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Austin ISD reports 2 weeks of declining cases; 18% of student population back to in-person learning

AISD superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said in Monday's board meeting the school district's COVID-19 "positive totals" are down to 93.

AUSTIN, Texas — More Austin ISD students are back on campus this week after school leaders gave parents the OK to put kids back in school buildings. AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said they started the "cautious" approach of welcoming back students this week.

Elizalde said about 22% of the district's students were attending class on campus before the call for remote learning. That number dropped to 7% when AISD asked for students to choose remote learning on Jan. 11 because COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were surging in the Austin area. As of Jan. 25, 18% of the AISD student population is back to face-to-face learning, according to Elizalde.

Elizalde said, as of Monday, 11,447 elementary students are back on campus, 1,452 in middle schools and 687 students in high schools.

"We've had two weeks now of declining cases. We had an all-time high, exactly as was predicted following the winter break, of 183 COVID cases – reduced to 131 and down to 93. We are now below the previous high of 96," said Elizalde in Monday's board meeting.

You can find those numbers on AISD's COVID-19 dashboard. 

The numbers you're seeing in the graph "Austin ISD Positive Totals" are staff members and students who were on campus before the break, but a lot of them did not return after the break, according to Austin ISD Health Services Director Alexandra Copeland.

Credit: Austin ISD

"If we have a remote worker, a learner that has been remote before break and after break, that became positive, those are not counted in our dashboard numbers," said Copeland. 

On Thursday, AISD said there has been a 35% decrease in daily positive cases reported since the first week of returning from winter break. The district currently has a 4.01% positivity rate, according to a letter to AISD families. Officials said this is a 43% decrease from the positivity rate that AISD was seeing in the district before and right after winter break. Their highest positivity rate was 7.07%.

AISD said returning to campus is not mandatory and remote off-campus learning will continue to be offered for the rest of the school year. The school district is asking for families who selected remote off-campus learning to contact respective campuses, if they want on-campus learning, so that campuses can prepare and provide a timeline for the arrival of more students.

Credit: AISD

Elizalde said they're still working with hospital providers to get more staff members vaccinated, especially the older adults and staff members with health conditions. She said between 1,400 and 1,500 AISD employees have been vaccinated already. 

"We didn't provide the vaccine, but we provided the access through our partners," said Elizalde. "Austin Public Health is also working to see if they can provide some additional this coming week. So, we're working very closely with them."

AISD is offering mass COVID-19 testing on Friday, Jan. 29. Testing is available to all AISD students and staff, which includes those who learn and work in-person and remotely. The testing on Friday is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Northeast Early College High School (Nelson Field) 7105 Berkman Drive and AISD Central Office at 4000 S. IH-35.

Participants must register here to be guaranteed testing.

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