(Pexels)

The union representing Austin Independent School District employees wants the schools to delay the first day of school, arguing that teachers need more time to learn how to teach their online classes effectively.


The move would also give the community more time to stem the spread of the coronavirus before the state requires schools to start offering in-person classes, said Ken Zarifis, director of Education Austin, which represents 3,000 AISD teachers and employees.

Austin schools are set to start on Aug. 18 with virtual classes only. Schools across the state are given up to eight weeks to limit in-person instruction before they must start offering in-person instruction as an alternative for any family who wants to return to the classroom—or risk losing funding from the state if they don't have the approval to continue online only, according to recent rules issued by the Texas Education Agency.

Schools do have the freedom to set their own official start dates, Gov. Greg Abbott has said.

The union wants to see the official school start date moved to Sept. 8, both to let the virus subside and to give school teachers time to learn how to best serve students in virtual classes, Zarifis said.

"You have teachers that don't even know how to operate a Google doc, wouldn't even know how to videotape themselves for online instruction," he told Austonia. "It goes from that basic too much more complicated issues. Then you've got people who are completely adept at this, that know how to do it, and they could be training people on their own campus virtual. This is not happening."

Requiring in-person classes disproportionately affects families of color, he said.

The union also wants schools to delay in-person classes entirely until there have been no new virus cases in the community for at least two weeks.

The entire list of demands, which also include universal school safety guidelines, canceling STAAR and other related assessment tests, and guaranteeing 100% pay for all employees regardless of whether they choose to work from home, can be viewed here.

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