Lufkin school trustees approved a resolution to compensate employees with premium-plus pay in addition to premium pay during the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution is an amendment to the resolution passed previously to pay employees during the school closures. It adds a bonus of $2 per hour called premium-plus pay on top of the premium pay (time and a half) for hourly employees working with the public during the pandemic.

Some of these employees include food service employees, police officers providing traffic control at feeding sites, certain transportation employees helping deliver food to different remote sites.

“Yesterday they served almost 1,948 meals,” Superintendent Lynn Torres said. “They are meeting the public, they are there preparing meals, they are hauling meals all over town and providing a needed service for our families. This is just a little reward for service above and beyond.”

There are now seven different feeding sites in operation now with the ability to serve two meals at a time and to serve meals to families without children in the car with them.

This order came down with guidelines from the Texas Department of Agriculture that the parent should come with a letter or email showing that their student is enrolled, for example a report card or student ID card.

Lufkin ISD staff is in the process of verifying enrollment of those students who have passed through the food sites and providing a letter for parents to use as a visual verification to lessen the need for staff to verify.

“We’re trying to make that as easy for the parent in these times to go through without an email, without an ID, without a birth certificate and without a report card,” Torres said. “I understand why TDA is doing this, but it produced yet another problem that we had to solve on the fly.”

The board also passed a resolution to temporarily suspend public comment during its meetings while its meetings are being conducted virtually through the Zoom software during the school closures.

In lieu of public comment, the board is monitoring all questions and comments sent daily to board@lufkinisd.org.

“That will be a very convenient for the public to add questions or, should they hear about something, they could provide input on a variety of topics, not necessarily just the telephone conference,” Torres said.

Public comment will be reinstated when the emergency passes.

The board also discussed Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to continue public school closures through May 4. Torres said she hopes officials might know more about the control of the virus by then and schools will be allowed to reopen, but the closures could extend beyond May 4.

“My promise to seniors is we are having a graduation,” Torres said. “I don’t know when we’re having a graduation, but we are having a graduation. Our kids deserve to put on their cap and gown and walk across the stage at our stadium. We’re going to do that if it’s August 1.”

Curriculum will begin to be distributed in two-week intervals to lessen contact. Meetings are being held about how to move forward with grades to have a consistent, fair policy across the district.

“I know teachers and parents want to know as soon as possible what’s going to be done, and we’re trying to look for the fair way without harming students because we know we do not have 100% packet pick-up,” Torres said. “We don’t want to punish the child for that.”

After questions from staff, the district is now issuing letters marking LISD employees as essential in case of a shelter in place order. Torres said between that and an employee ID card, staff should be safe if questioned by authorities.

Eight goggle sanitizers from the district’s science classes also have been loaned to Woodland Heights Medical Center to use during this pandemic.

The district also has provided curriculum packets and log-ins to Khan Academy to the J.D. Center for Hope so they can help effectively tutor parents and students during the school closures.

At this time, school board elections are still a go, and mail-in ballots have been sent out. The district has until April 20 to decide to move its elections to November.

Board member Don Mulbach asked if anyone is checking on the different campuses during the closures to check for emergency situations like a burst pipe. Torres said at least one person is entering each campus daily from maintenance, mail clerks, custodians, principals and more.

“This is a work in progress, and nothing’s perfect, but we’re trying to do the best we can,” Torres said.

“Thank you all for joining, and thanks to the district for the hard work,” board president Scott Skelton said. “I know a lot is going on, and it’s difficult. We wake up in a new world every day.”

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.

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