Frisco ISD is seeking a state waiver to partially fund an online learning option for students.

On Aug. 3 the district announced it would have a temporary virtual school option for early childhood through sixth grade classes. This option would be available for at least the first nine weeks of school and would be reevaluated and extended as necessary until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under the age of 12, meeting documents stated.

During the Aug. 9 board meeting, Frisco ISD staff said 8,213 students have signed up for the virtual learning environment. At the meeting, trustees approved staff to seek a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to at least receive partial funding for these students.

With more than 8,200 students learning virtually in the fall, district staff projected almost $30 million in revenue would be lost from state funding.

Costs to operate the virtual learning option are estimated to be about $2.2 million, staff stated. That includes 25 full-time teachers, 15 of which were already budgeted as a placeholder in case a virtual option did become available at FISD, as well as $900,000 in software and instructional materials, staff said.

There are no plans to reduce or divert the existing budget or the federal emergency relief grant money the district received, staff said. Instead, the district will fund the virtual school and make up for its lost revenue with more than $33 million in supplemental federal financial aid, staff said.

This comes from House Bill 1525, which lawmakers passed last spring for districts that received little or no funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund. FISD received $6.1 million from that federal grant.

The supplemental funding will be split in half and divided over two years for the district to use.

“The accounting might be a little bit funny for two years, but we are planning to use all of this money to help both offset the loss of revenue and address those additional costs,” according to staff.

Budget amendments will continue to be brought to the board as staff continues to navigate the federal grant funding, staff said.

The district will regularly update an FAQ page about the virtual learning option as more information becomes available.

Brooklynn Cooper contributed to this report.