Leander ISD will extend virtual learning by four weeks with a phased-in return to campuses.

The board of trustees approved a Texas Education Agency waiver that allows the district to extend virtual learning for four weeks to "mitigate the COVID-19 risk." The district will use the four additional weeks to bring students back in grade-based phases starting Sept. 8.

Since the Aug. 20 meeting, the phasing schedule was changed to move up the return for 12th graders and students receiving dyslexia services. Tenth graders will return Oct. 5 under the amended plan.

Students who selected in-person learning will return to campuses in these phases:

Phase 1: Sept. 8-18

  • students served in special education

  • prekindergarten, kindergarten, first, sixth and ninth grades

  • those with no internet access at home

  • children of staff members

Phase 2: Sept. 21-25

  • all Phase 1 students plus second, seventh and 12th grades

  • students receiving direct dyslexia services (504)

Phase 3: Sept. 28-Oct. 2

  • all Phase 1 and 2 students plus third, eighth and 11th grades

Oct. 5

  • fourth, fifth and 10th grades

Students who selected virtual learning may continue school online through the end of the school year.

Middle and high school students may change their learning style Sept. 18 after their grading period ends. Elementary students can change their learning style Oct. 5. Each school will communicate this process.

All teachers must return to campuses Sept. 8 unless they receive an accommodation through human resources.

Families with two or more students were looked at carefully in planning, Superintendent Bruce Gearing said. There are not many families without multiple students in the district, so the district runs the risk of passing Travis County's 25% recommended return rate if the district makes considerations for siblings who may return to campuses on different dates.

"If we're going to keep it at 25%—if we open it up to siblings in that first round, we're going to very quickly exceed the 25%, which is going to create a different problem for us. I don't honestly think we can do it in that first phase," he said.

Phases can be adjusted, however, after each phase based on health district guidance.

Gearing said LISD has followed Travis County guidelines as a standard and used the county's more restrictive health department orders. He said the district is making one decision even though the district is in two counties.

"If we use [Travis County] as a barometer—if they get down to below 5%, then we're pretty sure Williamson [County] will be below 5% at that time as well," he said.

The board and LISD officials previously discussed the in-person delay at its Aug. 20 meeting.