AUSTIN (KXAN) — With little more than a month to go before the Austin Independent School District is set to begin in-person and online classes, the district has released a video addressing burning questions the community may have.
In the video sent out Sunday, outgoing Superintendent Paul Cruz and District 6 Board President Geronimo Rodriguez answered questions regarding the opening of schools amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the district, as 80,000 students prepare to return for either in-person or virtual classes and over 12,500 employees return to work, it’s not taking decisions and planning lightly.
Cruz said that before school begins on August 18, Austin ISD will be sharing the latest information to the communities each campus serves to explain how different campuses will be run.
For students needing transportation to school, Cruz explains that transportation will be available for students — but that safety will still be “at the forefront.”
Austin ISD says that current plans for buses during the 2020-21 school year are as follows:
- General education buses will be occupied by 12-14 students
- Special education buses will be able to hold 4-10 students depending on the number of wheelchair students
The district says that each bus will be cleaned after each trip and at the end of every day. Additionally, buses will be equipped with hand sanitizer and social distancing signs.
Austin ISD says all bus teams and students six years-old and older must wear masks and that transportation employees will go through a health check each morning.
Cruz said that for parents who are worried about educational standards, instructors will be provided professional development focused on online learning and that teachers will be working with each other and their school leadership.
The superintendent explained that because teachers will be able to monitor a students’ lesson progress virtually, instructors will be able to adjust lessons where learning weak spots are.
Austin ISD also gave a sample of what a student’s remote “synchronous” school day would look like:
There are two methods for schools to count attendance for online classes:
Synchronous instruction — All participants are present at the same time, live interactive classes
Asynchronous instruction — All participants don’t have to be present, instruction is self-paced, may include prerecorded videos with guided support
For those concerned with returning to campus, Cruz says that Austin ISD schools will be outfitted with up to $13 million dollars’ worth of Personal Protective Equipment. Masks, sanitizer and cleaning supplies will all be provided.
“If a student comes to school and doesn’t have a mask, we’re going to provide him with a mask,” said Cruz. “If a staff member doesn’t have a mask, we’re going to provide a mask.”
Masks will be required for all students, the officials explained.
Campuses will also be on adjusted cleaning schedules to ensure further santization, Rodriguez said.
For teachers, Rodriguez explained that those who don’t feel comfortable returning will be offered opportunities to enhance their online learning lessons.
“This is a challenging time for all of us, but we will do our best for our students and staff,” Rodriguez said in the video.
“We are being responsive to what we’re hearing from the CDC, from our local health officials and local leadership, and of course, state leadership,” said Cruz. “First and foremost, we are listening to our families and to our staff members. We want to make sure that we’re providing that best, safe learning environment for all of our students and our staff.”