Austin ISD shares new details of ‘blended model’ for on-campus instruction

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District is giving parents a closer look into what on-campus instruction will look like for students beginning Oct. 5.

The district made it clear—the virtual platform will still be used for both remote and on-campus students. However, there will be some interactions between students and teachers, as well.

Middle and high school students will get online work and face-to-face instruction. There will be opportunities to work with peers in learning pods and to get personal instruction from teachers.

High schoolers will be on a hybrid schedule, alternating between on-campus and at-home instruction during the week.

The level of interaction with teachers for elementary students will depend on the number of kids at the school and may vary by campus.

Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde addressed the public Thursday morning, hoping to provide clarity and dispel circulating rumors. The Open for Learning packet distributed later on Thursday evening also added new information.

“I’m committed to keeping you informed and aware of decisions that are being made in the district,” Elizalde announced.

This type of transparency is important for families who say they want better communication from district leaders.

“There are parents out there that do want to choose in-person learning, not just on-campus learning,” said Martha Small Dyess, a parent of two kids in the district.

She helped organize a group on Facebook called AISD Kids First, which quickly garnered more than 1,000 members within a week. They’re pushing for AISD to immediately implement in-person learning for both students and teachers.

“If you believe all children have the RIGHT to access classroom learning that is inclusive of all abilities, please join us as we unite and share information to get our kids back in school. They deserve to be educated in a meaningful way,” the group’s about section reads.

Small Dyess says the phased-in approach AISD is taking is appropriate and reasonable. The group’s motive isn’t to make unrealistic demands, she says, but rather to insist that parents have the options to choose what’s right for their families.

“What we really want is for AISD to give us the option to be back in the classroom with the teachers. We want the teachers to be teaching the children safely. We think that is possible and we know AISD has worked hard to prepare for that,” Small Dyess said.

Even still, many parents in the district are worried for the teachers and their families.

Mario Piña, who has been teaching for eight years, told KXAN he is nervous to go back to school out of fear of transmitting the coronavirus to immunocompromised friends and family.

“I understand where parents are coming from. I understand that they want their kids to have a regular educational experience,” Piña said. “But at the end of the day, I think safety should be our number one concern.”

Some parents say they will keep their kids home, no matter what.

“If I am working from home, then I think this is the safest place for my daughter,” said Gloria Vera-Bedolla. “I realize that it is a privilege to be able to work from home, so I am going to keep her home for a long time. It’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

AISD is reassuring families they will have the option to change their choice for learning as the school year progresses. The deadline for families to fill out the survey and make their choice is Friday.

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