AUSTIN, Texas - The beginning of school is fast approaching.
Austin ISD students will begin school online on August 18th. Wednesday, district officials held a virtual information session to give parents an idea of what online learning will look like this academic year.
The first three weeks of school will be 100% virtual learning. After September 4th, families have a choice of 100% online or in-person instruction.
Access to technology
The district handed out Chromebooks to 3rd through 12 graders in the Spring. The plan is to acquire 24,000 Ipads for Pre-K through 2nd grade. The district does have avenues for parents to let them know their child needs equipment.
The district is also working on 10,000 wifi hotspots for families.
Director of Academic and Blended Learning Erin Bown-Anderson said there will be children at the start of school without devices because there is a backorder on Chromebooks across the nation.
“Our tech team is working as fast as they can to ensure that we have devices for everyone,” said Bown-Anderson. “A big concern is that we are working towards having an equitable experience for those who don’t have devices right away.“
In the meantime, children who don’t have equipment will receive handbooks and connect with their teachers utilizing other methods.
District officials acknowledged there needed to be more check-ins with parents during the Spring. There will be a parent support hotline, Austin ISD app where parents can access students grades and virtual training for families before school starts.
“Setting up routines and engaging early on will be really essential,” Bown-Anderson said. “The consistency of where to go and to see what is happening to your children would be extremely helpful.”
School starts in less than a month, parents are still waiting to hear finalized detailed plans for their children. Lisa Flores has two children with learning disabilities she’s advocating kids with special needs have a seat at the table. Flores said the newsletter from the Director of Special Education has been helpful but she’s concerned for children with disabilities in general education classes.
“The communication seems to be like it’s coming, don't worry, just contact this person,” said Flores. “Just contact special education. I think it would go a long way to see communication to parents like me be explicit and say this is what we are doing for special education."
Flores wants to work with school officials to help put children with special needs at the forefront of educational planning not just for her family but for others. The district said there will be additional resources for special education in the next coming weeks. Flores is concerned those weeks will turn into months.
“I am hoping for the best and planning for the worst,” Flores said. “My student, I’m not sure if he will benefit from the offerings. I’m doing my best to make plans to be the best at home instructor I can be.“
The district plans to send families a survey next month asking whether they want online or in-person instruction. The next online information session for parents focused on what in class instruction will look like is scheduled for Thursday on AISD’s Facebook Live.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.