AISD Plans for Next Year

Ella Lilly, Staff Writer

As the Austin Independent School District (AISD) works to construct a new calendar for the 2022-2023 school year, principal Stacia Crensenzi addressed that rumors of seven-period days and early-release Wednesdays have been circulating. Students and teachers at LASA do not yet know what future schedules could look like and how it will change.

In December, AISD proposed a seven-period schedule in which students would attend seven classes every day, and teachers would teach during six out of seven periods each day. AISD media relations specialist Edward Villa explained that AISD decided to abandon the proposal after hearing feedback from families and staff that they wanted all eight classes.

“We’ve had a mixed reaction across our stakeholders,” Villa said, “but really, the decision was implemented with two things in mind, and that’s a balanced budget and student success.”

After the seven-period schedule was discarded, principal Crescenzi said the updated proposal is to keep the eight period total with a four classes per day schedule. However, AISD proposed increasing the number of periods that teachers teach, amounting to more students per teacher. 

“You would have all your teachers teach seven out of eight, so they’d be sort of averaging about 200 kids a teacher total,” Crescenzi said. “And if you keep a block schedule, then one day they’d have no breaks except for lunch, and the other day they’d get a period off.”

Government teacher Ronny Risinger does not like the switch proposed by AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde. Risinger feels this switch is putting more work on the teachers to grade additional students’ work, but with less planning periods and time.

“What Elizalde is proposing is to take away one of those conference planning and prep periods, so that one day of the blocked schedule, you would teach all four classes and be teaching all day long with no breaks except a state mandated duty free lunch,” Risinger said. “If you think about it, how would you even answer emails? How can you grade if you’re just teaching all day long?”

With an increase in the number of classes they teach, teachers would be responsible for educating more students. Crescenzi said LASA is currently staffed at about 28 students per teacher, so the new proposal would also see over a one-student increase per class for the additional period taught. This means that teachers would have more than 30 total additional students than they currently have. Crescenzi said this move, among other things, will put more stress on teachers and could cause them to consider leaving the district because of this, according to Crescenzi.

“For some teachers, they may decide to just leave education, like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” Crescenzi said. “I think others might look to find districts that are not in the same financial constraints as AISD.”

On Dec. 21, AISD confirmed their plans for a pay increase for teachers, independent from the schedule proposal. Teachers do not know specifically if there will be an increase in pay or the amount since the pay increase proposal will not be voted on by the Board of Trustees until June 2022. Therefore, it is not guaranteed that teachers will be paid more to compensate for teaching more periods a day.

Amidst all the concerns that students and teachers have reported, Crescenzi concluded that her goal is to talk to her staff once the final decision is made. She hopes to find a fair solution in which everyone feels comfortable with. 

“My plan, once I get my staffing, is to have a conversation with the staff to say, ‘I’m uncomfortable with some people having two conference periods, and some people having one,’” Crescenzi said. “So as a staff, I want us to make a decision either everybody’s teaching seven out of eight, at a little smaller class size, or everybody’s gonna stay with six out of eight and slightly larger classes. In my mind, I would be very uncomfortable with some teachers having more planning time than others. It would just be a campus decision.”

As of the publication date of this article, AISD is having meetings with teachers and parents about the proposal. Amid concerns from staff, Elizalde said the district is considering cutting about 250 positions to earn enough money to keep teachers’ planning periods. While the futures for periods, planning time, and personnel is not concrete now, district officials and teachers will continue to power through. The final budget is expected to be approved in June 2022.