Austin ISD considers 100% virtual instruction for week after Thanksgiving

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Administrative leaders within the Austin Independent School District are actively considering transitioning to remote-only instruction for a week following Thanksgiving break.

According to two separate letters sent to staff and parents, Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said there is no firm decision yet, which people can expect to come down no later than Nov. 25. However, if the decision is made, students would be 100% virtual from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

The superintendent said the possibility of pivoting to this learning model is based on Austin Public Health’s decision to enter Stage 4 risk-based guidelines on Wednesday.

“In the event we do transition to remote learning, we want you to be prepared for any scenario that involves your child’s education,” Elizalde wrote to parents. “Please ensure your child brings their AISD and personal devices and school supplies home with them today. Doing so will help us minimize disruption to learning in case we need to move to remote instruction for any amount of time.”

Some staff will still be required to show up on campus to continue essential functions, including food service, maintenance, custodial workers, bus drivers, AISD police, nurses, daycare workers and senior administrative staff. Elizalde said other employees may be called in as the need arises.

To the district staff, Elizalde expressed appreciation and a commitment to safety.

“We realize you have done so much for Austin ISD, and appreciate that you are willing to do what is necessary to get us through this time,” Elizalde wrote in the letter to staff. “Furthermore, let me assure you that we will continue to go above and beyond in supplying you with personal protective equipment and other safety gear you may need.”

Some teachers would like to see the virtual learning time extended until the Christmas break.

“It would allow those of us who have not been able to see our parents or relatives in high-risk groups to self-isolate for the two weeks leading up to the (Christmas) holiday, so we could see them without fearing we are bringing this deadly virus we might have caught at school,” said Sarah Harrelson, a math teacher at LASA High School.

According to new guidelines from the Texas Education Agency, if remote instruction is proactive and not linked to a COVID-19 outbreak:

“At a minimum, LEAs that do not comply with the requirements included in this document will only be entitled to claim half the operational minutes they would have normally claimed on each instructional day they are out of compliance. This could require LEAs to add additional minutes to their calendar in order to bring them into compliance with the 75,600 operational minute requirement. LEAs should be tracking changes to the daily offering of on-campus instruction, as this information will be reported and will impact your LEAs funding. In order to maintain the 3rd six weeks hold harmless, any minutes would need to be made available on-campus. Depending upon the nature of the non-compliance, additional corrective actions may be required.”

Austin ISD released this statement to KXAN regarding how the district would plan to make up any days, if the district switched to remote learning for the week after Thanksgiving.

“The new TEA guidance would allow the district to make-up the minutes of instruction later in the year by adding in-person instructional time to the existing school year. This could be done by extending the day, adding days, switching student holidays to instructional days, or considering if flexibility remains in a professional development waiver. AISD would need to consider the various needs of all 130 campuses and communities before committing to how minutes would change under that scenario.”

Austin ISD Spokesperson

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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