Lack of federal funds in Eanes ISD prevents virtual learning option


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Eanes Independent School District will return to 100% in-person learning on Aug. 18, Superintendent Tom Leonard wrote in a July 16 newsletter.

“When I think back to March of 2020, I am amazed at the challenges we faced and what we accomplished. And a year ago we were processing different information from several health and governmental agencies to determine if we would even be able to open our schools,” Leonard said.

Cost concerns will keep Eanes ISD from offering students a virtual learning option this school year. Neighboring districts are offering the option, but they’re paying for their program with federal relief money known as ESSER funds.

Leonard says that isn’t the case for them.

“We just have less money than a lot of other districts per student,” said Leonard. “A lot of the ESSER money was dependent on the amount of title one students — students whose parents are low-income families,” said Leonard.

The number of title one students in Eanes ISD is small, according to Leonard.

“For every one of our students, we received $1 for every $16 that Austin ISD got,” said Leonard.

That came out to $1.8 million in ESSER funds for Eanes ISD and $242 million for the Austin Independent School District. Eanes is using that federal money to help pay for costs incurred from previous pandemic expenses and catching up students who fell behind.

Leonard says the funds were ultimately not enough to support the virtual learning program.

“I think some of the larger districts are going to have the same problem,” said Leonard. “They may not be able to support it for a long period of time either.”

The district does offer the virtual learning option to a small number of homebound students and will continue doing so. Eanes ISD ended the school year with 90% of district elementary students and 75% of high schoolers in person.

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