Austin ISD opens virtual learning to any student K-6th grade who wants to apply

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District revealed the latest information on its virtual learning plans Friday. Applications to be a part of the program launched at 5 p.m.

Families wanted answers to some of their most pressing questions, like how to access the application for virtual school, detailed information on which students will qualify for the program, the criteria Austin ISD is using to judge applicants and exactly how many students the district plans to approve.

“I’m still just very scared, just as a mother of one with everything that happened, so I’m grateful they are offering an online opportunity,” said Leya Vela, whose son is headed to kindergarten in AISD. “I really would like him to go in person. This past year a lot of kids have lost this opportunity to play and be kids. A lot of this has been heavy on them too.”

Mom Melissa Acosta is signing up for a virtual option for her second grader.

“Unfortunately we did deal with COVID at the start of this year, so for health reasons we would just rather be on the safe side,” said Acosta.

Below is the information AISD is providing.

How will virtual learning operate?

Virtual learning will be offered to kindergarten through sixth-grade students. The district says students will still be enrolled in their home campus. Right now, AISD is only planning to have the virtual option for one semester (fall 2021). Officials are hoping by the spring semester, vaccines will be available for all age groups.

As a result, AISD says the current plan is to send all students back for in-person learning on Jan. 4 for the spring 2022 semester. Families must commit for the entire fall semester.

Who can enroll in virtual learning?

Austin ISD is opening virtual learning to any student. No one student will be given priority over another, and there will not be a cap on enrollment, either.

Although this is the case, the district wants parents to know it believes in-person learning is the best fit for most families. It wants the public to understand virtual learning should really be for families who don’t feel comfortable being on campus because of existing medical conditions within the family or student.

Who will teach virtual learning?

The next big step is allotting teachers to teach virtual learning. The district’s human capital team is working on a few strategies, but they need more information on how many students plan to enroll in virtual learning before pulling teachers. Teachers will not be required to instruct both in-person and virtual students simultaneously.

When can I apply?

The application for families opens Friday at 5 p.m. and closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 5. The weekend after Aug. 5, AISD staff will work through the applications and make decisions on who will be enrolled.

Families will hear back on Monday, Aug. 9 if they are accepted into the program. They must accept the invitation by Tuesday, Aug. 10.

The district provided the following timeline of important dates at the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday.

Important Upcoming Dates

For Families:

  • July 30: Family interest form launched to apply for virtual
  • Aug. 5: Family interest form closes
  • Aug. 9: Families find out if they’ve been accepted for virtual school
  • Aug. 10: Deadline to accept invitation
  • Aug. 16: Virtual School Orientation
  • Aug. 17: First Day of School

For Staff:

  • July 29: Launch teacher identification process
  • Aug. 8: Teacher identification process closes
  • Aug. 9: Notify virtual teachers
  • Aug. 10: Virtual teacher acceptance
  • Aug. 12: Virtual teacher orientation
  • Aug. 17: First Day of School

For Community:

  • July 27: Community Meeting
  • Aug. 4-5: Dr. Elizalde Town Halls
  • Aug. 17: First day of school

KXAN did ask the district about quarantining for positive cases or exposure and a work-from-home option for teachers. Austin ISD told us more details are coming at a later date, and staffing information will be ready next week. 

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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