The Austin Independent School Board is considering pushing back the first day of school to Sept. 8 and applying for eight weeks of virtual-only classes, citing "local health conditions" and the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affects Hispanics, who represent a third of teachers and more than half of the district's students.
The moves will be voted on in a special meeting called for 9 p.m. Thursday night. The meeting, which will be held virtually, will include a public comment portion at 9:35 p.m. The vote will happen after the public comments.
The meeting agenda cites the following local health conditions:
- High COVID-19 numbers in Travis County (averaging 367 new cases per day in July 2020)
- Current Austin Public Health Risk Guidance places Austin, Travis County in Stage 4
- 3-4 people of 1000 are estimated to be infected with a current multiplier of 3
- COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the Hispanic population in the Austin-Travis County area. Some 34 percent of the Austin population is Hispanic, while 57 percent of hospitalizations are among Hispanic patients. Thirty-two percent of AISD staff and 56 percent of students identify as Hispanic, according to agenda documents.
"This delay will allow for our community to adjust to the latest in-person requirements in the changing health conditions of our city with safety at the forefront of every decision," reads the agenda item on the vote.
In addition, AISD will limit in-person attendance for the first four weeks of school as already planned but vote Thursday on whether to ask the state for a waiver to allow an additional four weeks, delaying full access to on-campus instruction through early November.
Students without access to technology will still be allowed in-person instruction, as per state guidelines, but full access by all students would be delayed if the board approves the action and the state allows it.
"In the event a board extends the initial four-week transition, at least some on campus instruction must be provided each day during the extended transition period," the agenda reads.
On Monday, Education Austin, the union representing 3,000 AISD employees, asked the district to consider pushing back the official first day of school, which Gov. Greg Abbott said was within the rights of local districts, not health officials.
AISD posted this document with frequently asked questions, updated July 30, about attendance, enrollment, class size and more during the upcoming school year.
Click here to find out more and learn how to participate in the public comment portion of the meeting.
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