Garner ISD board of trustees approved measures to make sure all district employees will be paid while school is closed and funds to purchase devices to assist in distance learning on Tuesday.
GISD, like other school districts in the county, will be closed for two weeks following this week’s Spring Break to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The board approved $65,000 to be used for technology needs for distance learning, which includes Chromebooks and hotspots for checkout by district families, Superintendent Rebecca Hallmark said. The money may also be used to equip teachers with technology to allow them to teach remotely.
The board also passed a resolution to ensure all district employees will be paid during the closure, particularly non-contract employees like teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers and custodians, Hallmark said.
Last week, GISD students were also sent home with two weeks worth of materials and activities that don’t require technology access, and families will have more opportunities to pick up paper packets of instruction if they choose not to use a device, Hallmark said. Teachers will be communicating with families about instructions for distance learning.
“We’re all learning as we go, just being fluid and flexible and just doing the best to meet the kids’ needs,” Hallmark said. “That’s what you have to do. It’s unprecedented for us, but we’ll get it done.”
Board President Clay Youngblood said this is the best plan for learning available to the district so far. Youngblood brought up his concerns for the district’s finances, including costs to keep facilities in good shape and for materials that are needed, as well as funding that depends on students being in school.
“We’re a small, tiny district,” Youngblood said. “To go buy some replacement equipment or add to the counts capable of doing this, that hits our bottom line quite a bit considering how small we are.”
During the closure, Youngblood said work will be done to thoroughly clean the school facilities, which is better done when teachers and students are absent.
As a parent, Youngblood raised concerns that some parents don’t have the option to stay home from work with their kids who are not at school.
“Used to be, the option was daycare. Well, are they going to suspend daycares permanently? We don’t know where that’s going to go,” Youngblood said. “My concern is for those kids who may not have supervision at home. Is there going to be relief for those parents who can’t go to work because they have to watch their kids?”
For parents who have questions, Youngblood recommended that they contact school board members whose email addresses can be found at www.garnerisd.net/school-board.