If approved, Senate Bill 15 would allow school districts to offer virtual learning option

Virtual learning
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Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:04 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Pending Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval, Senate Bill 15 would give districts the option to provide virtual instruction this school year.

Prior to the school year starting, Bryan ISD had discussed the option of a virtual academy but plans were put on hold when the legislative session ended after House Democrats staged a walkout ending the possible approval of House Bill 1468.

During a board meeting Tuesday, staff presented plans of a virtual academy should SB 15 be approved with updated guidelines.

“We are getting ready to seek interest to see what students out there, what families out there would like to see this as a viable option for their child. It will really depend on student interest,” said Barbara Ybarra, Bryan ISD Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. “It’s also important to note the legislature put into parameters by which a student would be eligible for participation in a virtual academy and so the district would have qualifying criteria that mirrors the recommendations of the legislation.”

The state would require students who spent 50 percent of last year learning virtual to have passed STARR testing the previous grade level applicable, maintained a “C” or higher in all core classes, and had 90 percent attendance with no more than 10 unexcused absences in a six month period.

Bryan ISD would also apply these requirements to those applying who were in-person learning the previous year.

For students who do not meet these requirements, the Bryan ISD Virtual Academy committee will review all applications and may schedule conference calls with parents to discuss the student’s eligibility.

The state would prohibit teachers from being required to teach both remote and in-person in the same class period.

Districts would also need to establish accountability ratings for the virtual school program.

Staff discussed with the board that Bryan ISD would allow only K-6 grades to qualify for the virtual academy based on the interest of families and those ages not eligible to be vaccinated.

“In light of the current health situation where students under the age of 12 are unable to be vaccinated we’ve seen a lot of requests in those grade ranges to make that the priority if we’re able to operate a virtual school,” said Ybarra.

Virtual Academy students would be required to attend classes in real-time and follow the daily schedule set by the school. Students would still be required to take all state and local assessment testing (STARR, TELPAS, etc.) at a district building.

Students accepted into the virtual academy would be required to attend until at least December.

Students who test positive with COVID-19 or quarantining would continue with Schoology assignments and are still considered “in-person”.

If approved by the state, the district will start the application/reviewing process for both students and teachers with an ideal start date on Sept. 28.

“We would need to take that to the board of trustees because of the expenditures tied to that staffing analysis should the board wish to proceed at that point and there is significant interest then the board could take action on the 20th,” said Ybarra.

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