Virtual learning

Lewisville ISD is one of several districts in Texas that signed a joint letter urging the Texas Legislature to approve bills that would allow for permanent virtual learning.

In the letter, which was also signed by districts such as Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Plano and Frisco ISDs, officials described the importance of having virtual learning as an option.

Currently virtual learning is not allowed in Texas school districts, although a waiver was granted for the 2020-21 school year because of the pandemic.

“Over the past year, many students have discovered that virtual learning provides them with an opportunity to learn and grow in their own unique way,” the letter states in part. “A number of students have been able to accelerate their learning and pursue outside interests to broaden their experiences. Some students have been able to work to support their family while still focusing on learning. Others, such as elite athletes, have taken advantage of more flexible scheduling to pursue their passions while continuing to prioritize their education. Still others have benefited from the ability to remain enrolled in their own school while receiving treatment for life threatening illnesses or mental health challenges.”

The letter states the vast majority of students are better suited for the in-person environment but said districts would like to have virtual learning as an option.

“LISD and districts across the state have students and families who wish to continue with some form of online learning next school year,” said Shawn Sheehan, government relations liaison for LISD. “Without legislation that addresses online learning, school districts are uncertain of how they will support those students and families. The reasons why they prefer online instruction varies. Many are still apprehensive about COVID and express health and safety concerns.

“Several students, however, have found more success with the online format and appreciate the flexibility available to them,” Sheehan said. “What’s clear is online learning is here to stay and we need the Texas Legislature to define the capacity in which schools can serve students online along with identifying funding mechanisms and accountability measures.”

While LISD has been monitoring several bills that deal with virtual learning, the district said House Bill 1468, which was authored by State Rep. Keith Bell (R-Kaufman) is the main bill it’s following. The bill, if approved, would allow students who use the virtual model to count in the calculations the school district uses for average daily attendance and state funding. A public hearing in the Senate Education Committee was scheduled for HB 1468 Friday.  

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