The morning of Wednesday, Aug. 18, began on a school bus for Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett. He rode with students on the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year, all part of efforts by the administrations in Burnet and Marble Falls to start the year off right
“We always say in the school business that if we can get our kids safely to school, get them into their classroom, get them fed, and then get them home safely, that is a successful first day of school,” he said.
This school year begins with 100 percent in-person classrooms and with loosened mask requirements and COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“It does feel a step closer to a more normal school year than what we experienced last year,” McBurnett said. “We’re watching the COVID issue very closely and will make adjustments as needed. We’ve had a great day so far, and all credit goes to our staff. Everyone has worked extremely hard to make it an exciting first day here in Burnet ISD.”
McBurnett spent lunch at Bertram Elementary, helping to dish out meals to students. He will later assist in pickup and bus dispatch and meet with administration via a conference call to assess how things went.
About 20 miles away in neighboring Marble Falls, parents, guardians, and students gathered outside the front doors of Colt Elementary, 2200 Manzano Mile, for emotional send-offs. While some were excited, other parents struggled to hold back tears as teachers, aides, and other staff members ushered students to the cafeteria for breakfast or directly to classrooms, backpacks in tow.
By lunchtime, however, the first-day jitters were gone for most students, said Principal Erika O’Connor.
“We’ve had no students crying throughout the morning,” O’Connor said. “There’s always a little apprehension, but our teachers and paraprofessionals love them up. I tell our parents, ‘I’m happy to go and check on your child, but I promise you, once the kiddos get in the building, they do really well.’ And they do.”
Back in Burnet, district parents gathered from 7-10 a.m. at the district’s Parent Resource Center, 202 E. Brier Lane, for coffee and breakfast after dropping off their children. The center hosts a breakfast event for parents annually as a way to take the emotional edge off of the first day back, said Parent Liaison Darlene Denton.
“Some parents, especially on the first day, drop their kids off and feel emotional or like they’re no longer needed, but that’s not true,” Denton said. “They can come over here where there’s an avenue for them to be involved and volunteer.”
The resource center provides district families access to supplemental readings, volunteer opportunities, and some extracurricular groups and activities for students. Denton works one on one with parents to help them find exactly what they need for a successful school year.
“(Denton) is like the Mary Poppins of BCISD,” joked Lily Zollitsch, a first-time attendee of the breakfast.
Zollitsch took the opportunity to relax after dropping off her fifth-, ninth-, and 11th-grade children at school, sipping coffee alongside other parents. She plans to participate again in years to come and looks forward to the remainder of the school year.
“We’re really excited,” Zollitsch said. “My 10-year-old said they were happy to see everyone’s smiles.”