Some parents plan to leave public schools, elect homeschooling and charter schools due to COVID-19

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the global pandemic continues to bring uncertainty to everyday life, some Austin families are taking proactive steps to address schooling in the fall — by electing to homeschool their kids or selecting a district that allows 100% virtual work.

Most public school systems haven’t fully revealed concrete schedules for the fall, but many have shared vague plans to deliver hybrid models that require students to engage in learning that requires at least a portion of the time spent physically in the classroom.

In response to a posed question on social media, parents shared their fears of allowing their child inside a classroom where there is potential for the coronavirus to spread among students, teachers and staff.

“Until there is a vaccine that has been tried and proved to work. [sic] We will be homeschooling,” said Naomi Dalsbo.

“We’re staying home. Hopefully with online education, but if AISD doesn’t offer online education, we’re [sic] going to figure something else out,” said Lisa Salazar.

On Monday, AISD superintendent Paul Cruz said that some high-risk families may qualify for 100% virtual learning. It is still unclear what requirements must be met in order to receive that opportunity.

An AISD newsletter released on Thursday says that despite ongoing preparations to launch a hybrid model on Aug. 18, the district is also planing a 100% at-home model which will be “engaging, rigorous and supported by excellent teachers.”

On Thursday, Harmony Public Schools, a PreK-12 college prep charter school system in Texas which has seven schools in Austin, announced that it will give families the option to choose what is best for them.

Parents may elect at-home learning which will be taught by teachers virtually or they may send their kids to campus which will have enhanced health and sanitary protocols, the district says. Parents will also have the opportunity to change their mind later on.

“Every family is experiencing COVID-19, but each experience is different,” said John Boyd, the Director of Communications for Harmony Public Schools. “They know their conditions and situations better than we do. Our job is to make sure that each child has a safe learning environment where they have teachers who care about them and can help them continue to grow. And we think by putting the choice in their hands, they can make the best choice for themselves.”

Boyd said teachers are receiving specialized training in a new virtual school program. Once parents have made their election, the district will decide which teachers, and how many, will teach online versus in-person.

“The best choice for Harmony in 2020-21 is the choice that’s best for your family,” the district wrote in a press release. “While this flexible plan may be an uncommon approach, we firmly believe it is the right approach for families during these uncommon times.”

One Harmony parent was pleased to see this announcement made. Clarissa Davila said she will opt to let her kids continue learning from home.

“Glad that my kid’s school will allow us to choose — for now, mine are staying home until I feel it is safe,” said Clarissa Davila, a Harmony employee and parent to two kids at Harmony Public Schools.

Davila said she’s talked to other parents who are going to try charter schools or homeschooling in the fall.

“When I heard from my school today that we were able to choose, I just felt a sense of relief. I just felt a weight off of my shoulders,” Davila said. “I just want to make sure that my family is protected and that we are being the safest that we can.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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