In an attempt to facilitate the most sustainable and safe environment for the 2020-21 school year, students at Eanes ISD could return to the classroom following a multiweek transitional period, per a presentation shared during an EISD study session Aug. 4.

Outlined by the Texas Education Agency, this model will allow students and staff to resume in-person learning in stages and give priority to the most at-risk students.

In-person curriculum and school activities will remain on hold until Sept. 8 at EISD, per orders issued by the city of Austin and Travis County. Following that suspension, the district may bring in up to 25% of a campus’s population as early as Sept. 11.

That percentage would include those who present the greatest risk associated with virtual learning, according to Molly May, EISD’s chief student support officer. That includes students with significant academic gaps, English language learners and those receiving special services who cannot be accommodated in a remote environment.

If approved by the board of trustees Sept. 14, up to 100% of a campus’s students could be permitted to begin in-person learning.

“We do not believe we have 100% of the population that want to come back,” Superintendent Tom Leonard said, adding a previous survey conducted by the district indicated about 70% of parents would prefer in-person learning.

Trustees may also vote during an Aug. 11 board meeting to implement a longer transitional model spanning into mid-October which, if approved, would cap in-person learning at 25% until Oct. 9.

After that date, EISD would provide in-person learning for up to 100% of students in accordance with the TEA’s funding requirements.

“We feel very confident that 25% across a building’s population across the district would be a sustainable model without exposing a greater percentage of students and staff to the virus,” said EISD Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnet, who noted that is assuming EISD will not encounter additional state or county regulations that interfere with the district’s plan.

A majority of teachers could be permitted to return to campus as early as Aug. 21. However, district information states staff members who present health risks associated with the coronavirus may request accommodations to work remotely.

Several parents submitted comments to the board expressing a desire to reinstate in-person learning as soon as possible.

“The community voted, and the majority want to go to school in person,” EISD parent Stacy Dollar said. “Please do not extend online learning. Other schools are opening, and we can too.”

The district survey was not intended to act as a community vote to reopen schools but was administered to provide EISD with increased clarity in the decision-making process, according to Leonard, who said EISD will also host an additional community meeting tentatively scheduled for Aug. 6.

A supplemental survey will be distributed Aug. 6-10, through which parents will be required to make their final decision on whether they prefer in-person or remote learning.