With another COVID-19 vaccine now available, more Texans soon could be eligible for vaccination, and Burnet Consolidated Independent School District officials would like educators to be on that list.
The BCISD board of trustees approved a resolution during its special meeting March 1 to encourage Gov. Greg Abbott to prioritize teachers and other educators in the state’s vaccine rollout.
Currently, only residents in phases 1A and 1B are being vaccinated. These include frontline healthcare workers, some first responders, longterm care facility staff and residents, those ages 65 and older, and those ages 16 and older with a serious medical condition.
In its statement, the BCISD board is asking the governor and the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel to designate public school personnel as essential “frontline workers” and give them appropriate priority in vaccine administration.
According to state health department officials, the panel is discussing who should be in the next phase of vaccination eligibility, but it hasn’t made any decisions or recommendations. Officials have previously stated that it would likely take through the spring to vaccinate all of those in the Phase 1A and Phase 1B categories.
On Feb. 26, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a third COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, this one a one-dose vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
However, while more vaccines could move the country past the pandemic, budgetary effects might linger.
BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett and other administrators told the trustees that the district is facing a $500,000 budget deficit for 2021-22 “due to the enrollment drop related to COVID.”
“Although post-COVID enrollment is expected to not only bounce back, but increase even more rapidly than originally projected, the budget for the ’21-22 school year will be very challenging,” McBurnett stated following the board meeting. “The $500,000 deficit does not include any proposed pay increase or any funds to cover an anticipated increase in health insurance costs.”
The administration “is committed to continuing to look for ways to provide a general pay increase fo all employees if possible,” the superintendent added. District administrators estimate even a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise would cost about $435,000.
“This challenging budget situation underscores the importance of the May 2021 bond,” McBurnett added. “In addition to managing the deficit, it would be very challenging if the district had to address facility, transportation, and technology needs through the operating budget. The passage of the 2021 bond will relieve pressure from the operating budget for the next two (to) three years.”
A wildcard in COVID-19 relief is what, if anything, the Texas Legislature does in response to public education funding during its current session.
Also during the March 1 meeting, the board approved an order canceling the trustees election in May. For the three open spots, only the incumbents — Angela Moore, Robby Robertson, and Ross Behrens — filed. They will be sworn in during the May board meeting.
The trustees also approved the administration submitting a missed school day waiver to the Texas Education Agency for the Feb. 16-19 winter storm. If approved, students will not need to make up missed days due to the storm.
In addition, the board approved a resolution to pay staff who were scheduled to work Feb. 11-12 and 15-19 but who missed those days due to the bad weather.
The board also took time to recognize the district’s Teacher of the Year, Diane Woods of Burnet High School, as well as campus teachers of the year Stacey Snyder of Bertram Elementary School, Tami Laws of Shady Grove Elementary School, Christina Carmichael of R.J. Richey Elementary School, Shelly Townsend of Burnet Middle School, Holly Bauer of Quest High School. Woods is the campus teacher of the year for Burnet High School.