Education

The recovery from last week’s winter storm will continue for weeks — and possibly months. The Belton Independent School District is beginning the formal administrative process to pick up those pieces.

Trustees, in four separate unanimous decisions Wednesday, agreed to pay staff for the week of canceled classes, applied for two waivers for missed school days and remote instruction and suspended bidding requirements so facilities can be repaired faster.

Belton ISD was closed Feb. 12 to Monday after the recent storm brought record snow, ice and subfreezing temperatures. All district employees will get paid for that period.

“COVID and our weather have been challenging situations,” Superintendent Matt Smith said, noting it was especially hard for the district’s staff. “We’re their lifeblood.”

The school board signed off on a waiver so the district can get all of its instructional minutes on the days it was closed — Feb. 16 and 17 as well as Thursday, Friday and Monday. The document will be submitted to the Texas Education Agency.

“We had a first, from my understanding, and we ended up with several missed days of instruction, plus a couple of hours when the ice storm actually hit,” Smith said.

The state mandates school districts must be in operation for 75,600 minutes annually, according to TEA. That is roughly 420 minutes of instructional minutes every day for a 180-day school calendar.

Belton ISD submitted another waiver to cover its all remote instruction day on Feb. 12.

“In order to receive full instructional minutes for that day, there’s a different waiver,” Deputy Superintendent Malinda Golden said.

By suspending the bidding requirements, the board is allowing administrators to seek services to make the necessary repairs at district facilities. The resolution allows district staff to exceed the $50,000 cap to procure supplies and services without board approval.

“This resolution may not be necessary, but it is one we thought would be beneficial to bring to you all in the event if we need to do repairs, we can do it expeditiously,” Jennifer Land, Belton ISD’s chief financial officer, said.

Trustee Chris Flor asked for a timeframe for how long this resolution will be in place.

“This is not something we want to continue,” Smith said, adding he does not expect it to be used beyond next month.

Flor described the resolution as a useful tool that must be used wisely to get Belton ISD back to running smoothly.

“We’ve got to make sure we get the schools back and running,” the school board member said.