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Austin ISD encouraging remote instruction until the end of next week

The district is asking parents to consider having kids learn remotely but doing so is not mandatory.

AUSTIN, Texas — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Austin area continue to surge, Austin ISD is encouraging parents to have their children learn remotely until Jan. 22.

In a letter to the Austin ISD community on Thursday, Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said:

"This week as our community is in Stage 5 of the COVID-19 pandemic, we encouraged you to have your children engage in remote instruction, if possible. As I mentioned in my communication yesterday, preliminary results have shown that this was successful in limiting attendance and allowing for extensive social distancing by those who are needing to be served on campus.

"We are providing this weekly update with guidance for the week to come and have determined: For the week of Jan. 19-22, if you are able to do so, please continue to have your children learn in a remote off-campus setting.

"We will continue to support you and we will welcome any student who needs to be at our campus, regardless of the reason with open arms."

According to a letter sent to Brentwood Elementary School parents by Principal Substitute Kim Placker, Brentwood is encouraging all families to consider taking advantage of remote off-campus instruction for the remainder of this week and possibly next week. AISD is encouraging the same for this week but off-campus instruction isn't mandatory.

Placker said the decision was made in partnership with Austin Public Health and City of Austin and Travis County officials to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 in the community and reduce the stress on local hospitals.

Placker said, in Brentwood's case, if a student is learning on campus or they were scheduled to return to campus this week or next, their teacher will be reaching out to confirm whether the student's parents will be delaying their return to campus. If a student is staying remote, their teacher will need to ensure the student has their device and charger with them to continue logging on daily.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde also released a letter on Monday:

Dear Austin ISD Families, 

As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase and tighter restrictions throughout the region have become necessary, Austin ISD is joining the call to action by encouraging parents to have their students participate in remote off-campus instruction for the remainder of this week. This decision was made in partnership with Austin Public Health and city and county officials to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. 

We are asking all families to keep their children in a remote-learning setting beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 12 and for the remainder of the week. Please remember, our schools will remain open to families who need access to our in-person services, such as special needs, etc. 

Our commitment to our community’s health and safety is unwavering:

•    COVID-19 Tests: Austin ISD will offer mass, drive-through, COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, Jan. 13 and Thursday, Jan. 14 at AISD Central Office and Northeast Early College High School (Nelson Field). Testing is available for all staff and students that usually learn/work in-person. Please register for a drive-through COVID-19 testing time HERE.

•    Food Access: AISD will continue to offer 7-day meal distribution for children and caregivers to ensure access to nutritious meals. Please view our list of meal distribution sites.

•    Wi-Fi Access: AISD will continue to deploy Wi-Fi buses to offer Internet access to our students in communities across Austin. Please note that access will be available from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Please view a map of our community Wi-Fi service.   

We will continue to keep you informed and appreciate your understanding and flexibility. 

Thank you for supporting our school communities. 

Working together, we will continue to help keep each other and our communities safe,

Stephanie S. Elizalde, Ed.D.

This announcement from Austin ISD on Monday came one day after the Austin area reached its seventh consecutive day of COVID-19 patients exceeding 15% of hospital capacity, which, under an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott, triggers local businesses and retailers to roll back capacity from 75% to 50%.

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