AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, the new superintendent for Austin Independent School District, said the school system is seeing an early decline in enrollment with the beginning of the new school year.
During an AISD Board of Trustees information session Monday night, Elizalde said the district is approximately 3,400 students shy of where it was at this point last year.
Elizalde said early numbers suggests the biggest decline is in Pre-K and Kindergarten enrollment.
“Our charge is to find where our students are and why they aren’t engaging with us at this time,” Elizalde said. “We want to get all of our students connected with us in any way we can.”
The superintendent said this is widespread in Central Texas; surrounding school districts are also concerned with their early enrollment numbers.
Elizalde warned, if your children are still enrolled at AISD but are not actively participating in their virtual work, it’s possible they are not being counted. The superintendent says AISD will automatically un-enroll anyone not actively engaging within the next week.
The district will launch its own campaign before in-person schooling begins on Oct. 5 to try to get those numbers back to where they were projected to be.
First glimpse at in-person learning
Also on Oct. 5, Elizalde said the first group of students to go back to school will be Pre-K3, Pre-K4 and Kindergarten students. She said the rationale is the youngest learners will benefit most from in-person learning, and so she wants to prioritize them first.
“Because right now we are all virtual in AISD, it really makes [learning for young students] very difficult. That’s an age group that needs at least a blended model, where there will be some technology assisted instruction. But they still need some hands-on activities with the teachers in a face-to-face environment,” Elizalde said.
That’s exactly how the superintendent explained what in-person learning will look like for young learners who begin to get phased into classrooms on October 5.
Elizalde said it will be a blended model. There will still be some technological instruction, but face-to-face learning will occur with proper safety measures in place including social distancing and plexiglass to separate students. Activities like coloring, counting and manipulative will be used to stimulate students in the classroom.
For families with students in secondary school, learning pods will be used in the classroom.
School is “not going to look significantly different than what it looks like at home,” Elizalde said of secondary education.
However, she said there are advantages of bringing them back into the classroom, including having a consistent meal structure and a sense of socialization with other students in the learning pods.