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Austin ISD School Board Votes To Give Superintendent Sole Power To Extend Winter Break

The seal that hangs in the Austin ISD board of trustees room
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
The Austin ISD board of trustees voted Wednesday to allow Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde to decide on her own whether in-person learning should be allowed after the winter break.

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The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees voted to give Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde the power to decide whether to resume classes Jan. 5 without its approval.

Elizalde has proposed extending winter break by one week as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19 after the holidays. Typically, the school board must approve any calendar changes, but its vote Wednesday allows her to make that decision over winter break without the board meeting again.

Austin and Travis County moved into the highest risk category for the virus Wednesday, so Elizalde wants to consider how to make sure there isn’t spread in school buildings when students return.

The Texas Education Agency requires school districts to offer an in-person learning option at all times, so AISD cannot switch to online only if it wants to continue receiving state funding.

Elizalde told the board there are no good options in this situation, but state funding is crucial to maintain operations. One option she is considering is cancelling classes altogether the first week of January; the district would still receive funding, but it would have to make up the missed time.

Most families surveyed said they would rather make up any time at the end of the school year.

Elizalde said she would notify parents as soon as possible with her decision.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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