KISD Trustees close KVA: full in-person learning returns Oct. 18

By George Slaughter, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 10/6/21

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to close the Katy Virtual Academy on Oct. 15 during a special meeting held Monday, Oct. 4.

In a statement, the district said Katy Virtual Academy …

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KISD Trustees close KVA: full in-person learning returns Oct. 18

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The Katy ISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to close the Katy Virtual Academy on Oct. 15 during a special meeting held Monday, Oct. 4.

In a statement, the district said Katy Virtual Academy students will return to in-person learning on Oct. 18.

Monday’s vote came after trustees last week voted to defer the decision to possibly extend virtual learning to the end of the fall semester. District officials said the proposal to extend virtual learning came after the Texas Legislature approved the necessary funding for online students, along with the unavailability of vaccines for students ages 11 and under.

Under that proposal, virtual learning would have ended on Dec. 17. All students would return to in-person learning in January, following the end-of-year break. Trustees deferred their vote after two trustees said that there wasn’t enough time for the board to get and assimilate all the necessary information to make a decision.

The district first established the Katy Virtual Academy in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic outbreak compelled school closings. Trustees voted this spring to end virtual learning and return to full in-person learning when school began in August.

With no vaccine available for younger students, and under pressure from parents on both sides of the masking issue, the district in August reestablished optional virtual learning for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

The district encourages, but does not require, students to wear masks on campus. A gubernatorial executive order prevents the district from implementing a mask mandate, but other school districts and local entities are contesting this matter in court.

The district at that time set virtual learning to end by Oct. 15, with everyone returning to in-person learning.

Monday’s vote means the district followed through on its original plan to provide a temporary virtual learning alternative to younger students. Trustee Rebecca Fox said last week she felt the students learn best in a face-to-face environment.

But ending the option of virtual learning for unvaccinated, younger students has its critics.

“The Board of Trustees has left parents with no option to protect their children because they are unwilling to implement safety measures within the schools and are now forcing unvaccinated students back into the classroom,” Eliz Markowitz, who has supported a masking mandate at recent trustee meetings, said on social media.

District officials said last week that the Katy Virtual Academy enrollment has fallen 15% from 4,191 in August to 3,555 students as of Sept. 28.

A district official said the figure has dropped as parents request that their children be transferred back into in-person learning.

As of Oct. 4, the district reported 350 active COVID-19 cases. Of these, 309 were students and 41 were staff. The district reported it had 4,273 cumulative cases since June 1.

To break these numbers down further by type of school:

  • High school: The district reported 48 active cases, 37 of which are students, 11 of which are staff. The district reported 874 cumulative high school cases since June 1.
  • Junior high school: The district reported 74 active cases, 67 of which are students, seven of which are staff. The district reported 973 cumulative junior high school cases since June 1.
  • Elementary school: The district reported 221 active elementary school cases, 205 of which are students, 16 of which are staff. The district reported 2,315 cumulative elementary school cases since June 1.

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