Austin-area districts still planning for fall semester

Last week. the Texas Education Agency announced Texas schools must offer 100 percent virtual and 100 percent in-person learning options.

On Monday, just a few weeks out from the start of the school year it remained unclear how that plan would be implemented in many districts, including Del Valle ISD where Michelle Cardenas is a dual-language pre-K teacher.

"We could totally be planning and prepping and making everything a lot better,” said Cardenas, who is also the vice president of membership for the Del Valle Education Association. 


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In nearby Pflugerville, teachers will be divided between in-classroom or virtual instruction, based on what families choose. That means most teachers will not know if they are teaching in-person or virtually until late July. School starts on August 13. 

“I think a lot of teachers are confused right now and are not one hundred percent sure what the fall is going to look like,” said high school social studies teacher August Plock. 

The district is hoping to allocate more teachers to “in-person classes,” which would enable smaller class sizes. 

In Austin, AISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz says plans for instruction are still unclear. A survey will be sent out in mid-August, where parents will be asked to make a more definite decision on whether their child will attend school in person, or virtually. 

“You look at the opening of school (for AISD) being August 18, then we would say probably final, final answer needs to be in by August 4,” said Jocelyn Vokes, special assistant to the superintendent. 

Cruz said final adjustments for staff will be made once survey results are in, explaining that the district felt the August survey was important as “conditions are changing.” 

Because conditions are changing, leaving educators with less time to plan and pivot, teachers with Pflugerville and Del Valle ISD are arguing that schools should have nine weeks to transition out of full virtual learning in the beginning of the school year, instead of the three the TEA is currently offering. 

“We can plan, we can prep and we can be prepared,” Cardenas explained. 

Still, some educators, Cardenas included, are saying in-person learning should not be on the table at all. “If I bring this virus home and I infect my family or I infect my mom -- my mom's 75, I can't live with that,” she said. 


In a video released by AISD, Geronimo Rodriguez, president of the board of trustees said “teachers who cannot for broader reasons return in person will be offered opportunities to enhance online learning.”

What those broader reasons are caused some confusion and FOX 7 Austin has reached out to AISD for clarification and officials said, "If an employee falls under the CDC’s higher risk category, which includes certain medically-diagnosed health conditions, pregnancy, or being age 65 or older, they may request a flexible work accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If a flexible work arrangement is not an option or the employee does not qualify for a flexible work arrangement under the ADA, they may request to access their accrued leave. The district will be more flexible in permitting employees to access their leave."

“When I signed up as a teacher, and when my family knew I'm a teacher, it was not the expectation that now I'm going to risk my life along with my family's lives because I want to still serve these students,” said orchestra teacher and Vice President of the Pflugerville Educators Association Franchesca Mejia. 


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