macaroni salad, eggs and rice are also on the menu, along with a Kids’ Meal of chicken tenders and cheeseburgers with fries. 17
Phase II of Deerbrooke is open and ready for home buyers LEANDER, Texas – One might think it could be where the deer and the antelope play. After all, it is the Christmas season. If nothing else, children playing can be seen around the Deerbrooke development in Leander.
“Residents enjoy quick commutes, easy access to relaxing natural landscapes, and all the cultural sophistication a big city offers – whether that’s taking in a downtown restaurant or a local sporting event”
hase II of the community opened in the fall of 2020 and is located on the northwest side of the heart of Leander, nestled between North Bagdad Road and State Highway 183. It is convenient to school, shopping, restaurants, parks and just about anything families could want. “Residents enjoy quick commutes, easy access to relaxing natural landscapes, and all the cultural sophistication a big city offers – whether that’s taking in a downtown restaurant or a local sporting event,” states the Deerbrooke website. Many types of models are available, ranging from having three to five bedrooms in those
built by GFO Home / Meritage Homes. They are energy-efficient, as well, with some ready to move into, while others would be constructed when contracts are signed. Other award-winning builders include Gehan Homes, Perry Homes, Sitterle Homes and Monticello Homes. Prices range from $350,000 to more than $500,000. With Austin being in the fastest growing city in the country the past few years, it’s only natural that Leander would also be in the mix of growing communities. In 2010, the Census Bureau showed Leander having grown from a population of 27,697 to 73,000 residents in July 2020.
Deerbrooke also has amenities that families will love, such as a health and fitness center, swimming pool and splash pad, open-air pavilion, fenced dog park, community center, and is surrounded by trails of the Texas Hill Country. Schools located nearby are Tom Glenn High School, Stacy K. Danielson Middle School and Jim Plan Elementary School. All are part of the Leander Independent School District. Model homes are open for viewing every day of the week. The sales office for Deerbrooke is located at 929 Deer Rim Road. The phone number is 512-387-8632.
Pets of the Month WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas – In 2020, Williamson County Animal Shelter celebrated five years as a No-Kill shelter. The facility staff determines its Save Rate by subtracting the non-live numbers of pets from the live intakes. Then that number is divided by the number of live intakes and that is the Save Rate. 9107490
Meet Billy Bob:
Marco has been in the WCAS since November 2020. He is a large mixed breed, with brown and white coloring. He is just over one year old and is on site at WCAS. He is not declawed and it is unknown if he is housetrained. To make an appointment to visit the shelter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Billy Bob is a beautiful but nervous kitty that has recently come into the shelter as a stray. He came in with a few scrapes that are healing up well. Billy Bob is searching for a forever family that understands he’s scared in the shelter environment and will need some time and space to feel comfortable in his new home and with his new family. He has been in the shelter since August and is five years old. 19
How to manage teaching children from home By Pamela Cosel
Homeschooling was a movement that gained momentum in the 1980s, led primarily by evangelical Christians who preferred to be home with their children and also responsible for their educational needs. But it was in the 1970s that educator John Holt became an outspoken proponent for homeschooling, saying that learning happens daily and one does not need to sit inside a classroom in order to be “schooled” in the important things in life. His book, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, was first published in 1981 and is still sold today.
ast forward to the year 2020, and who could have imagined a majority of parents would be helping to teach their children at home, due to lockdown restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. Schools were closed in the spring, and while some teachers are in their classrooms, most students are at home using technology to connect online to see and hear their teachers and friends. Parents have had to juggle work schedules to assist and, in some cases, quit their jobs in order to stay home with their children whose learning must be the priority. The challenge for many parents is to make sure their children have the right kind of equipment in order to be online. WiFi systems at home have to handle many devices being online at on time, especially if both parents work and there are a number of students in the home who all need to be logged on at the same time. Professor Dennis Shirley at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human De-
velopment has created a list of five quick tips for parents who are responsible for in-home schooling. Don’t Panic: Shirley writes that there is a lot going on inside and outside the home, of course, and he advises parents not to be afraid of mistakes they may make. It’s a new world, and unlike what parents are used to. Tell yourself that you can do it. Set a Schedule: Involve the at-home students in the making of the teaching and family schedules. Use color-coding on charts, perhaps, to have a visual representation of the flow of each day. And Shirley says to stick to the schedule as much as possible, no negotiation. Set Clear Expectations: Parents should preview the students’ work which they may need help with. Help the child to break it down into tasks so they know the direction an assignment is headed. Blend Academic Learning and Personal Growth: Plan activities where possible
within the family unit that supplement the lesson plans and also offer new experiences to the students. One idea is to keep journals, or perhaps record reflections in pieces of art that the children draw. Shirley suggests to do set other learning goals that can be talked about at the beginning or end of each day. Shake Your Sillies Out: Be sure to have everyone take breaks throughout the day. Include play time in the schedule so children – and parents – can shake off pent-up energy and relax before moving onto the next task. Quiet time during breaks is also good. Finally, Shirley uses the analogy of music, saying teaching is “like jazz. We improvise. We hit our high notes. We see how the pieces fit together,” he says. “Classroom teaching is more like a classically conducted orchestra: deliberate, organized and firmly-led. Teach-at-home parents can draw from both approaches in this new experiment that so many have been asked to carry out.”
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