AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District is providing new information on proposed changes to next year’s academic calendar.
Austin ISD says it’s taken teacher feedback into account and is now proposing several changes for the next academic calendar year. These include two possible new holiday observations, a one-hour early release every Wednesday, and a minimum of one day off per month.
There could also be several changes to class schedules.
These include creating a master schedule on the secondary level. It would outline seven classes per day — six of these periods would be led by a teacher. This is different from the current “block schedule,” in that there are four different classes on an A and B day. The district says it still intends to maintain some form of a block schedule overall, however.
Austin ISD has also outlined what it says are its priorities for the next year.
Additionally, the district says it’s focusing on proposing a balanced budget, evaluating salary concerns for all staff (with an additional focus on classified employees) and mitigating projections in teacher vacancies. AISD also says it’s working to identify central office positions that could be impacted.
The district says it’s working to create equitable built-in planning time for all teachers. The extra hour on Wednesdays would also provide additional planning time, the district says.
AISD says principals are working to review scheduling options to see what would be best for students. The Board of Trustees doesn’t vote on schedules, which the district says is regular practice, since its an administrative decision.
KXAN asked about a potential timeline and the impact on teachers and students and the district said it’s working on getting more details ironed out. The district says it’s looking at a $62 million budget deficit and the proposals would save the district $21 million and help with the staffing shortage by requiring fewer teachers.
Parent and community reaction
Shorter instruction periods and impact on in-depth learning are among the concerns Austin ISD parents expressed to KXAN about proposed changes to scheduling.
“I understand that budgets are budgets, but at the same time — you do wonder — aren’t there less direct-to-the-student impact things that we could alter?” said Bart Broz, father of two AISD students.
“It’s a slap in the face to put the responsibility of this budget crisis back on teachers, and ultimately our students. They need to do what’s best for the backbone of the district: their teachers, and the heart of the district, their students. Head back to the drawing board,” said Sarah DeVore, an AISD parent and a teacher advocate.
A popular “want” from AISD families include elective opportunities for students, despite the possible shorter schedules. The district says its priority is to still “provide multiple elective opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Kelly Ruxer, AISD mom of three, hopes current block schedules remain in place. She says for her children, the framework is critical.
“Especially at the high school level,” Ruxer said. “At the collegiate level they are functioning on a block schedule and I think it prepares them.”
Some parents are also concerned about added stress on students and teachers.
“They are just now beginning to recover from what was nearly two years of trauma — their lives as they knew them were flipped on their heads,” explained DeVore. “Our focus should continue to be the social and emotional health of our students. Students desperately need consistency to thrive both emotionally and academically.”