Waco school superintendent authorized to pay staff during closures

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The Waco School Board voted Monday to authorize the district’s superintendent, Dr. Susan Kincannon, to make emergency decisions, including ensuring all employees are paid, while schools remain closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Waco School Board voted Monday to authorize the district’s superintendent, Dr. Susan Kincannon, to ensure all employees are paid while schools remain closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Megan Vanselow/file)

“During these times it’s important that we act responsibly and with care for our employees,” Kincannon said.

“This resolution will guarantee all of our staff receive a paycheck to take care of their families. I thank the board for taking this action for the wellbeing of our community.”

As of Monday, the district had extended its spring break through March 27, however, officials said they were taking it "week by week."

"Our main goal is to make sure our kids and families are safe and our employees feel secure and know that we're all going to work through this together," said School Board President Angela Tekell. “The board is very grateful for everything our staff has done over the past few weeks addressing the COVID-19 emergency."

The board authorized Kincannon to make all decisions regarding payment of employees, compensation of exempt employees during an emergency closure including premium payments to certain employees; the authority to create guidelines regarding absences, leave time, leave days and compensation of any employee quarantined because of the virus.

The board also authorized her to execute contracts for goods and services “necessary to mitigate, prevent, restore and repair damage caused to Waco ISD equipment, personal property and facilities or to protect the safety” of the district’s students and staff.

"We're confident that (this all) will make a difference in slowing the spread of this virus and also, hopefully, in saving lives," said Chief of Staff Kyle DeBeer.

The board also took action that ensures students and staff won’t have to make up the days the district’s schools are closed, approving a statement attesting that the district will support student learning while schools are closed, which allows the WISD to seek a waiver for the remaining days schools are closed.

"The (TEA) Commissioner has already said that they have the ability to get that waiver and they won't have to make up this week of school days," said Kincannon. "We will be bringing forth another attestation for the board to approve at a future meeting to support next week's loss of instructional days by basically stating that we are providing instruction to students through home."

Kincannon said they were using this week to prepare for home-instruction next week.

"The Texas Education Code requires that in order for the district to receive ADA, that students should be instructed while they're at home, and so they'll be tracking their instruction, we'll have some kind of a form for them to document that time while they're at home," said Kincannon.

The district promised a push of information later this week notifying families of when and where to pickup the instructional materials needed.

"We'll be sending home bags by grade levels with paperback books and writing journals and other activities so that our students will continue their learning at-home," she said.

Through continued learning, seniors will be able to get the credits they need to graduate, said Kincannon, however, whether or not they'll get a traditional graduation ceremony is still "unknown."

"It's too early to predict," Kincannon said of possible WISD graduation ceremonies. "We'll see what happens in the coming weeks before any decisions are made about that."

"We are just being flexible. We met with staff today and everyone was on-board with doing what it takes to take care of students' health and education," she said.