100% Austin news, info, and entertainment, straight to your inbox at 6 a.m. every morning.
In five minutes, you're fully informed and ready to start another great day in our city.
Austin ISD will offer face-to-face, on-campus learning to all students whose families choose to take advantage of it starting on Monday, Nov. 2, in compliance with the Texas Education Agency's guidelines.
To prepare, the district has ordered plexiglass dividers and will install them at all campuses next week, AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said at a board meeting on Monday. It is also working to access a supply of rapid tests.
We are now at the front of the line for the rapid COVID-19 tests and are working on having this possibly on hand next week.
The rapid testing is 97 percent accurate and the district would get a supply each month.
— Austin ISD (@AustinISD) October 26, 2020
Despite these preparations, Elizalde said she does not expect a mass return of students to campus.
"I do not believe that on Nov. 2 we will be anywhere near 100% of students reporting to campus," she said.
As of Thursday, 36% of elementary students, 12% of middle school students and 4% of high school students are attending in-person class. Although in-person attendance among elementary students has nearly doubled since mid-October, attendance among middle and high school students has remained relatively flat.
This is likely to change, however, because the TEA guidelines also stipulate that middle and high school students must offer face-to-face instruction—"making it necessary for students to transition between class periods," according to the district's website—as of Nov. 2 to receive state funding.
This compounds the district's financial woes.
Chief Business Officer Larry Throm told the board on Sept. 28 that an enrollment drop could lead to a state funding shortfall as great as $51.4 million and require layoffs of as many as 232 teachers, among other cost-cutting measures.
Although enrollment numbers improved slightly from late September to mid-October, it remains around 5,000 students shy of its enrollment of 80,621 students last year.
Elizalde has attributed the drop to virtual learning and emphasized that this trend is not unique to AISD.
Since AISD reopened its campuses on Sept. 8, the district has reported 58 confirmed COVID cases. Of those cases, 34 were among employees, 18 among students and six were not attributed.
At the board meeting, Elizalde also addressed concerns about COVID-era accommodations provided to staff.
As of Monday, AISD has granted accommodations to 1,201 staff members. Of those, 756 are teachers.
Elizalde said earlier this month that AISD has granted accommodations to more teachers than either Dallas ISD or Houston ISD, both of which are significantly larger.
These accommodations expire on Dec. 31, Elizalde said, adding that she will share information about the number of accommodation requests for the spring term on Nov. 9.
Education Austin, a union that represents 3,000 district employees and has encouraged its members to pledge not to attend in-person classes, took credit for this in a tweet on Tuesday.
After public pressure, the district has now committed to keeping all approved accommodations in place through the e… https://t.co/SVOHtbdcKr— Education Austin (@Education Austin)1603815047.0
- Austin ISD continues its phased-in reopening, but kids' social lives ... ›
- Photo essay: Austin ISD students head back to the classroom with ... ›
- Hundreds of Austin ISD teachers reportedly pledge to not attend in ... ›
- Austin ISD enrollment decline may lead to layoffs amid COVID ... ›
- Austin ISD reports enrollment drop due to virtual learning - austonia ›
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
- Reopening Austin offices plan for one-way foot traffic, sanitizing ... ›
- Buc-ee's avoids national workers shortage with benefits - austonia ›
- Austin restaurants struggle to hire workers after pandemic year ... ›
Is it just us, or is the current Austin mask situation confusing? Are we supposed to wear a mask or not, and where? And should we wear one anyway, even if not requested or required?
Austin health orders requiring masks expire Tuesday. What then?
Take our three-question quiz, and tell us what you're thinking.