The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/news/2020-12-31/austin-isd-will-resume-on-campus-classes-next-week-as-planned/

Austin ISD Will Resume On-Campus Classes Next Week as Planned

By Beth Sullivan, December 31, 2020, 2:05pm, Newsdesk

The Austin Independent School District will resume on-campus classes as planned after winter break. However, all extracurriculars except varsity activities are postponed indefinitely.

In a press conference earlier this morning, Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde reiterated AISD will continue to offer remote instruction options, as the district’s done throughout the school year. Families who wish to switch to remote instruction come Jan. 5 – when spring classes are set to start – will be able to do so effective immediately, said Elizalde.

“This is a very difficult place, of course, to be,” said Elizalde of the decision. “Our goal is always to want our community to be very satisfied with the decisions that we make. There are also constraints, and those constraints absolutely come from the Texas Education Agency.” If AISD were to pivot to virtual-only classes after winter break – an option AISD had weighed after Austin Public Health announced the city and county had entered Stage 5 of local COVID-19 risk guidelines – then the district would have been in violation of a TEA directive requiring schools to offer in-person instruction, and would thus lose state funding.

Another option – canceling both on-campus and virtual classes entirely – would require making up the lost instruction time by extending the school year into June. Elizalde said that, too, would lead to uncertainty about state funding: “Depending upon how long that closure would last, we would not be able to make up the time within the June 30 deadline ... under the TEA requirements of funding.”

The district will continue offering free rapid COVID-19 testing for students and staff at campuses. Under TEA COVID-19 guidance, Texas school districts have the authority to close a classroom, campus wings, or entire schools for up to 14 days should there be any concern of disease spread on campuses. Elizalde told reporters she might be “more aggressive” on closures going into the spring semester if the data indicates a surge in on-campus cases.

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