ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The Round Rock Independent School District announced the district anticipates a return to full in-person learning following the failure of House Bill 1468.
The bill would have funded the virtual learning program, but it did not pass in the 87th Texas Legislature. During a school board meeting on June 3, trustees discussed alternate funding methods for next fall to keep a virtual learning option.
“I hate to blame the state of Texas for making a decision, or not making a decision so late in the game,” Daniel Presley, the Round Rock acting superintendent of schools, said. “There’s going to be a lot of things to get done within the next few weeks before school starts. If we want to pay for virtual learning out of our funding, then we can do that, but it’s not just flipping a switch. It needs to be done at a high-quality level.”
Vaccines still aren’t available for children 12 and under, so Round Rock ISD initially planned to continue with a virtual learning option for the upcoming semester. Without school funding for it, though, the district is changing course.
“We’re not going to face a significant loss of students if we don’t offer the virtual option — that’s my take,” Round Rock ISD Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Adix said.
Even though the enrollment decline may be small, Adix said he estimates the district could lose $8,000 for each student who chooses to leave the district for the entire school year. That number would be more like $4,000 if that student only left for the fall semester.
“I simply don’t understand how we’re going to just throw our hands up and say, ‘Oh well, we’ll lose money,'” Tiffanie Harrison, Round Rock ISD Place 6 trustee, said. “We’re talking about education, which is a public right.”
Harrison and another trustee, Jun Xiao, agreed Round Rock should come up with some sort of option.
“It is morally wrong to say that there are other options and say, ‘You can just go to the Texas Virtual Network,'” Xiao, the Round Rock ISD Place 1 trustee, said, “[or] RRISD doesn’t have the money to spend for just a few hundred students… that’s just wrong.”
Others argued the virtual learning option should be narrowly tailored next fall to ages 12 and under.
“It’s one thing to want to do virtual learning because (I) like the ability to go to New Hampshire for five weeks,” Daniele Weston, Place 7 Trustee, said. “I know people in my neighborhood who would like to do that, but is that really the audience we want to make this available for?”
Ultimately the board took no action during the June 3 budget meeting. A survey is expected to go out Monday gauging how many students would need to participate in the virtual learning option.
The district will then see if it’s within the ‘Fun Budget’ to fund the program themselves. The board will meet again June 10. for another budget update.