WOODSBORO – The Woodsboro Independent School District set its 2020-21 tax rate and approved a budget, hired a new technology director and also approved a plan to deal with instruction if attendance drops in the coming weeks.

The WISD school board approved a tax rate of $1.16 per $100 property valuation for the 2020-21 fiscal year, down from $1.40 from the previous fiscal year.

“It has to do with a new formula from the state for funding education,” said WISD Superintendent Janice Sykora. “The state helped us out and allowed us to raise teacher salaries by giving us extra money last year, and we appreciated that.”

With budget uncertainties statewide because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fluctuating oil prices and economic difficulties caused by job loss, the state faces a different financial picture than the rosy forecast of 2019. Those factors could affect funding for education.

The district hired a new technology director, KaSteene Harris, who previously served as federal programs director for the district and has long been a presence at WISD.

“She will continue to support the elementary with distance learning, and she will manage infrastructure, cyber security and the technology budget (for the entire district),” Sykora said.

“As we upgrade our servers, she will call on vendors to do that.”

As the first four weeks of the school year come to a close, the board had to apply for a waiver to extend distance learning in case health conditions make that necessary, Sykora said

“We have about 70 percent of our students attending class in person and 30 percent participating in distance learning,” she said. “People have been eager and anxious to be at school and it’s a joyous thing to see.”

However, to ensure that students, staff and families remain safe, all students will go to a distance learning format after Sept. 10 if the in-person attendance rate falls below 91 percent.

“The board struggled with that decision,” Sykora said. “Person-to-person learning seems to work best for the students, but we also have to be concerned about new cases (of coronavirus) popping up.

“I know that will not be popular, but we have to be sure we protect people’s health.”

Although it is unknown what health conditions will be like later this fall, Sykora said the school board was required to apply for the waiver from the Texas Education Agency in advance.

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