Twice as many Austin elementary students have returned to campus compared to first day of in-person instruction, district says

Austin ISD trustees met Oct. 26, discussing in-person learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD trustees met Oct. 26, discussing in-person learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Austin ISD trustees met Oct. 26, discussing in-person learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Beginning Nov. 2, Austin ISD will open its campuses to accommodate all students who request in-person instruction, in an effort to comply with Texas Education Agency requirements.

Since reopening schools at 25% of their capacities on Oct. 5, the district has gradually increased the number of students allowed on campuses. AISD has seen an increase in students enrolling for and attending in-person classes, according to a presentation by Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde to trustees Oct. 26.

On Oct 22, there were 13,201 elementary school students—or 36% of elementary enrollment—on campus, compared to 6,045 on Oct. 5. For middle school, Oct. 22 saw 1,933 students—or 12% of middle school enrollment—attend on campus compared to 1,419 on Oct. 5.

At the high school level, Oct. 22 saw 908 students—or 4% of enrollment—compared to 927 on Oct. 5, showing a slight decrease from the first day. However, with block scheduling in place, attendance can vary day-to-day, and attendance over the past two weeks sunk down to 739 Oct. 15 alternatively peaked at 1,007 on Oct. 19.

In-person enrollment is still low at many AISD campuses, and below the currently permitted 50% of a school's utilization, especially at the high school level. According to the presentation, Northeast Early College High School only has 4 of its 1,139 students on campus as of Oct. 26. Garza Independence High School, however, has seen 94% of its 179 students on campus, one of the highest percentages in the district. Enrollment data at other high schools can be found below.

Mathews Elementary School currently has the highest percentage of students learning in person at the elementary level, with 51% of students on campus, compared to only 10% of students at Boone, Ridgetop and Barton Hills elementary schools.

The chart below compared in-person students and students who are learning remotely at the middle school level.

The district is reassessing parent interest in in-person instruction, and a survey went out Oct. 21 to parents across the district asking if they would like to opt into on-campus learning. The survey will close Oct. 28.

On-campus rapid testing coming

Elizalde said the district is “at the front of the line” in a state program that will provide urban school districts rapid testing resources. She said the tests that will be provided by the state are 97% accurate and can be used by the district to test individuals at schools who show COVID-19 symptoms.

“I’m very excited we may possibly have this on hand, I’m going to say by next week but it could be sooner than that,” she said.

The district cannot require someone to get tested for COVID-19, but Elizalde said by testing students and staff who are on campus with symptoms, the district can have improved contact tracing and can help individuals get better treatments when they are sick.

In the future, Elizalde said Austin Public Health could be providing additional tests to Title 1 schools—or those that serve a greater number of lower-income students—to better test at-risk communities.
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


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