Eanes ISD parents divided over when to reopen campuses and how many students should return

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of parents in the Eanes Independent School District rallied outside of a school board meeting Tuesday evening to “demand access to in-person learning for all students,” they say.

A group of parents called “Eanes Kids First,” met outside the Eanes ISD administrative building, 601 Camp Craft Road, at 5 p.m., the same time as the scheduled Eanes ISD school board meeting.

“In my wildest dreams I never thought I would have to get active and advocate for my children to have access to a public school education,” says Jennifer Stevens, a parent of two Eanes ISD students who started the group.

The group feels superintendent, Tom Leonard, has gone against the majority of parents who want in-person learning. School started in the district August 19.

“I’ve watched the mental health toll on my kids… I know that what children need is that socialization, they need the ability to come together to learn together,” Stevens says.

For the first three weeks of school, the district is online only.

The district surveyed parents in June, along with students and educators, about its remote learning plan and found that parents felt more comfortable sending kids back to school with at least some social distancing requirements than none at all, but not by much.

Another survey in August showed more than half of the families from across all age groups said they’d want to send their children back to the classroom.

A presentation by Leonard shows the school district’s survey results from August 11.

Right now, the school district’s plans include allowing up to 25% of students who are eligible to come back to campus after the first three weeks.

That includes students experiencing homelessness and those facing an academic gap or language barrier.

The rest of the students would be phased in, with everyone who wants to go back to campus able to do so in October.

“While I have a kid with an IEP and I would love that kid to be back immediately, I want to do it in a safe way,” says Kim Allen, a parent of three Eanes ISD students.

(KXAN/Frank Martinez)

Other parents, like Kim Allen, have signed this petition in support of the school district’s strategy.

“Quite frankly, I’m concerned that if we let 75% or 100% of the kids that want to go back on September, 8, we’re going to close schools pretty soon and I’ll have to quarantine or sections of it and the interruptions are just going to be really bad,” Allen says.

Stevens also says the letter Leonard and school board president Jenifer Champagne sent to the Texas Education Agency to allow more time for remote learning goes against what parents want.

A spokesperson for the school district says the waiver allows them to extend virtual learning, if they choose to do so.

“Of course we want students and staff to return to in-person learning and return to a sense of normalcy, but we believe we must do so in a sustainable, phased-in process and not put our community and our staff, in particular, at-risk,” the district said.

On Tuesday night, the school board didn’t make any moves to change its back-to-campus plans.

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