Pampa ISD votes 4-3 to keep masks for indoor activities

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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 voted 4-3 to keep the masks mandate in place for indoor activities throughout the remainder of the school year.

“We all know that all of this has been very frustrating and inconvenient,” Pampa Independent School District Dr. Tanya Larkin said. “Different people have had different experiences with it so we all knew it was going to be a difficult decision. 

“At the meeting, we presented the Board with results of surveys from staff, parents and staff vaccines. We discussed possible considerations and recommendations moving forward.

“The Board did vote to keep face-coverings but make modifications to other restrictions including making masks optional for outside events and gatherings (including UIL athletics), allow parents to attend some events indoors this spring with face-coverings, allow elementary students to keep Chromebooks and supplies at school, allow banquets and events with food (with an approved plan) and to encourage distancing to three feet, instead of six feet.”

Dr. Larkin added graduation is an outdoor activity so it would be optional, while prom will be held with a plan being worked on to allow food.

The Board also approved a resolution to pursue a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE).

“This option is to consider moving two pennies from our I&S (interest and sinking) side of our tax rate to the M&O (maintenance and operations) side of the overall tax rate in order to generate more funds from the State,” Dr. Larkin said. “These pennies are called the Golden Pennies because they result in a higher return on investment. For every local penny, the State sends us three pennies. The taxpayers are paying the same rate but the State would have to send us about $650,000 more.”

This would not result in a tax increase, but it would appear during the normal November election.

“We have this unique opportunity to make this change because of our efforts to re-finance our bonds earlier this year that saves us $2.5 million over the life of the bond,” Dr. Larkin said. “We won’t do it unless we need to, but it’s an unique opportunity. It just makes sense that if you don’t have to tax your taxpayers more, but you can get more state funding, it just makes sense to do it.”

The District works on the budget and establishes a budget/tax rate on the estimated values of taxes they will have coming in. Then after the revenues come in, the Board adjust the budget accordingly later in the summer.

The Board also approved the following items:

Consent agenda

• Board minutes for February 22, 2021

• Monthly financial reports

• Submission of a waiver request to the Texas Education Agency for approval of exemption for the CPR instruction requirement for graduates of the PHS Class of 2021, due to COVID-19

Discussion/Action items

• Resolution for delegation of authority during the 2021 Winter Storm Emergency. Just as they did with the COVID-19 crisis last year, this resolution allowed Dr. Larkin to alter some local policy during the winter storm in February. These policies include allowing to pay overtime, adapting school days, emergency repairs, etc.

• Contract with SPM Architects, Inc. for architect and engineer services for ongoing and recurring Pampa ISD roofing projects.

• Safety and Security Audit Report. Every three years the District has to do a safety and security audit. Pampa ISD received commendations for their School Resource Officer location, video surveillance, visitor screening and access and the emergency go-bags in the classrooms. Areas for improvement included signs in some areas for best practice and to vary the drills.

• Purchase student and staff devices. This is changing to a replacement schedule to an annual plan and in this instance includes elementary student Chrome books and elementary teacher laptops.

• Purchase additional busses. Pampa ISD’s route busses are averaging 15 years old, and the recommended replacement time is 10 years. The Pampa ISD activity busses are 10 years old and the recommended replacement time is five to seven years.

• Pay employees a one-time COVID-19 stipend for service provided during the 2020-2021 school year. “The teachers and staff have worked harder since last March than probably their whole lives and it’s been unbelievable. Just a token of our appreciation, we wanted to offer each employee a $500 one-time stipend for doing all of the things they’ve done this year,” Dr. Larkin said. “I’m proud of our Board for doing that and am thrilled we are able to do that.”

Information

• Enrollment report. There are 88 students on the virtual learning and at the start of the year there was more than 800. The District is down 163 in overall enrollment from this time last year.

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