“Even though the first day of school is Aug. 18, we know that our teachers and staff need to report to school weeks before that date,” AISD announced on its website July 14. “Given our public health conditions in Travis County, Austin ISD will suspend in-person education and deliver virtual instruction for the first three weeks of the 2020-21 school year. We will continue to look to federal, state and local authorities for guidance and directives. Additional information is forthcoming.”
The announcement comes the same day that Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said that local school districts should consider a “default position” that the entire fall semester should be virtual to prevent the likelihood of yo-yoing campus opening and closing. He said that districts should delay the start of in-person instruction until at least Sept. 8, and he does not think local districts have the infrastructure and plans in place to keep students, teachers and staff protected.
“The schools need time. They need time to plan. They need time to orient their faculty and staff to the new reality,” Escott told Travis County commissioners July 14.
Last week, teachers union Education Austin demanded that AISD keep classes online for at least the first nine weeks this fall to avoid health concerns regarding to ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Union President Ken Zarifis said the union was encouraging teachers not to return to campus to teach in-person when school in AISD starts Aug. 18.
After the July 14 announcement, Education Austin said the union believes more still needs to be done to protect staff and students.
“We are glad the district has delayed the physical re-entry into schools by three weeks, but we believe more needs to be done,” Education Austin announced in a series of Tweets. “We will continue advocating for a 9-week delay and additional protections for our members and our students. Our voices are being heard but we must remain diligent and continue organizing for the safety of our students, workers, and their families.”