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Austin ISD: What to expect as school starts

District officials delayed the first day of virtual learning to Aug. 24. In-person learning for Austin ISD still starts on Aug. 17.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: Austin ISD sent a letter on Aug. 11 announcing the virtual learning option would be delayed to an Aug. 24 start date. In-person learning started on Aug. 17 as planned. New student orientation for the virtual learning option will also be delayed by one week, from Friday, Aug. 13 to Friday, Aug. 19. 

While certain grade levels at Austin ISD have an option for virtual learning, many students are now returning to campus. The first day of school for in-person learners is Aug. 17.

And with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising amid the spread of the delta variant, many parents are wondering what the district is doing to ensure safety. 

RELATED: LIST: Which Central Texas school districts are offering virtual learning this upcoming school year

Kids in kindergarten through sixth grade will have a virtual learning option, but parents were required to get that application for virtual enrollment in by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5.

Here's what to expect for the upcoming school year.

When does school start for Austin ISD?

The first day of school for in-person learning is Tuesday, Aug. 17. Austin ISD sent a letter on Aug. 11 announcing the virtual learning option would be delayed to an Aug. 24 start date. 

What will school look like for virtual students in K-6th grade?

The day will start with home instruction from the teacher and then throughout the day, there will be a mix of independent or synchronous instruction, which will be done through Zoom. The day will close out with instruction from the teacher and time for questions to set up for the next school day.

For virtual learners, services like special education, dual-language, bilingual, social-emotional learning programs, music, art and physical education will all be available. 

The day will look not entirely the same as in-person, but the district said they are trying their hardest to make it look as similar.

Last year, teachers taught virtually and in person at the same time. This year, there will be stand-alone virtual teachers at almost every campus. This means no teachers will be teaching both virtually and in person at the same time.

What will school look like for in-person students this year?

Austin ISD decided Aug. 9 to require masks for all students, staff and visitors, going against Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order.

Masks will be required on school buses, due to the federal mandate of masks on transportation. Austin ISD's Executive Director of Transportation Kris Hafezizadeh shared new bus protocols for the new school year. If a child under 2 is on a bus, they do not need to wear a mask. Mask exemptions also apply to people who cannot wear a mask because of a disability and people "for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations."

Hafezizadeh said the staff will clean high-touch areas on the school bus after each trip. When buses return after elementary students are dropped off, buses will get additional cleaning. Every two weeks, buses will be deep-cleaned.

There are air filters in every classroom, and staff is encouraging everyone to frequently wash their hands. There will be designated seating in classrooms to ensure proper social distancing.

Temperature checks will no longer be required because "research and science have shown that's not really as effective" in determining whether someone has COVID-19 and outside temperatures affect the temperature readings.

Students and staff are encouraged to screen themselves for COVID-19 at home. If students at school have symptoms, there will be rapid testing on all campuses.

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