AUSTIN (KXAN) — The enrollment chief for the Austin Independent School District joined KXAN News Today on Monday to discuss how the district is adjusting its plans during this recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Alejandro Delgado, AISD’s executive director for student enrollment and advocacy, said plans changed as soon as Austin-Travis County health leaders moved the area to Stage 4 of the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.
Throughout the summer, AISD said it had no plans to offer virtual learning, but now they are offering it to students younger than 12 years old with the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. Those in kindergarten through the sixth grade can apply to learn virtually for the fall semester, and Delgado said the district was still trying to iron some things out, for example, how many students the district will accept to do virtual learning.
“We don’t know yet,” Delgado said. “We saw demand for it over the weekend, and we’re going to release more data as soon as we’re able to.”
Delgado said parents will find out Aug. 9 if their kids can learn virtually, and the orientation for that is Aug. 13. Something new this year is virtual learners will have their own dedicated teachers, unlike last year where teachers taught both in-person and virtually.
“We’re meeting student need right now,” Delgado said. “The only eligibility requirement is that they be under 12 years old.”
That’s because the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t available to students younger than 12 years old, and Deldago said AISD is encouraging everybody that continues with in-person learning to mask up and get vaccinated.
“We are working to make sure all of our campuses are safe,” Delgado said. “We are expecting and encouraging students and staff to wear masks. Our message is that we’re a family. We’ve offered more than 70 vaccine clinics since April, and we’re going to continue that.”
He also said campuses will have hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, along with plans for outdoor classrooms and cafeterias.
Delgado said the district will have to use auxiliary money to help fund the virtual options since the state will not, but Delgado said the district is on board because “student health and safety is of utmost importance.”
Using additional money won’t take away from teacher salaries or anything associated with that, Delgado said. The district isn’t ready to tell people how much the virtual option will cost, but Delgado assured KXAN anchors Sally Hernandez and Tom Miller that it wouldn’t take money away from teacher salaries or program budgets.