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Austin ISD considers remote-only learning after Thanksgiving break

The district said it is monitoring the situation and routinely consulting with Austin Public Health and Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin ISD said it is considering the option of temporarily transitioning to remote-only instruction for the week following Thanksgiving break, Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, after Travis County entered Stage 4 of its coronavirus risk-based guidelines.

In a letter to the AISD community on Friday, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said the district wants to work with its community to be prepared.

“We have learned many lessons in the past eight months living with COVID-19, including how quickly we may need to pivot as health guidelines are updated,” Elizalde said.

Some students in the district are not thrilled with the idea of learning from home after the holiday. 

"When you're at home, they don't give you the same good learning tools as school," Joy Mitchell, a student at McBee Elementary School, said.

At home, students say its easier to get distracted. In the classroom, students say they have the mindset to work; at home, they could be doing any number of things while also sitting in the class.

"You could tell when people weren't paying attention because when the class would end, there would still be like 10 students that were still there even after the class ended," Jacob Rangel, a junior at William B. Travis High School, said.

Rangel started the year with remote learning, returned to school for two weeks, then a student was exposed to COVID-19, forcing the class to quarantine for two weeks. He finally returned to school Friday before Thanksgiving break started.

"One of the main issues is the internet, because sometimes at home, our internet can go, you know, everywhere," Rangel said. "Everyone's going to have some issues, right? But at school, you don't have to worry about that because you have a teacher there to guide you one on one and not having to go through the possible effect that you might not be hearing any of what they're saying."

Rangel asked his mom, Diana Vera, to return to school because he knew he wasn't succeeding the way he should be.

"They could just fool around at home, be like, 'Now, you know, I'm going to do this or that,' but they're telling us we need this structure," Vera said.

Vera works as a paramedic so understands precautions need to be taken in the case of the coronavirus. Allowing her son back on campus to learn was a difficult decision to make.

"I need my child to be educated, and I need him to pass, and I need him to have a future," Vera said.

The district said it is monitoring the situation and routinely consulting with Austin Public Health and Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

A decision on instruction for the week following Thanksgiving break will be made no later than Wednesday, Nov. 25, according to Elizalde.

RELATED: Austin-Travis County steps back to Stage 4 of COVID-19 risk-based guidelines

“In the event we do transition to remote learning, we want you to be prepared for any scenario that involves your child’s education,” Elizalde told the AISD community. “Please ensure your child brings their AISD and personal devices and school supplies home with them today. Doing so will help us minimize disruption to learning in case we need to move to remote instruction for any amount of time.”

Under Austin-Travis County’s Stage 4 response:

  • Higher-risk individuals (those over the age of 65 and those who have chronic medical conditions) should stay home, except for essential trips such as buying groceries or seeking medical care.
  • Lower-risk individuals should avoid social gatherings, any gatherings greater than 10 people, and non-essential travel.
  • Recommend businesses and restaurants voluntarily reduce capacity to 25% to 50%.
  • Recommend schools limit attendance at sporting events to players, coaches, and parents.

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