Undaunted

Hutchins Elementary Prinicipal Elizabeth Tupa has stayed busy helping students, parents and teachers throughout the shutdown. She’s shown here giving books to Cheyenne Bouse.

Unemployment has been a hallmark of the coronavirus pandemic, and school officials across the nation warn of upcoming funding cuts and teacher layoffs. So far, El Campo and Louise ISDs have avoided layoffs during the districts’ closures and the school boards opted to continue to pay hourly workers.

“The nice thing about the schools that separates us from other companies is that we are state funded,” Outgoing El Campo ISD Superintendent Kelly Waters said. “The state came out real early and said ... ‘you’re still getting funded.’ That made it easy to say that we’re going to continue to pay our staff.”

The ECISD school board passed a resolution on March 24 to pay workers during the school closing in order to maintain morale and reduce staffing turnover. This extends to custodians, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

“I didn’t realize this, but if your bus sits too long it’s bad for the tires,” Waters said. “We are running buses. You’ll see them cruising through town. That’s just keeping them in tip top shape because we know we’re going to need them again.”

LISD hourly employees are working reduced hours during the district’s closure. The board opted on March 20, however, to still pay them during the pandemic. Hourly workers are getting paid for the number of hours they worked before the district closed.

“The teachers are still working, and so they’re getting paid,” LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver said. “So we wanted to extend that same courtesy (to hourly workers) and kind of make it as equitable as possible.”

Even though school is being conducted at home, the campus facilities still have to be maintained. Louise staff are practicing social distancing while working on campus, Oliver said.

“The custodians are out doing all kinds of different things outside the buildings to get the buildings clean,” Oliver said. “Our maintenance stuff, we still have a lot of things to fix ... There are all kinds of things that need to be done.”

Both school districts have begun the hiring process for the next school year. They are focusing on hiring replacements for teachers or staff that are retiring or leaving the district, but not adding new positions.

“At the end of the day, when people have a job, everything’s just a little better,” Waters said. “We (are one of) the largest employers in the city. That’s money that continues to go into the community.”

Currently, ECISD is looking for a new superintendent, as Waters resigned May 4 for an assistant superintendent position at Vidor ISD. The district is also seeking special education teachers, a football coach, and a high school counselor, among other positions. LISD is hiring a kindergarten teacher and high school math teacher.

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