AUSTIN, Texas - Over 10,000 Austin ISD in-person learning students switched to remote learning after the district encouraged families to do so to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde is asking students to remote learn until January 22 and will continue to evaluate on a weekly basis.
Dr. Mark Escott with Austin Public health says the positivity rate in schools is four times higher this semester than it was in the fall. Currently, the positivity rates in school-aged children according to APH are:
- High School: 20.2%
- Middle School: 27.1%
- Elementary School: 19.8%
- Preschool: 10.0%
Dr. Escott says increasing student capacity could be a recipe for disaster.
"We want to make sure that we're doing our part as, you know, community members to stop the spread," said AISD Chief Of Schools Dr. Anthony Mays.
Earlier this month, Austin ISD followed APH’s advice and requested families voluntarily choose to have their kids learn remotely. Dr. Mays says more than 10,000 in-person students made the switch. "We would not ask families to do this if we didn't recognize the situation that we have within our city," he said.
Sharyn Vane has two high schoolers enrolled in AISD who have been remote learning from the beginning of the pandemic. "To see that more than 10,000 students were able to make that move really reduces the likelihood that we're going to be contributing in the district to a continued spread of the virus," she said.
She says she's glad other families are choosing to go virtual especially when Austin-Travis County is currently in Stage 5.
"For those of us who can keep our kids home, we need to do it for the good of the community. The longer we're in Stage Five, the more people are going to get sick, the more people are going to die," said Vane.
Dr. Mays says the fewer children at school, the more opportunities the district has to properly distance the kids who need to do in-person learning.
"Once we get past Stage Five, our goal is to get those students back and a face-to-face environment because we recognize that learning is most optimal for students when they're in that classroom with that teacher learning," he said.
AISD has requested families keep their kids remote learning next week as well. Read the full email Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde sent to parents Thursday:
Dear Austin ISD families,
This week as our community is in Stage 5 of the COVID-19 pandemic, we encouraged you to have your children engage in remote instruction, if possible. As I mentioned in my communication yesterday, preliminary results have shown that this was successful in limiting attendance and allowing for extensive social distancing by those who are needing to be served on campus.
We are providing this weekly update with guidance for the week to come and have determined: For the week of Jan. 19-22, if you are able to do so, please continue to have your children learn in a remote off-campus setting. We will continue to support you and we will welcome any student who needs to be at our campus, regardless of the reason with open arms.
Sincerely, and with gratitude,
Stephanie S. Elizalde, Ed.D. Superintendent