AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leaders of the Austin Independent School District are promising a robust and complete virtual learning experience for all families in the fall.
This comes after the largest school district in Central Texas announced the first three weeks of learning will be exclusively online for all students, following a Travis County mandate prohibiting in-person instruction until September 7.
“Austin ISD has learned much about continuous learning. Simply put, at-home instruction will not look like it did in March, April and May,” an AISD newsletter reads.
The district says it will acquire and prepare 24,000 iPads for students in Pre-K to second grade and will distribute 10,000 new WiFi hotspots for families who may have connectivity issues.
Families that do not have the necessary gear to successfully navigate online learning in the fall will soon be able to register through an online cloud system. The district says that’s where families can request the technological devices they will need.
In order to help families prepare for this system, we encourage them to set up their Parent Cloud accounts. They can ask their school office staff to send a “FastPass” email to the parent email address on file, or they can click on the “Parent Cloud Account Creation” button at my.austinisd.org. Families can also contact the Parent Support line for assistance at 512-414-9187, Option 6.Austin Independent School District
There is no timetable listed for when the cloud will be activated, but the district encourages families to ask their school for a “FastPass” so they can activate their account when the system is ready.
AISD also said it will be using an online learning management system called BLEND, which families will use to communicate with teachers about course assignments and scheduling. Students will also be able to “watch videos, access lesson content, submit assignments and receive feedback.” Young learners in PreK through 2nd grade will also use a supplemental tool called Seesaw, meant specifically for that age group.
Mari Darnell, a PreK teacher at Wooten Elementary, said her students will be receiving mostly recorded lessons. She’s developed instructional videos which have dramatic themes that places her in the jungle, on boats or in the arctic.
She recalls the struggles both she and families faced as they both quickly tried to adapt to virtual learning. She said her colleagues in the AISD are much better prepared.
“Now everyone knows what the drill is. We know how to do it and now we are honing our skills and I think we are in a much better place to do online learning,” Darnell said.
Darnell said it’s important for families to speak with their teachers about any struggles they may be experiencing when school starts.
“Communicate if you are having any kind of problem with the teacher, even if it doesn’t have to do with academics,” Darnell said. “Keep connected and keep in contact with the teacher and we will understand.”
The district said it is working to develop the appropriate curriculum for bilingual and students with special needs.