A grant totaling $4.9 million would help the Burnet school district address the impact of COVID-19 on students and education. The district is submitting an application for the money, which is available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
Burnet Consolidated Independent School District would get $3.3 million upon turning in the paperwork and the remaining $1.6 million once the state receives additional federal guidance on the grant.
Dr. Rachel Jones, assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, gave a grant funding presentation to the board of trustees during its meeting May 17.
Jones also surveyed students, staff, and parents on what they feel the district needs to target in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, things that directly impacted student learning and well-being were at the top of the list.
Under relief fund guidelines, at least 20 percent of the grant — $989,386 — must be used for “evidence-based intervention” for students, particularly those considered at risk.
Jones pointed out it is a one-time grant, and the state will not replenish the funds after it expires in 2024.
BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett said the grant allows the district to reimburse itself for previous COVID-19-related expenses such as purchasing protective shields for desks.
District officials also want to use some of the grant money to hire nine new staff members who would have a direct impact on at-risk students, Jones told the board. These positions are grant-dependent and would be funded for three years.
The positions are:
- three additional intervention teachers, one at each elementary campus
- two intervention teachers/case managers, one at Burnet Middle School and one at Burnet High School
- one additional elementary bilingual teacher for Shady Grove Elementary
- two English-as-a-Second-Language-certified teachers, one for the middle school and one for the high school
- one additional district-wide intervention counselor
Jones said the district could re-evaluate the positions after the grant expires in 2024 to decide if they need to be kept. If they are, funding could come from growth in student enrollment or staff attrition.
The board on May 17 unanimously approved the grant-funded positions.
The district also is creating a new position for a licensed specialist in school psychology. McBurnett told the board that hiring someone for the job could save the district money. Currently, BCISD uses contract services for the position, and those fees are more than a salaried position.
In other personnel matter, the board approved the following hires:
- Kelly Pieterse, director of Special Programs
- Joni Patterson, Burnet High School assistant principal for Curriculum and Instruction
- Amy Koenig, Burnet High School assistant principal
- Christine Hoffman, Burnet Middle School assistant principal
The board and district also recognized a number of students for their accomplishments this year. McBurnett said, in all, the district is handing out more than 80 certificates to honor those students whose accomplishments include at least five state championships. Among the honored students are the state high school barbecue champions and participants, Burnet High School culinary arts students who recently won a NASA competition, all-state high school choir students, all-state high school band members, all-state academic athletic trainers, FFA and 4-H contest winners and participants, and elementary art student winners.