Hundreds of parents weigh in on reopening plans for AISD schools

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 300 parents and families joined in a virtual conversation with AISD leadership to discuss the merits of reopening school in the fall, maintaining distance learning from home or striving to find a blended approach.

The Zoom call was one of several planned in a district-wide community conversation schedule planned for this week and next.

The parents were broken up into subgroups which allowed them to vent, share their ideas and answer posed questions:

  1. What would you need to feel comfortable returning to school and/or work?
  2. What would you need to be successful if the district must continue some form of distance learning?

Each parent in the subgroup took turns answering the questions.

“I don’t know how it would be possible to do distance learning with my five-year-old,” said Amy Coulston, whose child will be in kindergarten in the fall.

“Our household is immuno-compromised, so for us, it would have to be having a secondary plan for our children to leave school earlier than the rest of the crowd,” said Amber Nunez. “Once the COVID numbers start rising, my kids need to be out of the general population.”

Some parents shared the desire to return to a stable routine where their kids are interacting with their teachers and friends.

“For our personal family, we are ready to go back. But I know that’s not the same for everybody,” one mom said.

Most parents agreed: if school is in-person, they need assurances that cleaning supplies will be on hand at all times and teachers will minimize contact between students as much as possible.

And if virtual learning will continue from home, parents want more content to learn and more contact with teachers.

“I rally think they need to see their teachers more. I don’t see why they can’t do some small group sessions during the week and work with parents on a schedule that would work,” another mom said.

August 18 will be Austin ISD’s first day of school in the fall semester. The reopening taskforce is working on strategizing a variety of possible reopening scenarios. Recommendations will be made with guidance from health officials and in consideration of aspects such as school capacity and social distancing. We may see in-person learning, an extension of continuous learning practices, or a blend of both approaches.

Austin Independent School District

Ali Ghilarducci, with AISD’s Community Engagement and External Communications team, said it’s important for families to practice patience as the district receives feedback from all families with differing perspectives and backgrounds.

“We want to be agile if need be if we change course, but we want to have more direction by the end of this month,” Ghilarducci said. “Keep in mind that the full spectrum of perspectives exists in our community.”

Ghilarducci said they are exploring a “team-teaching model.” Instead of one teacher looking over 25 more more kids, several educators form a cohort to watch over several groups of students.

AISD hopes to have clearer direction for the fall by the end of June.

Many parents said they experienced technical issues which prevented them from attending or hearing the discussions clearly. The district will have several other sessions that you can attend this week.

Do you have a story idea or tip you want to share? Connect with KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello on social media or email him at alexc@kxan.com.

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