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Frisco, Plano districts suspend plans for virtual learning after funding bill isn't signed into law

The districts had previously said they were making virtual learning plans for the coming school year. House Bill 1468 would have provided funding for such programs.

PLANO, Texas — Updated at 5:58 p.m. to include information on additional districts.

Plano and Frisco independent school districts told parents Tuesday that students won't have the option to attend virtual school next year after a bill from the Texas legislative session wasn't signed into law.

House Bill 1468 would have funded virtual learning/academies for districts and charter schools for eligible students. The bill was authored by Rep. Keith Bell whose district covers Forney. It was passed by the House and Senate during the latest legislative session, which ended May 30. But changes were made to the bill, and it didn't receive another vote after House Democrats walked out of the chamber to kill the elections bill. HB1468 also died as a result.

Frisco ISD announced Tuesday that it is unable to have a virtual learning option for students in the school year.

The district had intended to launch a permanent Virtual School for grades 3-12. 

"Expanded opportunities for students through online and blended learning was a priority for Frisco ISD prior to the pandemic and will continue to be a priority for the District in the future," the district said. "As many families have discovered, online learning offers students additional choice and flexibility and is preferred by some for a variety of reasons."

All Frisco students will attend classes in person starting with the first day of school on Aug. 12.

Plano ISD emailed parents Tuesday, saying the plans for their Virtual Academy were suspended.

The district said it waited to hear if the Texas Education Agency would provide a waiver for districts to offer a virtual option. 

"On June 3, 2021, the Texas Education Agency informed the district that a funding waiver for remote learning will not be an option," the district said. Regrettably, this means that Plano ISD will not be able to offer a Virtual Academy this fall."

In April, WFAA reported that 300 students at Denton ISD signed up for a virtual academy for kindergarten through 8th grade for the 2021-22 school year. The district is trying to request funding for virtual students.

WFAA reached out to other districts to learn whether the bill impacted any plans for virtual learning.

Allen ISD

The district did not plan to offer at-home virtual learning for the upcoming school year.

"We are excited for all students to attend classes on our campuses for the upcoming school year," the district said in an email. "We look forward to refocusing our efforts to provide an excellent educational experience for students that support their social, emotional, and academic growth."

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD

The district will return to 100% in-person instruction in the fall and is not proposing a virtual option.

"As always, we will continue to work individually with our families to support any medical-based needs for their children just as we did prior to the pandemic," the district said.

Ennis ISD

The district has not offered a virtual learning option since January and does not anticipate offering it this upcoming school year.

Joshua ISD

Joshua ISD has been preparing to return to 100% in-person instruction for next year.

"Our data from the Fall of 2020 indicated that many of our virtual students were struggling away from the classroom; which is why we made the decision to bring back students with a failing semester average back in school for the spring, unless they had a medical waiver from the TEA," the district said.

Lake Dallas ISD

Lake Dallas ISD will have all students on campus for the upcoming year.

"None of our plans have changed, but if future legislative sessions allow virtual learning options, we will consider what's best for students, families and teachers before taking any action," the district said.

Lewisville ISD

Lewisville ISD said about 1,000 students and families were interested in virtual learning, with a majority of them for continued health and safety concerns. The district will make a final decision in the next few weeks.

"We believe school districts should have the opportunity to meet the needs of all the students we serve and receive full funding those students, whether they attend in person or virtually," the district said. "We are profoundly disappointed an option to provide that service to millions of Texas public school students could not be agreed upon during this legislative session."

Garland ISD

The district said, "Garland ISD fiercely advocated for the 87th Legislature to approve HB 1468, which would allow school districts to offer virtual learning and receive funding for such programs. Unfortunately, the bill expired before receiving a vote. This bill was crucial to enable GISD to provide and fund our ICON Virtual School program. Without this bill, virtual schools are not approved or accredited, including our ICON Virtual School program."

"The Garland ISD team worked tirelessly to make this option a reality for our students and families. Although this outcome is a huge disappointment for all of us, we are hopeful that we will offer our virtual school program in future years, pending legislative approval. Students who registered for ICON are still enrolled in their 2021-22 school and program of choice."