Sonora ISD board members weighed in on the district’s plan for students to return to in person classroom learning on August 17 during a virtual meeting Monday, July 20, 2020.

Opening a discussion about back-to-school plans, Superintendent Ross Aschenbeck said the safety and health of all students and school employees is a priority. That said, the district has implemented protocols based on CDC and TEA guidelines to help protect students, teachers and staff from COVID-19. As well, the district has identified procedures for addressing infection.

In short, the plan includes offering students the option to participate in face-to-face learning as well as virtual learning.

Both options come with specific guidelines. Some of these include the requirement that students, who will be attending school in person, practice social distancing, hand hygiene and wear a mask when indoors and on the bus. Remote learning requires that a student’s parent complete the Google Classroom training. Remote learners will also not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

The later provision received the most attention from board members. Individually, they weighed in on whether or not students should be allowed to take part in UIL and other school sponsored activities regardless of their decision on coming to school or staying home to complete academics.

Eventually, the board voted in favor of a excluding remote education students from taking part in extracurricular activities and elective courses.

In addition to talks about providing education, board members discussed the provision of a campus police officer by the City of Sonora.

Aschenbeck told board members that the City of Sonora had received a three-year federal grant to provide a School Resource Officer (SRO) to Sonora ISD. The grant funds cover all expenses related to having an officer on campus. Therefore, there is no expense to the district to have a full-time officer on campus, according to Aschenbeck. Board members approved a motion to delegate authority to the superintendent to negotiate and enter into a memorandum of understanding with the City of Sonora to provide a School Resource Officer for Sonora ISD.

On Tuesday, The Devil’s River News spoke with City Manager Art Fuentes about the grant. Fuentes said the Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS) grant, available through the Department of Justice, allows the city to hire a new officer to serve as an SRO. The city will advertise for the position. Placement of an officer on campus will depend upon the time it takes to find and hire an individual for the position, Fuentes added.

Aschenbeck updated board members on another type of grant benefitting the district. Sonora ISD received $121,970 from the AR ESSER Grant. The 2020-21 ESSER Grant is part of the CARES Act funding in response to the coronavirus, according to Aschenbeck. While the relief money is good, it will only offset the reduction in state revenue that SISD will realize this year, Aschenbeck advised. The board approved the request to apply for the grant.

The board next approved a list of appraisers for 2020-2021 as explained by Aschenbeck as well as an endorsement of Raymond Mesa as TASB Director.
Other items voted on by the board during Monday’s meeting included cafeteria prices, internet safety and acceptable use policies as well as shared service agreements and ESC contracts.

Board members approved a 20-cent increase to the cost of lunch meals at the elementary campus. The cost per meal for students will be $3.00. There were no other increases.

As a matter of housekeeping, the board also approved the following regular consent items: Tax Assessor/Collector report for May 2020 and June 2020 and minutes of the June 8, 2020 regular meeting.

Aside from discussion and action items, Aschenbeck gave an update on the 2020-2021 budget process. His update included budgeting salaries for three additional full-time staff equivalents.

Aschenbeck also gave an update on the district’s property, liability and auto insurance.

The board took a short recess before entering into a closed-door executive session to discuss employment of new professional employees. No action was taken following the closed session. The meeting was adjourned.

Board President Shanna Petty-Castro presided over the meeting. Board Members Colby Bates, Jerry Jimenez and Mason Martinez were present.

Board Member John Jones was absent. The Sonora ISD Board of Trustees will meet again in August. Meeting agenda and board documents are available on the Sonora Independent School District website