Leander ISD approves $6 million to fund virtual learning for 9 weeks


LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — The Leander Independent School District welcomed back nearly 40,000 students for in-person learning this week.

Leander ISD’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 34 COVID-19 cases this week. The vast majority of those are staff, either on or off campus, but there is one student who tested positive on Thursday at Glenn High School.

The district’s dashboard withholds the student’s identity for privacy concerns but does list the student as an 11th grader and the classroom that student was in. It’s a move to allow parents and other children to be on lookout and test their children.

The fear of exposure has a number of Leander ISD parents saying they aren’t going to send their students back to campus.

The district will begin its remote learning model next Thursday. Right now, 1,626 students are enrolled in the virtual learning option.

Friday, during a specially-called board meeting, Leander ISD board members discussed how to pay for the students who have enrolled in the virtual program.

In June, Leander opened up the virtual learning program, but only 300 students were allowed in with the rest being waitlisted. The district approved using $2.3 million out of its federal emergency relief funds (ESSER) to pay for those students.

“I think it’s a good start. I anticipate that if we reach a point where funds aren’t being met, we’ll have to come back to the board for additional funds, if necessary,” said Bruce Gearing, Leander ISD superintendent.

The total cost of the more than 1,600 students who have since been accepted into the virtual learning program is $8.3 million. Friday, the district approved using $6 million out of the fund balance to pay for the rest of the students. It’s a price tag some are opposing.

“The $6 million will come out of our property taxes. That’s going to be a crisis by the end of the year once people see that bill hit,” said one Leander ISD parent.

The struggle right now is trying to find enough staff to fill the remote learning positions. Gearing said Friday the district has pulled 82 teachers who were prepared to teach in person.

The district anticipated more students may funnel into the virtual learning option, and there’s some cushion built into that $6 million to help fund the additional students.

Right now, Leander ISD said it doesn’t have the means to serve the virtual learning students free meals like they would in school. The district is connecting families in need to other resources around the community.

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