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Dallas ISD Forging Ahead With Virtual Learning Option For Fall Semester

by Robbie Owens | CBS 11

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Online learning-- a disaster for most students, but a lifeline for a few. So Dallas ISD school leaders want that few to have that option.

"We have a few students that do extremely well in this context, and we need to be able to reach them," says Supt. Michael Hinojosa. "We don't want to lose kids to private school, home school, no school, charter schools or anything else and these families could then navigate our system back and forth."

While urging state lawmakers to fix a funding measure that didn't make it out of the legislative session-- the bipartisan bill died when Democratic lawmakers broke quorum to block the controversial election integrity bill-- Supt. Hinojosa says DISD will move forward with plans for a hybrid virtual academy in the fall, even if they must do so without the additional state funding.

"We know it's important," says Supt. Hinojosa. "We've already got a lot of families signed up to do it. It's going to be a win-win. It's a different way to look at education. It's like going to school and you walk into an Apple store and now you're learning that way."

The Hybrid Virtual Academy would offer a mix of online learning and in-person socialization for a small group of fourth-sixth graders at a facility that would be renovated in Dallas' uptown area. Full time online learning options beyond the hybrid school would still require additional state funding.

But Supt. Hinojosa says he has had encouraging conversations with State Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who can issue waivers to address the funding issue if lawmakers don't act.

"The other thing is that we would be providing this with our own certified teachers," says Supt. Hinojosa, while admitting that the other issue that keeps him awake nights in the Covid-19 learning loss.

"The biggest challenge we have, obviously, is how we get our kids caught up. We have multiple opportunities and plans, but we have to execute those plans."

Still, the head of the largest school district in North Texas says he remains optimistic-- and so should DISD families.

"We see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's not looking like a freight train."

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