AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD returns to class Sept. 8, weeks after the intended Aug. 18 start date.
“As a trustee I voted for this delay because I wanted to limit the number of students and teachers who are in face to face school. The virus is still out there. We have HVAC issues in our buildings,” said Arati Singh, Austin ISD Board of Trustees.
Singh said her decision to vote for this came with a lot of thought beforehand.
“I’m just speaking for myself as an at large trustee and not on behalf of the entire board. There are three main things that went into my decision making. The first was student safety. The second thing was quality teaching,” she said.
The third thought was maintaining local control over decisions.
“If we push the start date to Sept. 8 that extends the amount of time that we as a school board can make decisions based on the local infection, transmission and hospitalization forecast,” said Singh.
The only students who are allowed to come to campus Sept. 8 will be students without access to the needed technology
"If we buy ourselves a few more weeks to get technology deployed then that means fewer students will have to show up at a physical campus,” said Singh.
Ken Zarifis with the district employees' union says this decision to delay the start date for health reasons and also pay all district employees accordingly is a victory.
“It is exciting to see teachers, bus drivers, students, custodians, food service workers, our community and parents really rally around the school system and our employees to make sure we were safe first and foremost and then second that we pay people accordingly and treat them with respect,” he said.
Austin ISD is trying to get the Texas Education Agency to give them an additional four weeks of virtual learning but it would allow schools to phase in small groups of students.
These decisions took time to make, and although it's what the union wanted, Zarifis believes there are still too many holes and unknowns with reopening.
“There is no clear plan on all categories and needs this district will have to reopen. That's what we’ve been asking for a plan. Give us a plan. They've had the whole summer to work on a plan. I don't know what they've been doing,” said. Zarifis.
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