AISD Announces Start of School Year Will Be Online

Mendez Middle School (Photo by Jana Birchum)

On the recommendation of Austin public health officials, Austin Independent School District has announced that students will not return to in-person schooling on Aug. 18. Instead, students will start the school year the same way they ended it – via virtual instruction.

The plan is for virtual instruction for three weeks. After that, officials will presumably reevaluate conditions. Here’s the statement in full:

The health and safety of our students and staff are at the forefront of all of our decisions.

Even though the first day of school is Aug. 18, we know that our teachers and staff need to report to school weeks before that date.

Given our public health conditions in Travis County, Austin ISD will suspend in-person education and deliver virtual instruction for the first three weeks of the 2020–21 school year.

We will continue to look to federal, state and local authorities for guidance and directives. Additional information is forthcoming.

La salud y la seguridad de nuestros estudiantes y personal está al centro de todas nuestras decisiones.

Aunque el primer día de clases es el 18 de agosto, sabemos que nuestros maestros y personal deben presentarse en la escuela semanas antes de esa fecha.

Debido a las condiciones de salud pública en el condado de Travis, el distrito escolar de Austin suspenderá la educación en persona y proveerá instrucción virtual durante las primeras tres semanas del año escolar 2020–21.

Continuaremos colaborando con las autoridades federales, estatales y locales para obtener consejos y directivas. Información adicional será proporcionada.

Teacher union Education Austin, which has pushed the district to delay a return to in-school learning, celebrated today’s decision but advocated for even longer delay. Via Twitter:

“We are glad the district has delayed the physical re-entry into schools by three weeks, but we believe more needs to be done.

”We will continue advocating for a 9-week delay and additional protections for our members and our students.

”Our voices are being heard but we must remain diligent and continue organizing for the safety of our students, workers, and their families.”

UPDATED 8:14pm: The Health Authority for Austin-Travis County has issued orders forbidding in-person instruction at all public and private schools offering instruction to students in one or more grades, pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and any independent school districts within Austin-Travis County.

“This order includes appropriate control measures based on the higher risk for spread of COVID-19 in schools due to the necessity of large groups gathering in indoor spaces and the difficulty for children to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines,” said Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott in a statement.

The following restrictions are effective immediately:

• School systems shall not re-open schools for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020;
• Virtual instruction shall be permitted as per a school system’s own plan;
• Extracurricular sports and activities shall not take place until school systems re-open for on-campus instruction;
• At least two weeks prior to re-opening for on-campus instruction and on-campus activities, the school or district shall develop a plan to be submitted to the Austin/Travis County Health Authority for re-opening on-campus activities and instruction and make the plan available for parents and general public.