AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a flood of feedback from parents, students, teachers and staff, a proposal for early Friday releases evolved into two days off in the Austin Independent School District.
AISD administration asked the Board of Trustees on Thursday to give teachers two Fridays — Feb. 11 and March 4 — off with pay “to offer some measure of stress relief during the pandemic.” On Thursday the board approved the measure and decided to include all those who work on campus, including custodial, food service and clerical staff.
Originally, the plan started as either 2-hour or 3-hour early releases from schools on select Fridays for the rest of the school years, but after more than 20,000 people in the AISD community sounded off on the plan, the compromise was to give teachers a couple of extra days off and the students three-day weekends.
Overall, 90% of survey responders voted for one of the two early release options
AISD said nearly 40% of students answered the survey about the plans, which is the most engagement from students AISD has ever had. Almost 20% of parents who responded didn’t want early release at all, and AISD said that it “tells us that early release would pose a hardship for a lot of our families.”
The omicron COVID-19 variant is still putting stress on faculty and staff at AISD schools, so much that AISD has recently increased pay, added incentives and eased requirements for substitute teachers in order to increase the pool of available subs. AISD central office staff, including superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, are covering classes while teachers are out sick with COVID-19, as well.
AISD said teachers preferred the two days off because that way they wouldn’t lose planning periods during the regular school day. While 13% of teachers answered the survey, AISD said the “qualitative response from teachers … guided us to the proposed two full days off with pay.”
Getting feedback from people after the initial proposal is “how community engagement leads to better policy,” AISD said.
“The feedback we got led to what we think is a better idea than what we started out with,” AISD said.