Austin ISD postpones start of school until Sept. 8, petitions for no in-person class until November

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin ISD Board of Trustees voted early Friday to delay the virtual start of school until after Labor Day and to petition the Texas Education Agency to allow it to delay in-person classes until Nov. 3.

The AISD Board also voted to make school days 10 minutes longer and to end the 2020-2021 school year on June 3 to make up for the missed days.

Thursday’s school board meeting started at 9 p.m., and the vote took place around 3:15 a.m. Friday with hundreds still watching online after more than six hours of discussion and public input.

When outgoing AISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz presented the change to the board, he said it was based on the recommendation by Austin Public Health not to have in-person instruction before Sept. 7 and the “impacts of COVID in our community, staff, students and families.”

Dr. Cruz said once virtual instruction begins, the district must also provide in-person instruction for those that don’t have access to technology, so that was another reason why he felt the school start date needed adjusting. The district would lose funding if they otherwise did not provide in-person instruction when virtual instruction began, based on guidelines issued by the Texas Education Agency.

Cruz also said that just because the district will petition the TEA for an additional four weeks of virtual learning, that doesn’t mean it will be virtual only. He said allowing students back on campus for classes will take a phased-in approach.

“It isn’t just going to be that everybody is in now,” Dr. Cruz said. “We need to practice our safety protocols, and that’s just going to take time.”

A survey of parents that went out at the end of June showed 70% would be willing to send their children physically back to school, with or without conditions.

Another big concern for many speaking at the meeting was teacher pay, but Cruz confirmed the district had no plans to cut or delay staff pay. Teachers, he said, would get paid on time even with the delayed start.

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