Interim Superintendent Daniel Presley announced June 3 that the district will no longer be offering virtual learning as an option for its students in the fall, although it had been planning on it. This was due to the fact that House Bill 1468, which would have funded school districts offering virtual learning to its students and allowed students to earn credit for those courses, did not pass in the state’s 87th Legislature.
The board discussed possible methods of funding this program itself at its June 3 meeting but did not take any such action to do so. When it again came up during discussion on June 10, Presley reiterated the district will not be offering it, not only because the state would not fund those students, but because they would not receive credit for virtual enrollment in RISD.
“We were not given an avenue to do that,” Presley said. “We're a public school district; we’re governed by the rules of [the Texas Education Agency]. So for example, if all of us decided we were all going to go virtual, the definition of being in attendance is being in school, being at school and your seat in class. So if they don't provide a mechanism to allow us to do that, we can’t.”
Presley said it was not a decision related to the funding. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported district Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Adix said the district would lose around $8,000 per year for each student who would go virtual, either on a platform offered by the district or if they left the district for another virtual schooling option.
“It's not a money thing,” Presley said. “I know this board wants to do the best for our students that they can, as do I. So if we said we're going to spend whatever it takes to allow kids to go virtual next year who needed or wanted, we could do that. But if we were all learning from home, we would be paying teachers on our payroll to teach kids, but those kids will be counted absent every day.”
All students in the RISD will be required to attend school in person. Presley previously clarified the virtual learning option is not the same thing as the homebound learning option utilized by the district. Under General Education Homebound services, a teacher brings the lesson and classwork to the student if they are unable to attend for reasons such as a surgery, a medical condition or an extended illness for at least four weeks. This will continue to be offered by the district.