Austin ISD sees larger than expected class sizes on first day of virtual learning


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On the first day of virtual learning for the Austin Independent School District, there have been several complaints about class sizes being too big. The district blames a teacher shortage.

Diana Haggerty’s family has teamed up with another family doing virtual learning from home since last school year. But this year is already different.

“Oh goodness, [my second-grade daughter] shed a few tears when she was doing her math assignments,” Haggerty said. “She raised her hand for about 15 minutes trying to get the teacher’s attention to show her her work, and she was not called on before it got to break time.”

Haggerty found out there are more than 40 students in her second grader’s class on Tuesday.

“Some of the teachers did not know that they were going to be teaching the class, that particular class, that particular grade level, teaching at all until very recently,” Haggerty said.

She also noted this year there wasn’t as much support getting tech set up compared to last year. According to Haggerty, there are also some families struggling with virtual, since not everyone speaks English.

AISD admitted the situation isn’t ideal and said it’s working on recruiting more teachers and long-term substitutes. It even sent out an email to parents the night before classes started, warning virtual class sizes could be larger than the in-person max, with other initial hiccups along the way.

“There is a teacher shortage,” AISD Senior Communication Specialist Cristina Nguyen said. “Right now we are struggling with some of the bigger classes. We are going to continue working on that.”

Nguyen said they don’t have enough teachers to get funded for virtual learning, but they are working with the resources available.

“We’ve launched new teacher resources this year to align classroom instructional experiences for a more equitable experience for all students, regardless of what school a student attends,” Nguyen said. “Students have access to the same learning materials as if they were learning in person. They’ll also continue to receive support from their teacher to complete their work during the full class lesson and during their independent work time.”

There are 3,362 Austin students enrolled in virtual learning right now, according to Austin ISD. It said the biggest class has 44 students, and the smallest has nine.

“We are being responsive to our families in offering this,” Nguyen said. “Also if they want to come back in person, that’s an option too.”

AISD changed its policy and is now giving families the next two weeks to opt out of virtual, returning to in-person if they choose.

Haggerty just wants better communication and collaboration from the district moving forward.

“‘I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll continue to see more. We know this was something that was put together quickly and really appreciate the effort and the teachers and the staff that are bending over backwards to make this happen, and keep our kids safe,” Haggerty said.

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