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BCISD has no plans to go fully remote as officials monitor cases

BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett

Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett said he is committed to doing everything he can to keep BCISD’s campuses open to in-person learning because he realizes the value of the option and the burden remote-only learning can put on families. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

While many Texas school districts have announced they are returning to remote learning, Burnet Consolidated Independent School District officials said they have no plans to close campuses.

In a social media post to the community, BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said he has been asked many times if he intends to stop in-person learning.

“My answer is that we do not have any plans to go fully remote after the Thanksgiving break or at the start of the second semester in January,” he stated. “Rather, our plan is to continue to work together to keep schools open for as many days of the 2020-2021 school year as possible, and based on the weekly calls with the (Texas) Commissioner of Education, the state is going to leave decisions about in-person learning and remote instruction up to each individual school district.”

During the Nov. 16 board of trustees meeting, McBurnett told the board that, at that time, the district has had 34 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff since the beginning of the year, approximately 15 of which are considered active cases. He also noted that the district has had about 85 students and staff who are or had been quarantined due to close contact with a positive person. 

As of Nov. 20, the number of confirmed cases had increased to 36 with 90 students and staff considered as being in close contact.

Of those who were quarantined, McBurnett said none had developed into a COVID-19 case. The district posts its COVID-19 numbers online each week. 

“We have seen very little evidence of any spread taking place within campuses,” he told the board during the Nov. 16 meeting. 

He noted that Llano ISD had announced earlier that same day that it was switching to remote-only learning Nov. 17-20, with Thanksgiving break the following week. He added that Fredericksburg ISD was closing three of its campuses due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in its community.

McBurnett said the district does not have a magic number for cases to close a grade level, campus, or the entire district.

Instead, officials monitor the COVID-19 numbers each day and review each case or quarantine on an individual basis. McBurnett stressed that the district and campus administration look at the context of each case to make decisions. 

He is also in regular contact with Burnet County Local Health Authority Dr. Jules Madrigal. 

“Our goal is to keep the campuses open, the district fully open to the greatest extent possible,” McBurnett told the board.

However, the district would make operational adjustments where necessary. As an example, McBurnett said this could mean combining a bus route if some of the drivers are out due to COVID-19. 

He did point out the district’s substitute teacher numbers are limited, but campuses are finding ways to ensure every class is covered. BCISD could always use additional substitute teachers, and more information on how to apply can be found online

McBurnett said the district is also in talks with a “possible partner” to provide up to 600 rapid COVID-19 tests, which would return results in about 15 minutes and have a 98 percent accuracy rate. If the district receives these tests, they would only be available for students and staff showing COVID-19 symptoms. 

The district continues to institute COVID-19 health and safety protocols. BCISD’s guidelines can be found online

Both during the school board meeting and in his social media post, McBurnett said district leadership, administration, and staff are committed to doing everything they can to keep in-person learning available. But in his social media post, the superintendent acknowledged the situation could change in the future.

“I recognize what a hardship it would be for many families if we only offered remote instruction,” McBurnett stated. “Although I cannot say going fully remote could never happen, I can say going fully remote is the last option I will consider.”