CCISD board discusses return to school plan for 2021-2022 school year

By BRITTANY FHOLER
Cove Leader-Press

During the Copperas Cove Independent School District board of trustees’ public hearing prior to its regular meeting on Tuesday evening, the board held a public hearing regarding the proposed use of ESSER III Funds, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds III, authorized by President Joseph Biden in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The purpose of the funds is to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on students - namely learning loss. 
CCISD is able to apply for up to $9.9 million worth of funding, on top of state and local funds and would have until September 2024 to utilize the funds. 
The district has two requirements to fulfill when applying: develop a use of funds plan and a return to school plan for next school year.
Federal Funding Coordinator Kim Blaylock shared that district staff have created a draft of that plan using the responses from a community survey conducted from May 18 to June 2. The survey received nearly 1,200 responses, 84.77 percent of which were parents/guardians or family members. 
Blaylock shared that the district’s Return to School Plan for next year is to have face masks be optional, return to on-campus learning only, continue to follow CDC guidelines, maintain last year’s protocol for lab confirmed cases of COVD-19, and the district will continue to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students. 
Top survey results showed a request for small group tutoring before or after school, the use of tutoring or instructional software for at home, additional summer school opportunities, additional mental health services for students, more student devices and mobile hot spots, and to lower the staff to student ratio. 
The proposed plan for the use of funds includes adding full-time and part-time interventionists who will pull kids out during the school day for individualized instruction which will help with the staff to student ratios; part time tutors and more instructional paraprofessionals; additional instructional software and some computer based instruction for students to use at home; additional summer school teachers and more summer camps; and supplemental instructional coaches. 
The ESSER III funds have been distributed from the federal government to the state who will then distribute to the districts. 
“We have to go through this process to be eligible to apply for the grant, so we’ll apply and then the state will evaluate the application and move forward,” Burns said. “We are not foolish enough to believe we know everything that is needed today. We think that there will be some emerging needs from students and staff as school gets back underway in the fall, and the plan can be amended and edited in order to make sure that we are able to capture those things at that time.”
The CCISD board also approved a three percent pay raise for Superintendent Burns during the regular meeting. The board had previously approved a pay increase for teachers and staff last month, raising the starting salary for teachers to $50,000 and the starting pay for bus drivers to $14.65 per hour plus a general pay increase of three percent for other district employees. In June 2020, the board had also approved a pay increase for substitute teachers. 
Burn’s current contract was implemented in January 2021 and goes through June 2026. The compensation defined in the current contract is for $183,340 per year. The three percent raise will bring his salary to $188,840. 
Board president Joan Manning said that Burns does not ever accept a pay raise for himself unless his faculty and staff in the district receive a pay raise. 
The board recognized Karen Brown, Andrea Boen and Barry Dowell on their retirement. Brown was a speech language pathologist and had been with the district for 25 of her 31 years in public education. Boen was not present but was recognized for her service as a counselor with 27 years of service, 25 of which were spent with CCISD. Dowell was the high school choir director and is retiring after 13 years of service, two of which were spent with CCISD. 
The board recognized Martin Walker Elementary Parent Community Outreach Coordinator Susan McGuire, who was named the Fort Hood Outstanding School POC for this school year’s Adopt-A-School Awards. They also recognized Martin Walker and the 91st Engineer Battalion for being awarded Fort Hood Adopted Partnership of the Year.
The board also recognized the many cheerleaders and Copperettes who made the All-American teams this past fall. 

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