GISD board discusses plans for start of school
Details about what the 2020-2021 school year will look like at Groesbeck ISD are slowly being made available, as guidance by Commissioner of Education Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is issued regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and district administration collaborates to find the best approach to education in these unprecedented times. The GISD Board of Trustees met for their regular meeting on Monday, July 20, via ZOOM video conference and discussed changes to employee and student handbooks, new buses and plans for the upcoming year.
Superintendent Dr. James Cowley announced that the district’s “Word from the Herd: Installment One” video that was posted on YouTube last week to provide information about school reopening plans had been viewed more than 800 times. He shared that the district still plans to begin August 12, and that in-person as well as remote instruction will be offered. As explained in the video, sanitation and social distancing procedures are in place, masks will be required of GISD staff and students in 4th grade and up, and more. The second installment of Word from the Herd will be posted on Thursday, July 23, after the administration conducts meetings with campus leaders to streamline instruction procedures.
Assistant Superintendent Diana Freeman spoke to the board about results of a district survey conducted from June 4 to June 17, asking for parents’ input regarding the upcoming school year in consideration of the impact of COVID-19.
“Roughly 80% of the people in our district indicated they would send their students back to school as long as we had the appropriate social distance and health protocols in place,” Freeman said. “You also notice that the vast majority of the respondents said that they were comfortable sending their students on a bus if they needed transportation, but it was not quite half that indicated they would need transportation.”
She stated that the survey results (which more than 400 parents participated in) encouraged the district’s decision to hold summer school, which has been successful thus far, but contested that these surveys were completed before the spike in cases statewide.
There was also some discussion about whether or not the band should travel to away games, as UIL requires 10 feet of distance between band members and some stadiums may not be able to accomodate the band due to limited bleacher space. Even at Groesbeck High Stadium, the band will have to be relocated from their usual bleacher position in order to be in compliance with UIL regulations.
“I recognize the fact that Collin [Anderson] needs to have his band be able to practice, so if the band did not travel to away games, what we would do is, on Thursday nights, they would march at the JV games, and then of course Home Varsity games. That way they’re still getting to march every week, he’ll be able to record and film it just like he did at the away games.”
Board members were in agreement about keeping the band as involved and active as possible, whether that be at JV games or away games if possible. Cowley stated that he would have Anderson reach out to other schools in our district to plan whether seating accommodations would be possible.
Elementary Assistant Principal Cindy Ensminger presented the board with minor changes to the Employee Handbook, which included updating the board meeting schedule, staff directory and pay schedule, as well as adding guidelines for microbuses and activity buses, and specific guidelines against frayed or torn jeans. Regarding the Student
Regarding the Student Handbook, High School Assistant Principal Staci Kirk the Cowley outlined a handful of changes (mainly at the high school level) the district felt were necessary. These included:
Limiting deliveries of food/ drink to students on campus to parents/guardians;
Allowing both male and female students to wear earring jewelry, in an effort to avoid discrimination;
Not allowing smart watches to be worn by students on campus; though the use of phones is limited to passing periods and lunch, students are using smart watches to respond to texts, take pictures and videos in class;
Requiring students under the driving age to be signed out by parents/guardians, and for licensed students to bring a note from parents/guardians in order to sign themselves out;
Requiring parent/guardian permission to be provided for visitors who wish to have lunch with students, and said visitors must provide photo ID.
These changes did not require a vote of approval by the board to be implemented, only a consensus, which the board came to. Cowley noted that some details of the Student Handbook were still under revision, such as graduation procedures, class rank, valedictorian/salutatorian and top 10% determinations, but would be completed before the start of school.
Cowley also provided to the board with information about TEA’s technology program Project Connectivity, which will cover 50% of the cost of hot spots devices that the district plans to offer students without internet access. The 500 hot spots (at $185 each) will allow one year of unlimited data and will likely be utilized heavily this year, as remote learning becomes the main form of instruction for some students.
The program also offered some reimbursement for a different model of Chromebooks than the district had planned to purchase, but Cowley and the tech department opted to order the slightly more expensive model with longer warranty and better hardware for a smaller portion of reimbursement.
Director of Transportation Dayne Duncan told the board that six of the new buses have arrived in the district and the remainder of ordered buses are complete or on the line nearing completion at the Thomas Bus warehouse and should arrive by August 1. Though a video showcasing the exterior and interior of the new buses had been taken to share with the board, technical difficulties did not allow the video to be played so it was sent to board members and administration via email. Some of the safety features on these buses include fewer blind spots, a stop sign on the back of the bus that lights up when the bus is stopped, stairs that are easier for small riders to climb, driver mitigation features (such as their seat vibrating when the speed limit is exceeded), and more. Sale of the current fleet of buses has been postponed until all new buses are in-district, so Cowley stated that decisions regarding that sale will be made at a future meeting.
In other business the board:
Approved the consent agenda;
Ordered the Groesbeck ISD Trustee Election on November 3, 2020;
Approved the Student Code of Conduct (which underwent no changes from the previous year);
Reviewed Academic and Athletic Guidelines (which will be voted on at a later date).
The next regular meeting is scheduled for August 17 at 6 p.m.