Pampa ISD Board moves start of school to Aug. 24

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The Pampa Independent School District Board of Trustees met on Monday evening for a regularly scheduled meeting.

During the meeting, the Board moved the start date for school from Aug. 19 to Aug. 24.

“With the recent changes and moving to both virtual and face-to-face on top of putting the new safety procedures in place, we just needed to give our teachers more time to get the classrooms ready, procedures down and build this new learning system,” Pampa ISD Superintendent Dr. Tanya Larkin said. “When we took to all of our groups (parent, student, teacher), all groups recommended moving that start date to give us more time to start really strong and be prepared as we can be.”

There is no other change to the calendar.

Earlier in the meeting, after the standard house-keeping items, the Board got into the meat of their agenda, which included where face-coverings and masks fit into the student code of conduct/dress code.

“Dress code is the most appropriate place to put that (face-coverings),” Dr. Larkin said. “Basically it’s just the expectations with safety and health procedures on our campuses. 

“It’s the expectation that if we ask people to wear masks at certain times or for certain reasons, they comply with the request. It’s also all the procedures for students in wiping down/disinfecting their work areas.”

The move also allows parents time to decide how they want their students to attend school this year. Whether face-to-face or virtual, parents and students are committed to the format for six weeks.

Dr. Larkin also said while the District is working out all of the details in regards to masks in school, she mentioned there will be certain situations where masks will be required.

“Junior High/High School I can tell you for certain that we’re going to expect them to wear their masks, both adults and students, anytime they are on the move between classes and down the hall,” Dr. Larkin said. “That’s when there is the most congestion. Once they get in the classrooms and sit down, when people aren’t moving around as much, they can take them off. 

“We’re looking at all of the details like the three, four and five-year-olds and when it’s appropriate. It’s not going to be an all-or-nothing for all grade levels.”

As for the design, logos and markings on the masks? They will be treated the same as t-shirts and other clothings.

The Board made an amendment to the 2020-21 Compensation Plan related to employees who earn their doctorate degree.

“The Board recognizes the value of higher education and approved the annual stipend,” Dr. Larkin said. “It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a gesture.”

Dr. Larkin noted she is not included on the plan for the stipend, it’s merely coincidental that she earned her doctorate recently.

The Board approved a submission to Texas Education Agency of plan for asynchronous learning.

“The new requirements are for school districts to offer both face-to-face and virtual learning at the same time,” Dr. Larkin said. “That is a daunting task and she (Abby Hancock, director of curriculum/instruction) went through the plan.”

Students will be doing the same assignments at home as they would be in the classroom, just maybe not in real-time. The Board approved the draft of the plan and gave Dr. Larkin the authority to make revisions as TEA sees fit.

Aside from all of the COVID-19 preparations, the District still has their new standard safety and security to install, which was presented by Stuart Smith to the Board.

“All of the upgrades (including new camera systems) were funded from State safety and security funds from House Bill 3 or Senate Bill 11,” Dr. Larkin said. “We also received a grant for new cameras, upgraded cameras and more cameras at all of our campuses.”

Dr. Larkin added the District will not be allowing casual, non-emergency visitors on campus. If a parent needs to come to the school for an emergency or a parent-teacher conference, they will be asked to wear a mask and have their temperature taken. 

“We’re not allowing a lot of visitors or people to come eat lunch with their students (or drop off lunch) and when you think about it, it makes sense,” Dr. Larkin said. “But it’s going to be something different.”

While explaining the return to school/work plan to the Board, Dr. Larkin stressed it’s about limiting potential exposure and spread of COVID-19 in school.

“Our goal, the reason we are doing all of the masks, sanitation and limiting of visitors, is if we can limit the number of people quarantined, we can keep school running,” Dr. Larkin said. “That’s the goal. If we have too many people needing to be quarantined then I don’t have enough adults in the buildings, we won’t be able to have school.”

Dr. Larkin said as far as athletic attendance goes, the District is still ironing out all of the details because they are looking at 50 percent capacity.

It’s not just a Pampa issue, but other school districts on both home and road games.

Lastly, Dr. Larkin understands there are so many inconveniences associated with this upcoming school year, but is ultimately excited to have school.

“We are just so thrilled that we get to have school and have our kids back in our building,” Dr. Larkin said. 

“We get to have football. It’s not going to be the same. We’re just so fortunate we’re not in places down south where it’s still bad. I want people to know I recognize that these are inconveniences and we’re going to have students and staff with cases. But if we can keep it from getting bad, then we can keep having school.”

The Board also approved the following items:

• Approve monthly financial reports

• Quarterly financial and investment report. Chief Financial Officer Todd Hubbart mentioned the District’s decreasing interest rates on their money market accounts. But he also noted most interest rates are going down in the current economic climate, he just wanted to make the Board aware that the District is watching it.

• Budget amendment

• Approve meal pricing of Pampa ISD student meals. Director of food nutrition, Rebel Fulton, said the recent guidance and requirements from the Texas Department of Agriculture forces the District to raise the prices of breakfasts and lunches 20 cents.

• Action to approve Synchronous Learning Attestation.

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