Since COVID-19 struck, things have changed dramatically for the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District, something Superintendent Keith McBurnett addressed during his annual State of the District on Wednesday, March 3.
This year, he gave his annual speech online rather than in person. His last State of the District address took place March 4, 2020; nine days later was the last day students met in person for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year due to COVID-19.
The pandemic has cast a shadow over the district’s past 12 months, especially when it comes to expenditures. Since the pandemic sent students home in March 2020, the district has spent more than $750,000 in pandemic mitigation efforts, including purchasing Wi-Fi hotspots, personal protective equipment, and 3,500 Chromebooks so students could participate in remote learning.
“There’s a misnomer out there that all this money is going to be reimbursed (by the government),” McBurnett said. “That’s not the case.”
COVID-19 brought on many other changes as well. McBurnett praised district teachers and staff for how quickly they transitioned from in-person to remote instruction and for their efficacy in planning for the 2020-21 academic year amid so much uncertainty.
It wasn’t an easy task to plan for the current school year, he said. The Texas Education Agency didn’t release health and safety protocols and additional instructional guidance for the 2020-21 school year until July 17, 2020. Within a little over a month’s time, teachers, administrators, and staff put together for TEA approval an instruction plan for both in-person and remote-learning environments.
McBurnett praised teachers, calling them superheroes for their Herculean efforts.
When classes started in August, approximately 20 percent of the district’s roughly 3,000 students took remote instruction. As of March 1, that percentage had dropped to 8 percent. The district’s goal, McBurnett said, is for 100 percent of students to be in person at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
“We believe that’s the best instruction for our students,” he added.
Since the start of the school year, 95 of the 3,500 students and staff have been lab-confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. Those cases were not traced to a campus as a source of infection.
Despite COVID-19, district staff have worked to ensure students enjoy as normal an experience as possible, even going back to last summer when Burnet High School held an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020. This year, McBurnett said, they’ve strived to make it as “typical as possible” with extracurricular activities and events.
McBurnett celebrated some of the student achievements, including the Esprit de Corps capturing third place at the University Interscholastic League state marching band contest in December. He also highlighted achievements by athletic teams, the high school culinary arts program, and the FFA.
Other highlights included were that the district:
- was first in staff compensation and benefits of surrounding school districts;
- has the second-lowest property tax rate at $1.15 per $100 valuation among surrounding districts;
- has a $34 million budget;
- serves 3,300 meals daily;
- transports students 3,650 miles daily;
- and has a 96 percent graduation rate.
On top of that, high school students earned about 1,580 college credit hours.
McBurnett said the district’s successes aren’t just something a few people accomplished but were an effort on everyone’s part, including the BCISD board of trustees, teachers, staff, administrators, students, families, and the community.
“We are committed to doing the best we can do,” he added.