During its May 20 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board approved a change to the district’s mask-wearing safety protocols, considered the proposed 2021–22 budget, recognized outstanding students, and reviewed recommendations for student empowerment.  

The Board also moved their June 23 meeting to June 17, at which time they will adopt the 2021-22 budget.

View the entire agenda here. Watch the video here. 

Trustees approve a change in district mask-wearing protocols, new guidelines start May 24

Mask-wearing will be optional for all outdoor events, including graduation ceremonies as of Monday, May 24, and for all operations, activities, and work on LISD campuses beginning June 1.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of our families, students, teachers, and staff to slow the spread of COVID, Trustees approved the change to safety protocols. Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday, May 18 that government agencies and public schools can no longer require mask-wearing as of June 4. Due to concerns regarding federal funding, local control, and community requests about end of the year events, the Board took action prior to the Governor’s directive.

We will release more details on health and safety protocols for the upcoming school year throughout the summer, as we work with our local health officials and monitor conditions.

“Our district was able to keep the doors open for students because of everyone’s diligence in following our safety protocols,” Board President Trish Bode said. “It took a herculean effort and I am so thankful for the commitment of our Leander ISD family, which is a big reason why we are at the point where we can now relax mask-wearing requirements. While this is a positive step forward, we heard during our meeting that staff has more work to do to update and refine our safety protocols as we continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our students, teachers and staff.”

The adjustment to make masks optional continues a trend of relaxing protocols as hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 decrease and vaccination rates and availability increase. For example, the district relaxed requirements for mask wearing when outside for recess earlier this spring. For more details about our health protocols, visit our COVID-19 handbook.

We will continue to work with our local health agencies to track COVID data and are pleased to see a downward trend in positive cases. We are optimistic about the increased availability of vaccinations and remain committed to working with our public health agencies to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2021–22 budget comes into focus 

With several unknowns still out there, the proposed 2021–22 budget accounts for at least 3% student enrollment growth, a 2% pay increase for staff and flexibility to adjust as the pandemic conditions improve and we welcome more students into our school buildings.

Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn detailed the proposed budget, which:

  • is based on 3% enrollment growth vs. demographer projection of 8.6% growth
  • provides 2% raise to employees;
  • covers new campus costs for Tarvin Elementary; and
  • minimizes staffing reductions

School districts recently received notice from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding ESSER III (federal pandemic relief) funds. We expect to receive funds in the amount of $15.8 million. The impact of these funds is not reflected in the proposed budget as we continue to plan for the use of the funds to meet student needs and fulfill the requirements for community input.

The budget is set to be adopted June 17 after the Board moved the June 24 meeting up one week.

Student Advisory Council presents recommendations for student empowerment

Speaking on behalf of more than 30 of their counterparts from every high school in the district, a trio of LISD upperclassmen from the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC) detailed how we can empower students to affect change, including:

  • Expand opportunities for student voice  
  • Cultivate friendly, personalized learning environments  
  • Consider changes to grading and ranking systems  
  • Research and encourage more flexible systems that empower student learning
  • Provide more opportunities for different types of students to meet with staff

Superintendent Bruce Gearing formed the Student Advisory Council to learn from students and to bring their voice into decision making. Six students (3 juniors and 3 seniors) from each of our six high school campuses met throughout the year to discuss student issues.

Trustees review Social Studies materials adoption for AP World History and AP Human Geography

Following input and review from educators, staff and community members, new texts for AP World History and AP Human Geography could soon be approved for classrooms next school year. The Board discussed the materials adoption as part of its regular Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA).

The texts, Human Geography: A Spatial Perspective and Traditions and Encounters for AP 2020, were also made available for public and Trustee viewing in April and May. You can view those materials by visiting this curriculum website

Teachers in our AP Human Geography and AP World History courses have worked hand-in-hand with administrators throughout the research and selection process. Input and feedback have been gathered from staff, parents, community members through the Districtwide Educational Improvement Council (DWEIC) and the Community Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC). The materials teachers currently use in those subject areas are mostly digital and have expiring subscriptions, so approving these new materials is necessary to make sure teachers have a main textbook for guiding instruction.

Trustees could vote to adopt the new materials at their June 10 meeting.

School Health Advisory Committee recommends retaining Austin Lifeguard to teach sex education

Following a review of four human sexuality curriculum options to be used in grades 7–9, the district’s School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) recommended continuing the use of LifeGuard to teach sex ed in LISD schools. 

Every three years SHAC, a committee comprised of school personnel, community members, and parents, is tasked with reviewing various human sexuality curricula considers:

  • Grade-level appropriate content, 
  • delivery method, 
  • resources, 
  • parent access, 
  • training, and 
  • cost.

This year, we reviewed four curriculum options, with two (Choosing the Best, LifeGuard) brought to the committee for consideration in accordance with established committee guidelines. SHAC thoroughly examined Choosing the Best and LifeGuard, reviewed the curriculum, and met with each organizations’ representatives before making its recommendation.  Trustees could vote to move forward with Austin Lifeguard at their June 10 meeting.

A pair of SHAC subcommittees presented recommendations for consideration as well.

Social & Emotional Wellbeing Subcommittee recommendations:

  • Increase elementary counselor staffing with the intent to provide similar staffing ratios between elementary and secondary campuses.
  • Increase access to free/low-cost mental health support for students and families.
  • Increase proactive and preventative behavioral and emotional support services for early identified students.
  • Increase efforts to engage students and community members around efforts to prevent youth suicide.
  • Increase frequency of staff training around warning signs and risk factors for youth suicide.
  • Provide opportunities for families and staff to prepare for the reopening of full time in person school.

Physical Activity & Nutrition Subcommittee recommendations (Reviewed the LISD Quality Recess Guidelines):

  • Update guidelines to strongly encourage campuses to place recess before lunch.
  • Added a section on “Indoor Recess” to emphasize the importance of physical activity, and created an “Indoor Recess Toolbox” for teachers to collaborate.
  • Created a “Recess Cart Inventory” for campuses to track and replace items on their recess cart that was provided by the Fuel-up-to-Play 60 grant.
  • Update guidelines to clarify training of the Recess Guidelines to streamline information to teachers.
  • Update guidelines to recommend an increase from 30 minutes of recess per day to 45 minutes, giving students an additional recess to be physically active, socially interact, and refocus during the day.

Community leaders present projects, progress on Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee

In the middle of their work to evaluate $1.5 billion in facility, equipment, renovations, and technology needs, Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) chairperson and LISD parent Jeremy Trimble presented an update on the work to possibly plan a bond election for November 2021

After the status update, Trustees gave direction and advice for the committee as it builds towards a June presentation and recommendation. Five CFAC subcommittees, comprised of parents and community leaders, presented their recommendations to a 25-member steering committee earlier this month. All of the meetings and materials are available online for the entire community to access. 

“I know there have been a lot of discussions and questions about schools of choice, and I want to encourage you to dream,” Board Secretary Elexis Grimes said. “How do we utilize our resources and provide our kids a connection to their passions?”