Belton ISD moves start date to Sept. 8

Despite guidance from the Texas attorney general that a health department can't delay schools, Belton ISD elected to still act on the recommendation
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 10:32 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 10:52 AM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - In a special board meeting Tuesday, the Belton ISD voted unanimously to delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year until Sept. 8.

Following the announcement from the Bell County Public Health District ordering schools to delay in person instruction until after Sept. 7, Superintendent Matt Smith recommended changing the calendar all together.

Attorney General Ken Paxton weighed in on the health district’s authority, contradicting previously stated guidance from the Texas Education Agency, but Smith said he wanted the board to follow the health district’s recommendation anyway.

“The majority of us rely on doctors’ advice and opinions on health safety matters on a regular basis,” Smith said.

“If I take all politics out of this, we have guidance from medical authorities provided to us as school leaders that I need to consider.“

The first day of school for students is now September 8, instead of Aug. 19, which will extend the first semester into 2021, concluding Jan. 22.

The last day of school for students will be June 9 instead of May 26, which moves graduation from May 27 to June 10.

Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break and other student holidays are not impacted by the changes.

Belton ISD 2020-2021 calendar
Belton ISD 2020-2021 calendar(Belton ISD)

In his presentation to the board, Smith referenced a district survey which revealed 60 percent of families wanted face-to-face return when school resumes, but teachers, however, indicated they would need more time to prepare for online teaching.

In the new calendar passed Tuesday night, teachers have an five teacher work days before the start of the school year instead of the two from the original calendar.

“Teacher preparedness is weighing on my mind heavily,” Smith said. “We’re asking them to entirely change the way they deliver instruction to our students. If I don’t have teachers who feel well prepared and trained in order to make sure they can do what’s right for kids, we won’t have exceptional learning for those students.”

“We’ve been rolling with the punches and we’ll continue to do so,” he said. “We’ll take advantage of every additional second this gives our teachers and staff the opportunity to be prepared to kick off the new school year, and hopefully it will also allow time for the rise in local cases of COVID-19 to slow.”

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