AISD welcomes back students for in-person learning, big jump expected at middle schools


AUSTIN (KXAN) — All Austin Independent School District students who want to return to their school campus are allowed to do so starting Monday.

KXAN was curious to know if there were certain schools experiencing a higher percentage of students returning, and if it was happening in a specific geographical location.

AISD’s Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said in-person learning varies across the district.

“We were looking for those patterns to see if there was a particular area, but haven’t seen that at all,” she said giving examples.

Elizalde said Allison and Norman-Sims elementary schools — both in the east Austin area — are hovering between 30% to 38% for in-classroom learning. However, so is McBee Elementary, and that’s in north Austin.

Then you have other schools like Boone, Ridgetop and Barton Hills — all spread out across the city — where around 10% of students are back in the classroom. While Mathews Elementary School in downtown Austin is seeing 50% of its students back.

“Because it is so different from campus to campus, it’s not a one size fits all,” Elizalde said.

The latest preliminary survey results show in-person attendance for elementary schools sits at 36% while high schools are expecting 19% of its students to return.

However, where the district is expecting a spike is in middle school. In-person attendance is expected to jump from 13% to 25%. Elizalde believes the increase in returning students is a reflection of how the district is tackling COVID-19 in the classroom, but she admits, nothing in this pandemic is 100% certain.

“Of course, it is not a risk-free environment and in no way do we want to indicate that,” she said.

At schools like Manchaca Elementary, there are strict health protocols in place.

There are frequent, supervised hand sanitizing efforts, blue dots on the ground to make where kids should stand to actively socially distance and masks on at all times, whether indoors or otudoors.

Principal Eliza Loyola is requiring compliance from all staff and students.

“The ability to problem solve on the spot with any new challenge is an important skill set to have for a school administrator,” Loyola said.

Even still, to Elizalde’s point, the risk is never going to be “zero.” As of Monday, Manchaca has one positive case of COVID-19 and 13 new exposures. Elizalde said the district’s cases have been traced to outside of school hours.

“I think following the protocols in the way that principals like Ms. Loyola and her staff and her teachers are doing is evidence of where we are able to minimize COVID and its effects,” Elizalde said. “We’ve utilized a lot of our central office staff that are also going out and providing support, we have a teaching certificate so it could be us teaching a classroom,” Elizalde said.

Elizalde says they also depend on substitutes to provide support. Since Sept. 21, AISD has had 79 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 and 675 cumulative exposures. The superintendent said all of those have been isolated cases.

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