AUSTIN, Texas - The phased-in reopening of Austin schools is set to begin October 5th with capacity initially limited to 25 percent.
On Wednesday during a Zoom news conference, leaders with Education Austin called on the district to reconsider that plan.
"We're heading into a nightmare where we will see spikes and people will get sick and potentially die,” said Ken Zarifis with Education Austin.
The group wants AISD to extend online-only classes by requesting a waiver from the Texas Education Agency.
"What we need is a plan for 5-year-olds, 6-year-old, the 8-year-olds, the 18-year-olds, we've got to have a concrete plan, a protocol teachers, TAs can follow. So we want the waiver submitted Friday and we want a clear plan,” said Zarifis.
At a central Austin home, a slip and slide offered recess from online classes. The kids playing there will not be heading to school in October because their parents have safety concerns. "I guess we are all doing what we have to do, we are all doing the best we can do, I suppose,” said David Strick.
There are parents and students who are struggling with all online learning. That’s something Kim Larsen says she understands.
"I really lucky because the online process has not been difficult, for me. My kids are older. So if I had younger children at home I'm sure I'd be having a much more difficult time of it, I have friends who have little ones and they are struggling,” said Larsen.
Teachers who spoke during the news conference admit staying connected with students, now, is difficult. That problem was used as a reason to stay online.
""We're flying a plan as we are building it, and that's part of the reason why, again, we need to apply for that waiver because if we move back to In-Person instruction on the 5th, like we've been saying, we are going to have teachers in a classroom teaching to a group of students virtually with a different group of students in front of them with their computers talking their individual classes and right now how is that going to look for our SpED Students,” said AISD teacher Davis De Leon.
The question of quality is why Amberly and Bryan Livingston will keep their kids online
"We want them to go back to the way it was, and the way it was didn't include masks and 6 feet apart, and kids could work in groups together, and all of that is kind of lost, so do we want them to go back with those rules in mind, no,” said Amberly Livingston who added they are looking at sending their kids back to school after the New Year.
Several school districts, like Thrall ISD, brought students back almost six weeks ago. Two parent volunteers on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19, but Thrall ISD Superintendent Tommy Hooker tells FOX7 there have been no active cases for staff or students in Thrall. That success does not satisfy members of Education Austin.
"It’s easy to point at other districts and say look they can open up, how come you can't and it’s not an apples to oranges comparison,” said AISD teacher Cuitahuac Guerra-Mojarro.
Education Austin officials also point to COVID-19 outbreaks on college campuses. "There is no good answers here, there is not one good option facing us, with COVID19 when it comes to instruction in our schools,” said Zarifis.
In a statement sent to FOX7, a clarification was made about the AISD return to school plan was made. Officials with AISD stated there is no avenue through TEA waivers to continue 100% remote learning.
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