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Fort Worth ISD trustees vote not to extend virtual learning another four weeks, hybrid learning to start Oct. 5

The board voted 5-4 not to extend virtual learning.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 10:35 a.m. with additional information from district officials.

Board members for the Fort Worth Independent School District voted not to extend virtual learning an additional four weeks at a specially-called meeting Tuesday night, meaning students and teachers will return to the classroom on Oct. 5.

Going online for another four weeks would have not impacted the district's state funding. 

At the meeting, Superintendent Kent Scribner proposed a hybrid learning option that begins on Oct. 5 where students could choose to go back to the classroom or continue learning virtually.

In August, Scribner made the decision to do virtual learning only for the first four weeks of school. Classes began online on Sept. 8.

Under Scribner's proposal, teachers are required to return to work on Sept. 28.

Students are required to wear masks unless they have a medical condition, and teachers are responsible for handling the curriculum both online and in the classroom.

The board listened intently and questioned the Tarrant County Public Health Department for more than two hours before taking comments from the public, which consisted mostly of parents and teachers.

Public comment also lasted 2 hours. 

Health Director Vinny Taneja joined the meeting via Zoom and relayed that the county’s current recommendations regarding students returning to school lands at virtual learning only.

The county’s positivity rate had been declining until September, but it is now fluctuating between 9 and 10%. The state's positivity rate is falling and now sits at around 6%.

Taneja was asked bluntly by Trustee Anne Darr, “Would you send your children to school right now in-person?”

Taneja responded plainly, “No.”

He continued saying, “Currently there is data showing that trouble is brewing. There are schools in our county with outbreaks, and they’re finding out that this isn’t an easy thing to work through.”

Per a survey done with nearly 37,000 parents in the district, 52% wanted in-person learning and 48% wanted virtual.

That stat was heard vehemently during public comment.

A majority of teachers who spoke requested that in-person learning continue to be postponed. Although, some said they were excited to get back to the classrooms.

Collectively, groans were heard by both sides about the pains regarding virtual learning.

The board went into executive session around 10 p.m. and reconvened at 12:41 a.m. Wednesday. The meeting last for a total of about 7 and a half hours. 

After returning, the board made the vote not to extend virtual learning for an additional four weeks. 

This would have extended virtual learning past Oct. 5 and would have pushed back in-person learning to at least Nov. 2. 

The board voted 5-4 against the extension, with Tobi Jackson, Daphne Brookins, Anne Darr, C.J. Evans, and Norman Robbins voting against the measure. Quinton Phillips, Anael Luebanos, Ashley Paz, and President Jacinto Ramos, Jr. were in favor of extending virtual-only learning.  

Fort Worth ISD is now sending out a parent survey to figure out how many students will continue with virtual learning and how many could be expected to return to classrooms, officials said.