AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District has created a re-entry task force to examine different scheduling scenarios for students in the fall.

No option is off limits as these leaders consider both the academic and health consequences of returning to in-person learning.

It has a lot of families, still adapting to distance learning from home, happy to hear progress is being made.

“[My kids] are probably only spending about two hours doing school work and then I have to fill in the rest of the afternoon,” said Erika Siebeneicher.

Siebeneicher is cautious of returning to a five-day, in-person school week. But she said she hopes AISD can find a compromise to allow her kids to get out of the house to interact with fellow students.

“Maybe two days in-person and three days at home,” Siebeneicher offered.

“Hybrid” schedules, like the one Siebeneicher suggested, are on the table for the AISD task force.

Sixty members were broken up into three subgroups to create this team, made up of subject matter experts from departments like special education, bilingual learning, equity, early childhood, finance, IT, food service, police and health.

The task force will gather data and follow recommendations from the CDC and the Texas Education Agency before making a final decision.

“We want to act in the best interest of students, so by placing the many possibilities on the table and then narrowing those down by feasibility and bringing in subject matter experts, we think we will be able to do that,” said Reyne Telles, on member of AISD’s task force.

The TEA has made recommendations for school districts to consider. In one example of an “intersessional calendar” provided by the TEA, students would have two weeks off for fall break, four weeks off for winter break and three weeks off for spring break.

If a second wave of COVID-19 hits the community in the fall and takes kids out of school, that time off can be made up later in the year.

AISD task force members also said they are considering a delayed start date, a later end date and the possibility that only a certain percentage of students will be allowed inside the building at a time, similar to the restrictions currently imposed on restaurants in Austin.

“We have to look at things with a holistic picture to determine next steps for possibly reopening and what that may look like,” Telles said.

Parents say they just hope whatever is decided will be both safe and will return some sense of normalcy to their lives.

“While putting safety and health first, also consider the physical and mental well-being and their needs to interact with other students,” said Adam Plummer, a father of two. “Learning is more than just the coursework, but also that collaboration and the maturation process of working with other people and collaborating toward common goals.”

End-of-year assessments

Parents now have the option to test their students’ academic progress through an end-of-year assessment.

The TEA says this does not take the place of STAAR tests which were canceled this school year. Parents can register their children for the free online test now through June 5. Tests can be administered through June 12.

The TEA says these end-of-year assessments will bring to light any gaps from the atypical school year. The results will help school districts shape their curriculum for the next school year.

Other School Districts

KXAN reached out to other school districts in Central Texas to find out what plans are in place for the fall. The following districts replied to the request.

  • Hays CISD leaders said they are considering a normal school year, a hybrid model and a fully online program. The hybrid model would rotate two or three groups of students into the buildings on either staggered days or staggered times.
  • A spokesperson for Leander ISD said various scenarios are being considered, including developing a more robust distance learning curriculum. There is no timetable set for making a final decision.
  • In Lockhart, the district is inviting parents to serve on an LISD Distance Learning Parent Advisory Group. This team will confer with the Teacher Advisory Group to determine the ongoing planning and execution of at-home curriculum.

Eanes ISD said it is considering several options for the fall, but wouldn’t expand what exactly those were. A spokesperson said the findings will be presented at a board meeting in either late May or early June.

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