Discussion of the coronavirus dominated Monday’s meeting of the Brownwood school board as the rescheduled extension to Spring Break ended its first day.
School officials hope to see the resumption of classes Monday, but that will be contingent upon Brown County remaining virus-free at the end of the week, superintendent Dr. Joe Young said.
“If we can do that, we still anticipate that there will be some parents who want to keep their kids at home,” Young said. “We certainly understand that. We don’t fault them for that and we won’t penalize kids for that.
“But we also don’t want to penalize them by not having instructional support. So we want to be able to have things for parents who want to keep their kids at home.”
Also Monday, the school board approved a resolution to pay hourly workers in the event of an emergency school shutdown.
Teachers are spending the week developing contingency plans for providing online lessons if school can’t resume next week, Young said.
“We don’t have any (coronavirus) outbreaks in Brown County,” Young said. “We’re not at the point to keep people isolated to keep them from getting sick. We don’t know that that’s needed at this point.
“But what we do know, as Brown County superintendents, is pre-k through 12 education is not used to (being done) online. They’re not used to not coming to a building. That’s hard for 5-year-olds and so we needed some time, we needed some days to get something in place.”
Young said there may only be 50 percent attendance if parents keep their children home next week.
“We certainly encourage them to make the decision they feel is best, but if we have 50 percent attendance, that means 50 percent of the kids are sitting at home,” Young said.
“So we have to provide services, instructional services, special ed services, and it’s not going to be like we’ve been doing school in Brownwood or in the state of Texas. There’s no book that we have that we’re trying to read this out of. We’re just trying to do the best that we can and listen to the input of everybody and make the best decisions moving forward.”
Referring to the statewide halt of STAAR testing, Young said that was “the right move … that’s not something that we need to be focused on at this point in time. We’ve got other issues that are more pressing. At the same time, there’s going to be a domino effect on some things that they don’t really have answers for, and we’ll see how that goes.”
Young said Brownwood campuses had worked hard to prepare for STAAR testing.
“(Principal Dee Dee Wright) at East Elementary was looking forward to the STAAR test,” Young said. “We had some teachers, from the things I saw posted on their personal Facebook pages, who were pretty excited about their benchmark results or the gains they were making in their classrooms, and they will not be shown this year.”
Young said those efforts haven’t been futile as educating children lasts from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. “It’s not wasted education and it will show up next year as huge gains, so we’re still excited about that,” Young said.
The state will not require the school year to be extended to make up for time lost to the coronavirus, and the district will not be penalized its state allotment for average daily attendance, Young said.
“The state of Texas has been very flexible in the way that we’re going to be able to make this up, and as long as we can show that we have instructional methods in place, then we’re not going to have to make this time up,” Young said.
“We’re going to use our two bad weather days. We’re going to apply for a COVID waiver, which the state allows us to do for these few days that we’re missing. (If) we start back next week, whether kids are here or not, as long as we’re providing those instructional services, then we’re not going to lose out on instruction.”
Regarding the state allotment based on attendance, Young said, “the state of Texas and the federal government have been very good to say those students who may become ill, or have family members who are ill, or even those parents who say ‘I’m not going to risk it’ — they will be counted present for school funding purposes.
“This is not about money. This is about getting our community healthy and our kids healthy, and so the state has done a good job to say ‘don’t worry about the money, we’re going to take care of that.'”
Young repeated a quote he said he'd heard. “In the end we will not know if we over-reacted, but we will definitely be able to tell if we under-reacted,” Young said.
“So I think our community is doing what we need to do. If we are taking measures and things don’t blow up and we don’t have a huge issue with this in the future, that’s what we want. So maybe what we’re doing worked. I don’t think that’s necessarily a sign that we over-reacted. Maybe what we did worked.”