Trustees adopted a budget for the 2020-21 school year, approved a hazardous routes bus service plan for students living within 2 miles of their assigned school, and considered scenarios for opening the next school year during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.
Trustees ask for clarity, continued focus on choice in opening for 2020-21 school year
The district presented scenarios for opening the 2020-21 school year with options for families to choose between an in-person and blended approach to school, as well as an option to learn at home with the Virtual Empowered Learning program.
While final decisions are being discussed and considered, the district does expect to start school on Aug. 13.
“With so much uncertainty and facing scenarios where families are going to have to face high stress, I think it’s critical we communicate effectively about what to expect,” Board President Trish Bode said.
After finishing the 2019-20 school year in emergency remote learning, the district is prepared to launch a more refined, virtual option to include more live and self-paced learning, a numerical grading system and a return to grade-point average calculations at high school.
Trustees asked to speak about the 2020-21 opening plan again during their special called meeting on June 25. The district plans to announce a recommendation by July 17 for opening the next school year.
During the discussion, Trustees questioned, commented, and expressed concern regarding vulnerable and immunocompromised families, apprehensive teachers and staff, requirements for personal protective gear and thresholds for closing in the event of a positive test. The discussion also took place just hours after news reports released the state’s plan to open schools in the fall without requiring temperature checks or masks for students.
The state expects to set further guidelines regarding re-opening next week.
Trustees approved budget to fund growth, lower class size rations, and expand to full day PreK
Lower student-teacher ratios, a new school, and a program to expand PreK highlight a 2020-21 budget Trustees approved Thursday night.
After weeks of trimming down budget requests to allow for more long-term stability and flexibility with uncertain funding contributions from the state, LISD will operate with a $379.8 million operational budget, a 5% increase over the 2019-20 amended budget, to serve approximately 1,500 more students, a 44th school in Danielson Middle School, and the growth of PreK to a full-day program.
“I believe in the excellence Leander ISD provides students,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. said. “I believe in the support we provide students for their social and emotional needs. Our job is to continue to provide a level of excellence our community expects. Thank you to our Board and finance team for continuing to plan in the best interest of students and learning.”
The Board approved a compensation plan that increases the employer contribution to health benefit plans so employees won’t realize increases to insurance premiums. A year after approving historic raises of more than 7% for teachers and 4% for other employees, Trustees adopted a compensation plan that provides all employees the equivalent of a 2% pay increase in a single, lump sum in the fall, contingent upon enrollment and economic conditions.
Thanks to the district’s history of stellar financial planning and the foundation of a healthy fund balance, the district is in a good position to withstand a short-term budget shortfall that may come from the state’s biennium.
As part of the trimming of the budget, the district did not fund out-of-district travel for professional development or training outside of the district, including training and travel for Board members.
Trustees also approved budgets for debt service and child nutrition, totaling $507.5 million.
The Board will set a tax rate later this summer, estimated to be reduced by two pennies per hundred dollar value.
Community speaks out about equity and diversity report
One week after the district presented a report on equity and diversity, teachers, parents, and students spoke out about incidents of racism and discrimination. The district will pick up the conversation during a special meeting on June 25. While preparing a complete action plan to address the report’s recommendations, the district is expanding its equity task force and training of staff on racial equity and cultural responsiveness.
Board approved debt plan to reduce total CABs, fund capital projects from Bond 2017
Trustees authorized the issuing of $104.4 million of bonds to fund building renovations, security upgrades, technology, buses, construction of Tarvin Elementary School, and design funding for Elementary School 29 and the access road to Vandegrift High School. In their action, the Board also authorized a restructuring of debt, thus reducing the percentage of capital appreciation bonds (CABs) in the district’s debt portfolio to 25% by 2025.
New meal prices coming based on USDA rules
As a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy regarding meal prices, LISD will increase all student lunch prices by $0.10 and adult lunches by $0.25 for the 2020-21 school year. This price increase does not impact students on the free or reduced lunch programs.
Board approves Hazardous Routes
Trustees approved a hazardous routes plan that continues service for 24 routes and discontinues service for 18 routes. Per state law, districts providing bus service to students living within two miles of their assigned schools must create a scoring system to evaluate routes and approve the routes for hazardous service each year.
The following neighborhoods have routes that will be discontinued:
- the Catalina Ranch subdivision for Akin Elementary School and Stiles Middle School;
- Mason Creek, Trails at Leander, and Magnolia Creek subdivisions for Camacho Elementary School;
- the Shenandoah subdivision for Naumann Elementary School;
- the Benbrook Ranch subdivision north of Halsey Rd. for Plain Elementary School;
- the Leander Crossing subdivision for Pleasant Hill Elementary School;
- the River Place subdivision for homes on River Place Blvd. and Big View Dr. at River Place Elementary School;
- the Meritage Apartments for Steiner Ranch Elementary School;
- the Westside at Buttercup Creek subdivision for Westside Elementary School;
- Mason Hills and Connelly’s Crossing subdivisions for Whitestone Elementary School;
- Headlands, Fairways, and Belcara Monterrey subdivisions for Canyon Ridge Middle School;
- the Cypress Canyon subdivision for Cedar Park High School; and
- Benbrook Ranch and Benbrook Ranch North subdivisions for Glenn High School.