AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the Texas Education Agency could allow districts to delay in-person learning even longer than the three weeks. That is the current extension the TEA is allowing school districts across the state.
Officials at Austin Independent School District, the largest school district in the area, says its 80,000 students will go online for the first three weeks of school. Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD have both sent a letter to TEA expressing concerns.
LISD is requesting 100% virtual learning until the seven-day hospitalization average is five or less. They also want extra money to handle added costs and minimize classroom ratios for social distancing.
Wednesday, more than 100 teachers are planning a sit-in at the Texas State Capitol, just one day after Austin’s Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott warned dozens of students, if not hundreds, could die if students head back to schools this fall. Teachers want Gov. Abbott and the TEA to rethink reopening.
“Why are we not taking a stand? I realize the people who go into teaching are pleasers, they want to make people happy, they want to serve but at some point, we have to serve ourselves,” Darcy Vogt Williams, the protest organizer said.
Vogt Williams is a band director at a Leander ISD school and said she’s specifically worried about classroom safety.
“I don’t want to go to class one day and teach a flute class and end up with a lung problem that I still have when I am 75,” she said.
The TEA released updated guidelines in early July. The new guidelines would allow schools to slowly start back taking three weeks to get kids back to class this fall. But Vogt Williams said if the TEA requires districts to offer 100% in-classroom learning she worries, for some teachers, the safety guidelines will not be possible.
“I understand why they have so much trepidation about stepping back into their classrooms, with potentially classes that were the exact same size as last year, in square footage that was the exact same size as last year,” she said.
As summer break quickly wraps up, and frustration continues to build, Vogt Williams is hopeful Wednesday’s protest sends a message.
“Letting the powers that be know we’re real people, that have real concerns and at this point, it’s on you TEA,” she said.
Vogt Williams said she knows parents also worry about their children’s safety. Despite her concerns, she has no plans to resign and will do what’s needed.