Dripping Springs ISD has officially approved its school plan for the fall semester, confirming guidelines for both in-person and distance learning options.

The DSISD board of trustees voted unanimously to approve a class plan called "Return, Reimagine, Connect" at a July 27 meeting ahead of the district's Aug. 18 start date for students.

While the first four weeks of class will be conducted virtually for everyone, parents have the option of sending their children to school for in-person learning beginning Sept. 8, according to the plan.

Some parents and community members called into the meeting to encourage the board to reconsider beginning the year with distance learning, but Superintendent Todd Washburn said the choice was a strategic one that allows time for teachers to adjust to new online learning procedures and to fine-tune health and safety precautions.

"What’s most important to us is safety," he said. "Additionally, we don’t want to come back early before these things are in place only to have to shift back into a remote learning setting because we didn’t have all those protocols or safety measures in place."

Washburn also noted Hays County health officials have led the district to expect a public health order restricting in-person learning until September, like in Travis County.

Beginning Sept. 8, students will engage in either in-person or virtual learning on a quarterly basis. For remote learners, class will include a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, with some choice between formats depending on grade level. Asynchronous instruction allows students the flexibility to work on a schedule convenient to them and their family; however, certain opportunities, such as small-group instructional activities, will only be available to synchronous learners. In general, synchronous instruction offers more opportunities for live interactions with teachers and peers.

Curriculum will be consistent between in-person and virtual learners, according to DSISD. In-person learners will experience a mostly traditional class model but will be required to wear face coverings to adhere to specialized health and safety standards to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Families may begin the process to enroll students in their chosen instruction model beginning July 29.