“We are going to highly, highly, highly encourage that Tuesday through Friday, if at all possible, parents please keep individual [students] at home,” Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said during a board meeting Jan. 11.
Although the district is encouraging students to be remote, schools will continue to be open. In-person services will be provided to those students that rely on them. On campus staffing will, however, be reduced due to the anticipated lower number of in-person students, Elizalde said.
“As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase and tighter restrictions throughout the region have become necessary, Austin ISD is joining the call to action by encouraging parents to have their students participate in remote off-campus instruction for the remainder of this week,” the district said in a Jan. 11 statement.
Elizalde said that the district has been working closely with Austin Public Health, which on Dec. 23 moved the community into Stage 5, its highest stage of COVID-19 risk, based on a spike in local hospitalizations. While APH has recommended limiting capacities at certain businesses and facilities, she said that only Gov. Greg Abbott can grant AISD permission to fully transition to virtual learning without losing out on state funding.
“I’ve worked very hard to try to keep up with what [Interim Health Authority Mark] Escott is in fact recommending, but there are some consequences [to suspending in-person classes],” Elizalde said. “In the fall, right after Thanksgiving, [the district] did go 100% remote. And what did we get for that? We got a letter from the Texas Education Agency.”
By encouraging parents to keep their children home for virtual learning, but keeping schools open for those families that do need to use them, Elizalde said she believes the district can maintain its funding by the state while also keeping students and staff safe.
The announcement comes one day after all in-person classes in AISD were canceled on Jan. 11 due to snow that fell in the Austin area Jan. 10.
AISD reported that 16,408 students, or 21.9% of the district, attended in-person classes on Jan. 8, the most recent day classes were offered.