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Frisco ISD to Offer Virtual Learning Amid ‘Changing' COVID-19 Conditions

A virtual option will not be offered to students in grades 7-12 because the COVID-19 is authorized for people 12 years old and older, the district says

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Parents of students in grades six and below will have the option for their children to learn virtually to start the school year due to the "rapidly changing conditions" of COVID-19 in Texas, Frisco ISD announced Tuesday.

The district said the option to learn virtually would not be offered for students in seventh grade and above because the COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use in people 12 years old and older.

The deadline for parents to enroll their students in virtual learning is Thursday at 11:59 p.m.

Parents who unenrolled their student from Frisco ISD, but are interested in returning virtually, will need to re-enroll as a new student, the district said.

The first day of school for in-person students in Frisco ISD is Aug. 12; for online students, the first day will be Aug. 16.

While parents and teachers around the state would prefer students back in the classroom, Frisco ISD officials said online learning worked last year.

"As a group, our virtual learners did better than our in-person learners even when we account for socioeconomic status, they still perform better," Frisco ISD Superintendent Mike Waldrip said.

Waldrip said their success virtually and the rising COVID-19 numbers in North Texas made it a simple choice. Virtual learning has to happen, even if the district has to pay for it without state help. They're counting on federal and local dollars, for now, but hoping state lawmakers step up.

The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state has climbed to levels not reached since February. Experts say the delta variant now accounts for the majority of coronavirus cases in Texas.

"The way this disease appears to be affecting children, people are just concerned about sending their kids to school and I understand that and feel like we need to provide that option," he said.

Waldrip said the need for online learning is there, and when done right, it works. He said he hoped lawmakers would step in and help districts pay for it.

"I do wish Gov. Abbott would consider putting the virtual learning bill back on the agenda for a special session," Waldrip said. "It went through both chambers and was sitting right there. I think people agreed we needed it."

Waldrip said Frisco ISD students who aren't doing well virtually will have to come back in person. The district wants to stay on top of progress.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an executive order that prohibits school districts from mandating masks. Two different Texas teachers associations have called on Abbott to allow local control, while many North Texas districts are taking the precautions they can take and encouraging the use of face coverings.

"We thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we navigate these times," Frisco ISD said in a statement. "The District is hopeful for as normal a school year as possible and looks forward to welcoming your student for another great year of learning."

In the letter posted on the district website, Frisco ISD emphasized that new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics is for all people above the age of 2 to wear a mask in schools -- regardless of vaccination status.

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