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Austin ISD prepares to expand in-person learning to all students per state guidelines
(Bob Daemmrich)

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.

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.

(Austin ISD)

Funding concerns

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.

Teacher accommodations

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.

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A big announcement from Austonia

Howdy, and happy holidays.

I have some big news for you.

Austonia is now part of 6AM City, a fast-growing network of hyper-local newsletters across the country.

I’m proud to be telling you this, because 6AM City’s mission is very much like Austonia’s — a daily morning update on events, things-to-do and news, with an underlying mission of community building in the cities they serve.

If you’re not already subscribed, 6AM City’s Austin newsletter is called ATXtoday. One of its city editors is Laura Figi, who you’ll remember for her previous great work on Austonia’s newsletter.

I’ve been reading ATXtoday every day since it launched last year.

Starting this week, you’ll receive ATXtoday every morning and I’m confident it will become part of your daily wake up routine. Be sure to add hello@theatxtoday.com to your contact list (how to do that here).

Meantime let me thank you for your readership and support of Austonia, and convey my wishes for a great holiday season for you and those close to you.


Thank you,

Mark Dewey

Austonia CEO

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.