Frisco ISD has announced that it will be introducing a temporary online option for the upcoming fall semester for students in sixth grade and below.
The new option comes “due to rapidly changing conditions related to COVID-19,” the district stated. A Tuesday letter to parents said the option is not available for those in grades seven through 12 because individuals aged 12 and older are eligible and “strongly encouraged” to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Students who opt in for the online option will start the school year on Aug. 16.
“On-campus instruction will continue to be available as the default learning environment for students in all grade levels starting with the first day of school next Thursday, August 12,” FISD stated.
The online learning option will be available for those grades during the first nine weeks of school and will be re-evaluated and extended as necessary until children under 12 years old are authorized to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the district has said.
“Once a vaccine becomes widely available for children under 12, online instruction will no longer be offered,” Frisco ISD stated in the letter.
Families have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to submit an enrollment application for the online option through the student portal.
“No action is required if you would like your child to attend classes on campus,” the district stated on a webpage dedicated to the program. “If you do not complete this process by the deadline, it will be automatically assumed that your student will participate in on-campus instruction during the 2021-22 school year.”
Students new to Frisco ISD can sign up for the program after Aug. 5 through the 2021-22 new student registration process. If a parent previously unenrolled their student from Frisco ISD and would like to participate in online learning, a parent must re-enroll their student as a ‘new student’ and select online learning within the new student registration form, the district stated.
The announcement comes after Frisco ISD had to walk back plans for a full-time virtual academy after state legislation that would have allowed for such a platform failed to pass in time.
Tuesday’s announcement of a temporary online platform for specific grades comes as attention has swiveled to the potential impact of the COVID-19 delta variant.
“In light of the new circumstances, there is some hope that the state may still fund online learning for the 2021-22 school year,” Frisco ISD stated on its website. “If that is not the case, FISD will absorb the cost associated with offering a temporary online learning option for students in grades EC-6.”
For every student enrolled in online learning in the fall semester, the district has said it expects to lose about $3,700 or $40 per student per day in funding, which could easily become tens of millions of dollars in lost funding depending on enrollment numbers.
The district has said if state supplemental Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are not enough to offset the lost funding, FISD will use a small surplus from its approved 2021-22 budget and, if necessary, tap into reserve funds.
FISD has provided an FAQ page regarding the program on its website.