AUSTIN, Texas — Summer vacation is underway, but the start of the upcoming school year isn't too far off. With more people vaccinated and COVID-19 cases declining, many school districts are weighing their options when it comes to in-person or virtual learning.
On Friday, June 18, Austin ISD officially announced that all students would return to on-campus learning for the 2021-22 school year with no virtual learning option. However, on July 26, the district changed its stance and announced that virtual learning options will be offered for some kindergartners through sixth-graders this fall.
Some other Central Texas districts are also returning to all in-person learning, but others will continue to offer a virtual option or have yet to make a final decision.
Here's a breakdown of where some local districts stand on the topic:
Austin ISD will offer virtual learning options for some kindergarteners through sixth-graders this fall. The number of students who get the virtual learning option will be limited. The first day of virtual learning has been delayed 1 week to Aug. 24. In-person instruction still starts on Aug. 17.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising amid the spread of the delta variant, many parents are wondering what the district is doing to ensure safety. Austin ISD held a town hall Aug. 4 to break it down:
Here's the district's full initial announcement on virtual learning:
Austin ISD is ready to start in-person learning Aug. 17, and now there’s a, K–6 virtual option available for families as well.
Level set: The COVID vaccines aren’t approved for children younger than 12, and Austin is approaching Stage 5 protocols, but the Governor’s Executive Order 36 prohibits school districts from mandating masks.
Why it matters: About 5% percent of enrolled families said they’d be interested in a virtual option in the district’s recent survey.
- “It’s our goal for students to take advantage of our safe and ready schools, but we also heard some of the needs that have been expressed, so we are proud to offer a K-6 virtual option for families that feel they need them,” said Chief of Schools Anthony Mays.
- "Our plan is to meet all student's needs whenever possible," said Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde.
What it will look like: Students will attend class and turn in work over BLEND, the main platform for remote learning used last school year. It’ll include live, synchronous instruction as well as independent, asynchronous learning.
- Unlike last year, a teacher will only teach either in-person OR virtually this school year. There will be no concurrent teaching.
How to apply: Families can read more on our website and apply. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5.
- Got more questions? Families may call the Parent Engagement Support Office helpline at 512-414-0726 for English or Spanish support with the application form beginning Monday, August 2 at 9:00 am and continuing through Thursday, August 5 at 6:00 pm.
Families may utilize our Let’s Talk communications platform by texting 512-886-6434 or visiting www.austinisd.org/letstalk.
The district will offer virtual learning to students under the age of 12.
Eanes ISD said it plans to return to pre-pandemic operations next fall. The district told KVUE it will not have remote learning.
Georgetown ISD says after considering funding from SB15, it voted to consider a virtual learning program. It plans to send out "commitment" forms to families and staff by the end of the week of Sept. 20.
On Aug. 9, Harmony Public Schools informed families that it would be offering a Texas Education Agency-approved virtual learning program on a limited basis for students with a documented medical need.
On Sept. 14, Harmony Public Schools announced it will offer full virtual learning to eligible students in the Austin area starting on Monday, Oct. 4. To be eligible to participate and remain in virtual learning, students must meet all of the following criteria:
- Students must have passed the most recent STAAR exams (if applicable to grade level). If your student did not take STAAR, NWEA grade-level proficiency is required
- Students must have earned a “C” grade or higher in “foundation curriculum” courses taken virtually or remotely in the previous school year (ex. Math, reading)
- Students must have no more than 10% unexcused absences during the previous school year and maintain less than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period
Hays CISD offers an online learning program for 8th through 12th graders upon counselor approval, based on academic needs and student readiness to work independently. Learn more.
In-person instruction for all students will resume on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. There are no plans to offer virtual learning in Lago Vista ISD.
Lake Travis ISD said it will now offer a temporary online learning option in the fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Program criteria include but are not limited to:
- Only currently eligible LTISD students can apply
- Students will maintain enrollment in their home campus
- Students must commit to attending the entire fall semester. Students will not be able to return to their home campus until January 2022, at the earliest.
- Students will require parent supervision and support during virtual school hours
- Instruction will be delivered in both synchronous (teacher-led) and asynchronous (independent) learning formats
- Extracurricular activities or other on-campus activities will not be available to virtual students
- Sixth grade electives are limited to art and PE; students will not have access to on campus programs such as band, athletics, theater, etc.
- The first 250 student applications received will be allowed into the virtual option; all requests will be time-stamped in the order received
- The forms must be submitted per student, not per family
- The program will be reevaluated and extended as necessary
Students who are accepted into the online learning option will begin classes on Monday, Aug. 23. All other students are expected to report to their campus for in-person learning on Wednesday, Aug. 18 as scheduled. If your student is attending school in person, no action is needed at this time.
Leander ISD will offer a virtual learning option for the 2021-22 school year.
After hundreds of LISD families expressed an interest in remote learning, the district's board approved a framework to provide 100% remote learning for PreK thru 12th-grade students to start the school year.
On Aug.10, Leander ISD announced that it will be expanding its remote learning program by about 2,025 students currently on the waitlist in kindergarten through sixth grade through Oct. 8, which is the end of the first nine weeks.
The district will continue looking into options for 508 students on the waitlist in higher grades who showed interest in remote learning.
Additionally, the school year for students who will be participating in remote instruction will have a delayed start until Aug. 19. The school year will start on time for in-person students on Aug. 12.
Manor ISD will offer in-person instruction for all students starting on Monday, Aug. 23. The district said it will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the community and follow the guidance of local health authorities and the TEA.
To ensure a safe transition, MISD will maintain the following protocols:
Urging students, staff and essential visitors to stay home when sick
Providing masks and allowing them to be worn in schools and buildings. Masks will not be required
Providing face shields and hand sanitizer.
Keeping plexiglass dividers in place as an additional layer of protection
Cleaning and disinfecting all schools and buildings throughout the day, nightly and on weekends as needed
Limiting visitation to essential visitors with pre-scheduled appointments
For more information on MISD's back-to-school plan, click here.
The district will offer a limited K-12 virtual learning option for students.
"Because the Texas Legislature and TEA did not authorize a virtual option, the District will use its ESSER funds and local funding to provide a limited virtual learning academy," PfISD said. "PfISD expects to fund its limited K-12 Virtual Learning Academy, up to one year, for approximately $2.6 million. ESSER funds will cover $1 million of the $2.6 million; the remaining $1.6 million will come from local revenue."
Applications to join virtual learning must be completed by Aug. 2. Families who completed PfISD’s K-12 Virtual Learning Academy application in May 2021 will receive an email notifying them of their acceptance and a request to confirm their participation
Round Rock ISD is offering a virtual learning option for children in kindergarten through the sixth grade for the Fall 2021 semester. The district said this would allow time for a vaccine to be approved for kids over 12-years-old on Thursday, July 29.
Parents can enroll their students in the program by completing a transfer form on the district's website. There is no cap on the number of students. Students can also return back to in-person instruction at any time or vice versa.
The school district will hire teachers to teach virtual classes only, according to its website.
Originally, Round Rock ISD was not going to offer virtual learning.
The district announced on June 3 that they would not be able to offer a virtual learning option for the next year due to House Bill 1468, which would have funded a remote option for RRISD schools, failing to pass during the Texas Legislative Session.
The TEA has a list of public schools that offer online learning programs and you don't have to live in the district to participate.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: