Burnet, Marble Falls school districts suspending classes beyond Spring Break

UPDATE MARCH 19, 2020: Per Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order, Marble Falls ISD has suspended classes through April 3.

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Burnet and Marble Falls school district officials announced they are suspending classes beyond the regularly scheduled Spring Break in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect students and staff.

Burnet Consolidated Independent School District is suspending classes until April 3, while Marble Falls ISD is taking the same action “until at least March 29.” MFISD officials will announce an update of school operations by 5 p.m. March 26.

BCISD students were scheduled to return from Spring Break on March 23, while MFISD students were to return March 24.

BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett stated in a letter to parents that the decision to suspend classes March 23 through April 3 came with the awareness that many students and staff have traveled outside of the United States and within the country during Spring Break. Some areas to which people traveled were known to have community-spread COVID-19 cases.

The superintendent added the district was also taking in President Donald Trump’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” advisement in making the decision.

“The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority,” McBurnett added in the letter.

The action extends to all University Interscholastic League events, extracurricular activities, rentals, and school events during the same timeframe.

MFISD Superintendent Chris Allen stated in his letter to parents that the district is using the time the students aren’t in class to check on travel histories during Spring Break and get the latest updates on COVID-19. The time also will be used to “develop detailed instructional plans for an extended closure (if needed), and gain further guidance,” he added.

MFISD students and staff who have traveled out of the state or country, or who have had people visit from out of the state or country, need to complete an online travel form by March 22.

McBurnett pointed out the closure also will give staff time to plan “for continuity of educational services should it become necessary for public schools to close for a longer period of time.”

MFISD officials are also looking for ways to help support students during an extended closure.

“The district is committed to providing educational services to our students for as long as the district has suspended normal operations,” Allen stated. “But it is possible that you and your students will have rich learning experiences by engaging each other in the simple joys of life.”

The Texas Education Agency has canceled the state STAAR assessments for the 2019-20 academic year, and graduation, promotion and retention decisions will be left to local districts. STAAR testing will not have a role in those decisions.

The TEA has also indicated that the overall school year will not need to be extended if “school districts provide instructional supports to students during the closure,” according to McBurnett. “Our staff is working to develop appropriate instructional supports that may be accessed by all students, and we will be sharing plans with you in the days to come.”

BCISD has scheduled to send updates to parents on March 23, March 25, March 30, and April 1.

“I know that there are still more questions than there are answers,” the superintendent acknowledged. “There are likely to be additional communications from campuses or departments, but district updates are guaranteed on these dates.”

BCISD understands that many families also rely on school meals. The district will provide free grab-and-go meals during the closure for all children 18 and younger. The meals will be provided at sites across the district. Officials will provide the list of sites, dates, and times before March 23. The district will also make arrangements for parents to pick up their child’s medication from the school nurse.

MFISD is also offering grab-and-go meals March 24-27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The meals will be available at the Marble Falls Middle School concession stand, located by accessing the school from the stadium entrance; in the Spicewood Elementary School parking lot; and in the Highland Lakes Elementary School parking lot.

Allen reminded families that if they need assistance to get to one of the campuses or beyond what the district is offering, they can contact the Highland Lakes Crisis Network at 325-423-3662 or online.

District officials realize the suspension of classes is an issue for families, but they feel it’s for the right reasons.

“I acknowledge that an unexpected school closure creates a hardship on our parents and staff because of work, childcare and other considerations,” McBurnett stated in the letter. “But I hope you know the factors leading to this decision have been considered with the best interests of everyone involved.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

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