AUSTIN, Texas - Families lined up outside Blackshear Elementary School to pick up free produce offered by Austin ISD Wednesday.
Austin ISD schools are slated to begin online learning August 18th but Thursday the school board could vote to push back that start date to September, meaning kids may not see the inside of a classroom till November. A district spokesperson told FOX 7 the additional time will allow district leaders to ensure all necessary health protocols are in place and resources.
Some parents agree with the proposal, nervous about what the new school year will bring. Cristina Martinez is apprehensive the district will not be prepared to take kids in during a pandemic.
“I am scared about it, worried, I just feel like we are not going to be ready for it,” said Martinez. “They can’t even control other health issues that happen in the school. How can they control a pandemic?”
Martinez’s son has special needs, she’d prefer him to be in class with needed hands-on instruction but would rather have him at home.
Stephanie Weiderhold echoed Martinez’s sentiment, understanding her 5-year-old needs to develop social skills. However, Weiderhold is concerned for parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Some cannot afford to have their kids stay home and learn online.
“They just have to try their best and keep that in mind that there are families who it is absolutely dire for their children to be in school,” said Weiderhold. “It’s more dangerous for some of those families for their children not to be in school.”
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Along with finalizing a start date, the district is working on providing 10,000 students with Chromebooks. If school starts as planned on August 18th, not every child will have a device at home because of a backlog in requests for mobile devices nationwide, according to a district spokesperson. The district is waiting on seniors to return their Chromebooks from the spring and a shipment on 24,000 iPads.
Caroline Chen said she supports the delay and plans to keep her kindergartener safe at home.
“Unfortunately I feel like we got our priorities mixed up right now. I feel like we reopened the economy too early instead of putting safety first,” said Chen. “I feel like reopening schools would be premature right now. I feel like priority number one is to survive the pandemic.”
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.