AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District officials say more families are switching to in-person learning after the superintendent and board of trustees voted to require masks for all students and staff this fall.
On Monday, the superintendent announced the mask mandate, which explicitly defies Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order which prohibits school districts from requiring masks for students.
By Tuesday, a district spokesperson said 757 parents re-enrolled their children for in-person learning after first indicating they would be pursuing the virtual option.
As a result, the district has pushed the deadline to accept or deny the virtual instruction option to Friday, August 13 at 11:59 p.m. This is solely for families who have already been invited into the program. The deadline for new applicants will not reopen.
The district has continually stated that they want as many students to be learning in-person as possible, saying it is the most effective way for kids to grasp academic concepts.
In total, 4,035 students have accepted the invitation to learn virtually this year. After calculating the cost for virtual teachers, new resources and lost revenue from state funding, the district estimates it will cost more than $40 million.
“We’ve had to make very difficult decisions, whether it be instituting a mask mandate or putting significant financial funding on the line to make sure our families and our students feel safe,” said Alejandro Delgado, Austin ISD’s Executive Director of Student Enrollment and Advocacy.
The first day of school for virtual learners has been pushed back a week to give both teachers and families additional time to prepare for the changes ahead. It’s important to note that the first day of school for students on-campus will not change: school begins Tuesday, Aug. 17.
“We want to make sure our teachers are 100% prepared on the first day of school for instruction so we will be using all next week to prepare teachers and just to continue communication with families to make sure they are ready as well,” Delgado said.