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Austin ISD’s school year delayed until Sept. 8, first eight weeks could be online-only

Friday, August 7, 2020 by Claire McInerny, KUT

The Austin Independent School District’s Board of Trustees voted to delay the start of classes for the school year until Sept. 8. Virtual classes were supposed to begin Aug. 18, but the board wanted to give teachers more time to prepare for online learning.

School board members also took into account recommendations from local health officials and are allowing more time for COVID-19 cases to potentially decrease before school starts.

The first four weeks of school will be taught virtually, but if students don’t have technology, they’ll be able to show up to school in person. The delay means the district will have additional time to get wi-fi hotpsots and computers out to more students, so they can learn from home.

The board also voted Thursday to apply to add four additional weeks of virtual learning to the beginning of the school year, meaning most students could be learning remotely until the beginning of November. The change must be approved by the Texas Education Agency.

The TEA has said school districts can do virtual learning for the first four weeks, but after that, they must be open in some capacity for in-person learning. To extend virtual learning beyond four weeks, districts must request a waiver or they risk losing funding.

If approved, the second four-week period will include a phase-in of in-person instruction, according to Supertinendent Paul Cruz. He said students who don’t have technology to complete classes at home will be allowed to attend at a school building.

“We have to provide in-person instruction for students who do not have access to technology,” he said.

Hundreds of teachers, staff and community members called in to Thursday’s meeting to comment on the potential changes. Many expressed concern that the delayed start would mean support staff, like bus drivers and teacher’s assistants, would lose out on three weeks of pay. But the district said employees will be paid starting Aug. 18.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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