The district has no plan to offer a virtual learning option for the spring semester, though students who are medically vulnerable can apply for homebound services.
How the virtual program started
In response to COVID-19 spreading in the area, Austin ISD decided to offer virtual classes during the summer of 2021 before external funding existed, so staff assumed the cost would fall completely on the district, AISD spokesperson Eddie Villa said.
State Bill 15 was signed into law Sept. 1 after classes commenced and will provide some financial reprieve. However, the district’s virtual program was designed before the SB 15 was enacted, so the program was not built to meet the bill’s criteria for funding.
How it was funded
Funding from the bill is on a per-student basis. The district only receives funding for students who met certain criteria, including that they received satisfactory State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores, they did not miss more than 10 days of instruction unexcused, and that they learn virtually for a long term, Villa said.
The district’s estimates show many of the students who learned virtually this fall do not meet those criteria, so much of the cost of the program will fall on the district, Villa said.
The district does not track students' vaccination status but does keep a count of how many individuals visit AISD clinics by age. At clinics put on by the district, more than 2,450 5- to 11-year-olds have received COVID-19 vaccine doses since Nov. 4.
Students who learned from home through the district’s Virtual Learning Program are already enrolled at their home campuses, according to the district’s return-to-school FAQ sheet. They will be scheduled with teachers on that home campus.
Campus principals will schedule a “Spring Welcome Back to School Night” for families of returning students. Families can also request a time to visit with campus staff virtually or in person, according to the district's website.
Each campus will also send out a list of student supplies before January, and many schools will be able to help families in need of supplies. Families can reach out to their campus principal or parent support specialist for help acquiring supplies, the website said.