During an open forum session that lasted longer than two hours, several dozen community members pushed to get children back into the classroom, while others expressed concern regarding opening amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
All LTISD students began school this year with virtual learning. In-person learning is suspended until Sept. 8 in accordance with orders issued by the city of Austin and Travis County. Following that date, parents may choose to enroll their children in virtual or in-person instruction.
Though families have until Aug. 28 to make their decision, per requirements from the Texas Education Agency, at this time, approximately 60% of families have requested in-person learning, according to Superintendent Paul Norton.
Parent Raquel Rodriguez asked the trustees to advocate for in-person learning as soon as possible, with or without the use of face coverings. She requested that she speak without a face mask and claimed that she could not “medically tolerate it.”
Face coverings are required for individuals ages 10 and older while in public spaces, with the exception of those who are medically incapable, per Gov. Greg Abbott’s July 2 executive order.
Trustee John Aouille said the board would make an exception and allowed Rodriquez to continue her statement.
“Lake Travis ISD, give parents the choice to choose remote learning or in-person,” Rodriquez said. “For those families not concerned, give them the choice to attend in-person with or without masks or with or without distancing.”
However, several parents and teachers advocated for the continued use of virtual learning amid the pandemic.
Carol Creel, Lake Travis High School teacher and tennis coach, spoke on behalf of more than 30 LTISD teachers who were denied the option to teach remotely for the 2020-21 school year. Her husband is a survivor of kidney cancer, which, she explained, puts him at a higher risk. Despite submitting the necessary paperwork, her request to teach virtually was denied.
“If we go back on Sept. 8 in person, people will get sick,” Creel said. “This is all entirely preventable. No one needs to get sick at all, and certainly, no one needs to risk death from this disease that seems to be mild in some and absolutely deadly in another.”
Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority and an LTISD parent, recommended Aug. 18 that schools begin in-person classes in September with no more than 25% of students on campus.
However, Norton said LTISD is not required to follow this guideline, and at this time, the district’s plan is to offer in-person curriculum for those who have requested it.