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All Waxahachie ISD students will resume in-person learning on Nov. 2, district says

Only students with medical documentation for themselves or a member of their household will be exempt, district officials said.
Credit: WFAA

The Waxahachie Independent School District is moving all students to in-person learning beginning Nov. 2, district officials said Thursday.

The district said data on academic performance and attendance shows students attending virtually are underperforming compared to their classmates attending in-person.

Approximately 18.7% of students attend virtually, the district said.

Exemptions will only be made for students with proper medical documentation for themselves or someone in their household, the district said. 

Parents should inform their child's principal of their health issues by Oct. 23, officials said. 

Initially, the district considered allowing students to meet certain attendance and performance benchmarks to remain at home, but after guidance from the Commissioner of Education was released Thursday, the district decided against it. 

The commissioner said districts should not discontinue online learning "in a way that only targets struggling students," according to a letter from the superintendent.

Waxahachie ISD isn't the first district to make adjustments due to disparities in performance between in-person and online students. 

Joshua ISD reported that 40% of its virtual learners were failing at least one class. Mineral Wells ISD and Godley ISD previously announced that students failing online classes would have to return to campus.

At the same time, the state and region are experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, and some local officials are even recommending a return to all virtual learning. This leaves school leaders and parents in a difficult position, as they weigh learning and health risks.

The district said in-person students have complied with masking, hand washing and socially distancing guidelines.

"We are confident in our safety precautions, even with more students returning to campuses," said Superintendent Bonnie Cain.

Parents can consider alternatives, such as homeschooling, transferring to a district with open enrollment, or enrolling in an online school if they don't want their child to return in-person, the district said. 

Students who don't withdraw and don't return on Nov. 2, except those who qualify for a medical exemption, will be considered absent, according to the district.