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DISD approves calendar changes, bonuses for staff

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Denison ISD Board of Trustees approved two items aimed at increasing morale and recognizing staff and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many teacher and educators, 2020 has been a learning experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, educators have had to learn technology and new ways of teaching as schools went virtual earlier this year and in-person classes took on a new look under the new normal.

In an effort to recognize these efforts by teachers and staff, the Denison Independent School District School Board approved a series of resolutions Tuesday night that include three additional days off this school year and a one-time $1,000 bonus check for DISD educators.

The move by DISD officials comes as many districts around the region have taken steps to recognize the effort made by teachers to continue teaching during an unprecedented time.

"We wanted to give our teachers and other staff some relief and really just build morale. They are weighted down with work and it has been a nightmare," DISD Superintendent Henry Scott said regarding the changes to safety protocol in the classroom and the additional of distance education to the workload.

Members of the DISD Board of Trustees approved amendments to the current school calendar that will create three additional days when students and teachers will not report to class.

The first of these days will occur on Dec. 18 and effectively extend the Christmas break by one day by starting it early. The next day falls on Feb. 12 and will make the President's Day weekend a four-day weekend.

The final day will come late in the school year on April 16. As a part of this final change,  the early release day that was previously scheduled on April 14 will now take place on April 15.

"We felt that this was something that would build morale in the teachers and give students a break as well," he said.

The changes to the calendar are not expected to affect any other days where students and staff are not required to come to class. Scott said the state of Texas determines how many days are in the school year based on the number of minutes spent in classroom activity. Under the current schedule, the district has about eight days built up above what is required by the state.

"In Texas you operate based on the number of hours you have," Scott said. "We have about seven to eight more than the state requires. So, we can take the days we need to do this and still have four extra days that we could use for bad weather days, if necessary."

The addition of the new days will leave the district with between four and five days that could be used for bad weather make up or other adjustments, based on the campus

In a separate move, the board also approved a one-time bonus of $1,000 for all full-time employees with in the district, and $500 for all part-time employees. This mirrors a similar decision by the Sherman ISD board in late October that provided all full-time employees with a $1,000 bonus.

Scott said many districts have taken similar steps to recognize teachers, with bonuses varying between districts. In total, these bonuses are expected to cost the district about $710,000.

"I think more than anything else, retention," Scott said regarding the actions by the board. "I think we've got to build morale with our employees and really tell them we care about what they are doing. We appreciate all of the hard work they have done beyond what would have been done in a normal school year."