All Plano ISD students will begin the school year in remote learning after the district pushed back a planned return to classrooms by at least four weeks.

The district had been preparing for two learning tracks in the fall—one fully remote and one fully in-person—but the July 17 announcement represents a delay of the second option.

School district officials pointed to “recent surges in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations” in the area, arguing the choice would help protect the health of staff and students.

“While we want nothing more than to welcome students back into our buildings and once again see smiling faces in our classrooms, the health and safety of both students and staff will always be at the heart of our decision-making,” PISD Superintendent Sara Bonser said in a news release.

The remote learning option available in the fall is expected to be more engaging than what was offered in the spring, when the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted schools to close and teachers and families to adjust to a fully online setup.

Among the changes to remote learning, the district said it would add daily “synchronous” learning sessions, where teachers and students would be able to interact during live instruction sessions. Curriculum for remote and in-person options is expected to be the same, district officials said in June.

Still, Bonser said remote learning would not be a long-term substitute for face-to-face instruction.

“I have full confidence that our amazing teachers and administrators will continue to provide students the quality education they deserve and that our community expects despite these unique circumstances,” Bonser said in the release.

Students signed up for in-person learning are currently expected to return to their campuses Sept. 9. Those who are signed up for remote learning would continue on that track as in-person students returned to schools.