All Leander ISD students enrolled in the district’s remote learning program can remain virtual through the end of the fall semester, according to the district. This is not an expansion of the program but an extension through December.

This program would have ended after the first nine weeks of school on Oct. 8. But virtual students in LISD's expanded program can now stay remote through the fall semester.

This extension is a result of Senate Bill 15 funding, which gives school districts state funding for students in remote learning programs. The bill does have limitations, such as a 10% cap of students in a district who can opt into virtual learning. Additionally, teachers must complete a course in online instruction and cannot teach booth virtual and face-to-face students in the same period.

The district will create a plan to bring back remote students to campuses Jan. 4, Chief Academic Officer Matt Bentz said to the board of trustees Sept. 30. But virtual students can transition back to in-person learning anytime before then.

In June, LISD trustees approved an initial 300-student remote learning program with federal coronavirus funds. Then the board approved an expansion of the program using $6 million in fund balance after a long waitlist was formed.

In making the decision to extend the program, Bentz said LISD officials monitored availability for a pediatric vaccine, infection rates, the impact of the system as a whole, continuity, funding, students with individualized education programs and coordination of the return to in-person learning.

About 125 students in LISD’s virtual program do not quality for SB 15 state funding, and about a dozen students are still under consideration, Bentz said.