Austin ISD families share concerns with district before in-person classes resume

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin ISD families delivered questions to the school district Saturday, airing their concerns ahead of the return to in-person learning next month.

The group Education Austin has urged AISD to delay its plan to resume in-person learning, which is set to begin on Oct. 5.

“They could give a flying you know what about our health and safety,” said Alex Murphy, AISD Teacher. “This is a time for us to come together, and say you are not alone. We love you and we are here for you. The most excited people to return to school are the people in this caravan once the public health departments say it is safe to do so. That is our demand.”

Education Austin has called for Austin ISD schools to only reopen when there is a decline in new cases for at least 14 consecutive days, with a positivity rate of less than 5% and a transmission rate of less than 1%.

“We are choosing people over profit. We are choosing ourselves over any kind of money the superintendent may think is a higher priority than our lives,” said Murphy.

They also want some members of staff, such as custodial and transportation workers – to receive “hero pay” – at the rate of two times base pay.

Austin ISD community delivers questions raising concerns about the return to in-person learning (KXAN Photo: Julie Karam)

On Saturday, members of the Austin ISD community formed a car caravan and drove to the district’s headquarters off I-35 to drop off handwritten letters about the plans. Some also shared testimonies as to how COVID-19 has impacted them.

“My two student’s father was diagnosed with COVID-19. He died a month ago. This is horrific, and it tore the family apart,” said Ken Zarifis, Education Austin President.

“I have two children. One at the elementary level, and one at the middle school level,” said Martha Small Dyess.

Dyess helped organize ‘AISD Kids First,’ a group that garnered hundreds of followers almost instantly. They’re pushing for AISD to immediately implement in-person learning for both students and teachers.

“This is about having the option for getting kids back safely inside their classrooms with their teachers,” said Dyess.

Dyess feels the Oct. 5 date is the right move for several reasons like getting essential workers back to working, and maintaining students mental health.

“I have no doubt that AISD, in preparing for the school year, has prepared for everything,” said Dyess.

The school district says it will move ahead with its plan, despite mounting opposition.

This week, it said that 780 employees have requested medical waivers to allow them to continue working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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