Board OKs extended sick leave resolution

A resolution for extended sick leave during COVID was approved Tuesday by the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees.

With Tuesday evening’s move, the board dissolved the 2020 resolution on employee leave during an epidemic and adopted this new resolution to provide additional paid leave for all regular employees — contractual and noncontractual, salaried and non-salaried — who test positive or are required to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.

All available state and local leave days must be exhausted first, the board recap said. The resolution is effective July 1, 2021 and ends June 30, 2022.

The authority granted in the resolution provides paid leave one time for a maximum of 10 calendar days. The leave can only be used by an ECISD employee for self-care and is not intended to be used for care of any other person, the recap said.

Last year, the federal government provided 10 days and district provided 10, so a proposal was brought to trustees to approve a resolution for people who have exhausted all their leave.

Executive Director of Human Resources Staci Ashley said this dissolves the old resolution.

There were 132 employees last year that had to use those additional 10 days of leave. ECISD has 4,200 employees.

Ashley said during Tuesday’s meeting that the board can authorize a longer period of time if they so choose.

She and Superintendent Scott Muri said ECISD is one of the few districts moving ahead on this.

Muri said some districts are requiring employees to be vaccinated first, but ECISD felt this was a “healthy compromise” to do what’s right for people.

Muri said Medical Center Hospital earlier Tuesday had 89 COVID patients and 300 patients overall.

“Our staff has been in place for over 10 days (and we’re) seeing spread among our staff. By the end of this week, we’ll probably start to see student spread,” Muri said.

He added that everyone should do what they must to keep themselves safe. Muri encouraged masks and vaccines for everyone who is eligible. The vaccines are available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

“Our schools are full of kids. We can’t keep kids at home this year. Our custodians are cleaning. They’re really doing double duty doing extra cleaning of high-touch areas. …We’ve closed off water fountains. We’ve provided water bottles to kids,” Muri said.

He added that it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distance, much less 3 feet, but the teachers and staff are doing everything they can to keep people safe.

Muri said the district doesn’t have the tools it had last year. He said leadership hopes they don’t have to close as a district, but they may have to close schools.

Muri urged everyone to be thoughtful and conscious of taking care of themselves and the people around them.

“The last thing we want to do is close a school or (several) schools because of COVID,” he said.

Trustees also voted 7-0 to approve the 2021-22 Gifted and Talented Plan.

In an annual report to the board, officials outlined a series of changes being made to the program at elementary schools aimed at increasing the number of students in it.

Gifted and Talented services will use an inclusion model — meaning students will receive G/T instruction each day in their classroom rather than be pulled out of that class for a dedicated G/T class one day per week (as is the current model), the recap said.

For Buice, Hays, and Reagan elementary schools, the inclusion model will be put in place for all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth. The purpose of moving to an inclusion model, which the recap said is the generally accepted model among schools today, is to provide students with rigor and depth five days per week rather than just one, the recap said.

The plan drew disagreement from Julio Hernandez, whose daughter attends Reagan Elementary.

Hernandez said his daughter gets pulled out of class once a week and she enjoys it. Under the plan, GT would be taught to the whole class.

Hernandez said he and his daughter don’t think the updated plan is fair.

On a separate item, trustees approved the district’s application for an Optional Flexible School Day program. This is an annual renewal.

The board recap said the goal of the Optional Flexible School Day program allows students to have flexible hours in order to be successful and receive a high school diploma by offering courses needed for graduation while the district receives funding for students in attendance.

The program has two main objectives. The first is to allow a student who has dropped out of school, or is in danger of dropping out, an option other than the regular classroom setting or school day. The second is to enable a student the opportunity to recover credits lost due to lack of attendance, the recap said.

Students will continue to be enrolled, but they must participate for at least 20 hours a week, the recap said.

Muri also reviewed the first days of school.

On Aug. 10, ECISD started with prekindergarten through fifth grade, sixth grade and ninth grade. On Aug. 12, the remainder of the middle and high school kids arrived.

Last year, 4,200 students were on hand for the first day. This year there were a little over 32,000 between Aug. 10 and Aug. 12 and none of them were virtual.

Most students started off virtual last year.

Last year, there were 150 teacher vacancies at the start of the year and this year there are 70. Two years ago, there were more than 350 openings, Muri said.

The enrollment projection for this year is 32,730. And as of Aug. 17, it was 32,031. Muri said if those numbers hold true, the district will surpass its projected enrollment.

They were concerned about prekindergarten and kindergarten enrollment last year, but this year, they came to school.

From a teacher perspective, there were 423 new teachers this year. They were new to the profession or new to ECISD, Muri said.

There are 1.5 million masks in their warehouse and 1,200 gallons of hand sanitizer. Both are available at every school entrance.

Electrostatic mist is used on buses and additional sneeze guards have been installed in the cafeterias.

In other business, the board:

  • Voted 7-0 to approve an interlocal agreement for a joint task force committee. The law requires that after each census, governmental bodies review census data and determine if they need to redraw boundary lines for their various election precincts. In the past, all the local governing entities have joined together to coordinate the process and save expenses.

This Interlocal Agreement for the Joint Task Force Committee provides for the formation of the committee comprised of all of the entities to address the redistricting issues and share the costs. Each of the other entities either have considered or will be considering this same resolution, the recap said.

  • Voted 7-0 to approve purchases over $50,000. The two items on the list are for coaching and professional development.

One is embedded coaching for third through 12th grade science teachers; the other is to support the district’s instructional leaders, those whose roles include coaching teachers, as they increase their skills and build their capacity for coaching. These two projects will use federal ESSER grant funds earmarked to help public schools overcome the learning losses sustained by students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the recap said.

  • Voted 7-0 to approve the extension of the time period for considering 1PointFive P1, LLC application for a Chapter 313 agreement.