AUSTIN, Texas - Three days into Austin ISD’s winter break, board members held a meeting. They made it clear: no concrete decision has been made about when students can return to the classroom.
"Can we perhaps get a deadline in terms of when a determination will be made about the school calendar?" inquired district 3 board member Kevin Foster. "I think that’s important for our families."
Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde did not provide a hard deadline but told the group she could not imagine making a decision later than January 3. Students are scheduled to head back on January 5.
"That data would have to be extraordinary for me, that short of a time, right, to say on January 3 that on January 5 our children are not gonna be welcomed into buildings."
The district is still considering three different options. The first is to stick to the plan and allow students to resume virtual and in-person learning on January 5. The second is temporarily requiring 100 percent virtual learning, and the third is closing everything down for at least a week after break.
Both the second and third options require the school to make up time and risk funding. "This would be in violation of the Texas Education Agency," said Elizalde.
The superintendent says she will use public health data to make a decision. Just before the board meeting, Austin entered stage 5, the most extreme level of coronavirus restrictions. Still, public health officials have not recommended the district close schools or move to 100 percent virtual learning.
"They are asking us to ensure that we begin to minimize the number of individuals that are attending extracurricular activities including possibly testing athletes and their coaches," Elizalde said.