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Austin School District Returns To In-Person Classes Next Fall With No Virtual Learning Options

Third-grade teacher Christina Tapia teaches a hybrid of in-person and virtual students from her classroom at Boone Elementary School in October.
Michael Minasi
Third-grade teacher Christina Tapia teaches a hybrid of in-person and virtual students at Boone Elementary School in October. The Austin school district said Friday that all students will return to class next fall and that it won't offer virtual learning.

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The Austin school district announced Friday that it won’t offer virtual learning options this fall and that all students will attend classes in person.

The district had considered keeping a virtual option after the pandemic but decided against it after the Texas Legislature failed to pass House Bill 1468, which would have allowed schools to offer virtual learning and get state funding for it.

Every school in Texas gets money based on the average number of students who attend classes in person every day, but when the pandemic hit, the Texas Education Agency allowed them to count virtual attendance to calculate their funding.

HB 1468 would have allowed schools to continue doing that on a permanent basis to a certain extent, and without that legislation, it's more difficult for schools to offer a virtual option.

The Round Rock and Hays school districts have also said they won’t offer a virtual-learning option. AISD and other school districts have signed a letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott to consider taking up virtual learning as an option when legislators meet in special sessions later this year.

With COVID-19 cases falling dramatically in Travis County and by continuing pandemic safety measures, district officials say they believe they can offer a safe experience when students return in the fall.

“By following guidelines from Austin Public Health, the CDC and more, we’re confident we can safely reopen to all our students,” AISD Chief of Schools Anthony Mays said.

At the end of this school year, 60% of elementary students, 34.5% of middle-school students and 9.2% of high school students already had returned to in-person classes, district officials said.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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