Richardson ISD will not offer a virtual academy option due to lack of state funding

Parents and students leaving school.
Students are picked up at Richardson Heights Elementary School. The district has decided not to move forward with a virtual learning option for the 2021-22 school year. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

Students are picked up at Richardson Heights Elementary School. The district has decided not to move forward with a virtual learning option for the 2021-22 school year. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

Richardson ISD will not offer a virtual learning option in the 2021-22 school year, according to district staff.

RISD was developing a permanent virtual academy option for students to begin in the fall with an anticipated enrollment of 500-750 students, provided legislative approval for funding was received. However, the regular session of the Texas Legislature ended May 31 without final approval of a bill that would have expanded online learning and provided funding for full-time virtual students. The district continued to explore options for a virtual learning option after the RISD board of directors meeting on June 7, but it ultimately opted not to move forward with the plan, according to the district website.

"The district would like to partner with our families who were looking forward to a remote learning opportunity and encourages parents to visit with their school principal to discuss potential in-person options and strategies that may meet individual student needs," the website reads. "RISD continues to plan for a 2021-22 school year that will offer comprehensive, engaging and enriching instructional opportunities for all face-to-face learners."

During the June 7 meeting, Deputy Superintendent Tabitha Branum said RISD was one of fewer than 20 districts from across the state that had been selected to collaborate on launching the virtual academies. However, the district received word from the Texas Education Agency in early June that it was dissolving that pilot program, Branum said.

RISD’s virtual academy was to be offered for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, though Branum said the majority of students who had expressed interest were in grades K-6. However, she noted the district did not begin an enrollment process because staff did not want to “mislead” anyone before legislation was passed or a waiver was issued.


“We're seeing from our peer districts that once it comes time to actually enroll, and now that we are further away from the urgency of the pandemic ... most of our area districts are seeing that [virtual learning oprion] numbers decline significantly,” Branum said during the June 7 meeting. “I don't know that we would have had 750 students enroll. But I do know that we probably would have had a substantial number, maybe 300-500 students in the end, that would have enrolled. But, again, that is pure speculation.”

Plano ISD, which includes a portion of Richardson, announced June 8 that it would not offer a virtual learning option in the 2021-22 school year.

RISD students who have not yet enrolled for the 2021-22 school year may do so by visiting www.risd.org/enrollment.

The district's first day of school will be Aug. 17.
By William C. Wadsack

Senior Reporter, Plano/Richardson

William joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2019. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana.



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