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Burnet school board tweaks mask rules

Burnet school board tweaks mask rules

Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett (left) at a special meeting of the BCISD Board of Trustees on March 23. The district made changes to its COVID-19 protocols based on new rules established by Gov. Greg Abbott. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

The Burnet school district will end COVID-19 protocols for all campuses at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year with a goal of returning to 100 percent in-person learning when classes resume in August. 

The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees also decided at a special meeting Tuesday, March 23, that face coverings are now optional in outdoor spaces on campuses. Students and staff must continue wearing masks in class the remainder of the school year. 

In other changes, outdoor venue capacities were increased to 75 percent from 40-50 percent, and fully vaccinated staff may now meet or eat lunch indoors in classrooms or offices with other fully vaccinated staff without face coverings or distancing. One non-vaccinated person can be included.

The decision to modify the district’s face covering rules came after Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that he was lifting the statewide mandate. The decision went into effect March 10.

The governor’s announcement caught school leaders across the state, including BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett, off guard, especially as the Texas Education Agency did not have any guidance ready for how public schools should handle the change. The eventual decision from the TEA was to keep the mask mandate for schools but allow local boards to modify it.

BCISD officials immediately reviewed their COVID-19 protocols; solicited student, staff, and parent feedback; met with Burnet County Local Health Authority Dr. Jules Madrigal; and garnered information from other school districts.

Before discussing mask protocols, the board heard from residents within the district, including David Bennett, who told trustees he believed the district’s COVID-19 rules have kept kids in school and campuses open. He didn’t like the idea of putting the remainder of his son’s school year at risk and asked the board to continue requiring face coverings.

Several board members shared similar sentiments. Though trustee Ross Behrens said he hates face coverings, as a father with children in BCISD, he also doesn’t want to jeopardize the rest of the school year.

“I want my kids to be in class,” he said. “They thrive there.”

Wearing a mask, he added, is a small disruption for their overall well-being.

“This has been the most challenging school year in my 27 years in education,” Superintendent McBurnett said.

He said the success this year comes down to the dedication and hard work of the teachers, students, staff, school board, and parents and offered his gratitude to all who have helped BCISD weather the pandemic.