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Uvalde school officials incorrectly said there were no limits to enrollment in its virtual academy

A sign that reads "Uvalde High School" hangs under a pavilion leading into the school on July 18, 2022.
Camille Phillips
/
Texas Public Radio

Last week the superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District said any parent who wants to enroll their child in the district’s new virtual academy would be able to.

But according to the Texas Education Agency, Uvalde CISD is still currently required to limit virtual instruction to 10% of its total enrollment.

“TEA put out some (information in response to the pandemic) that (virtual learning) could only be so many students for so much time,” Uvalde Superintendent Hal Harrell said during last Monday’s school board meeting. “They have waived all those pieces, so our virtual academy will be stood up as long as we need to for our families, our students.”

Harrell again stated that there wouldn’t be a limit on virtual enrollment when Uvalde mom Rachel Martinez asked about it during public comments.

“I just want to verify that virtual classes will be without question made available for any student or parent who prefers to go that route, regardless of how many parents enroll or wish to enroll,” Martinez said.

"Absolutely,” Harrell replied. "Kindergarten through grade 12."

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Education News Desk, including H-E-B Helping Here, Betty Stieren Kelso Foundation and Holly and Alston Beinhorn.

But according to TEA, Uvalde has not been granted a waiver. Uvalde CISD has not even applied for one.

When asked to explain the discrepancy, Harrell said he planned to apply for a waiver if the district needed one.

“The 10% (cap) is still in effect,” Harrell said. “If our request exceeds that number, I will apply to the state for a waiver to go beyond the 10%. But I'm going to do what I need to do to make sure we take care of our families and our students and their choice for their educational setting.”

Harrell said he was confident TEA would approve the waiver if Uvalde CISD needs it.

“We've had some strong or some very good verbal conversations. I'm not going to put the (Texas Education) Commissioner on task for that right now, but he's been very, very supportive,” Harrell said.

Families in Uvalde asked for a virtual option because they don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to school after the shooting at Robb Elementary in May.

Some parents don’t trust the district to keep their kids safe after the district’s police officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman. Others are worried about the trauma of sending their kids back to school after their confidence that their school was safe was shattered.

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Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.