MISD School Board discusses Hunter Gym, budget shortfalls

MARFA – The MISD School Board met on March 31 with all members present and sped through the agenda with a couple surprises and no disagreements. Every issue that required a vote passed unanimously.

High School Principal Allison Scott reported that 90 percent of high school students are back in person and more are considering coming back for the last six weeks, with graduation happening on May 28. 

The MISD campus currently has zero active COVID-19 cases. That number includes both students and teachers. The board is exploring the company GermBlast for cleaning and filtration options to further ensure peace of mind. 

Teachers who have chosen to be vaccinated number somewhere between 53 and 60 percent. “By law the school cannot mandate teachers get a vaccination,” Superintendent Oscar Aguero said. He also thanked Judge Guevara and Marfa Clinic for keeping the school in the loop from the beginning about the availability of vaccines for faculty. He also thanked all of the Marfa community for taking the pandemic seriously and the city for leading the way for the current low numbers and the safety of all. 

 Hunter Gym

The newly-formed 501c3 Friends of Hunter Gym announced their board members and goal for the gym to have a vibrant new life as a community resource. The friends group will incorporate education and history including stories of those who knew the building as a gym. This project will unfold at no cost to the school district, county or city of Marfa. Funding will come from grants and private donations. 

Elizabeth Farrell, of MUDLAB, an architecture firm based in Marfa, will be the board president and Robert Arber, of Arber & Son Editions and a historic adobe restorer, will be the vice president. Bob Schwab, who recently retired as transportation planner of Traxx, will be the board secretary and Mike Green, a retired architect for historic renovation of adobe, will join the board as treasurer.

Other team members include Zeke Raney of MUDLAB; Lauren Klotzman, skilled in historic research; and Martha Stafford, who presently has come out of retirement to teach in Terlingua due to the pandemic. The group hopes to launch with the IRS by April 14. There will be ample opportunities for community members who wish to help with this project. The school board will be project partners as well as lease the gym to the new organization. 

Budget Shortfall

Because the state of Texas ties school funding to attendance rather than total enrollment, and because some households chose homeschool rather than distance learning and other families relocated during the pandemic, the numbers are in flux. According to Superintendent Aguero, “Some families moved when the hospitality industry shut down, heading to Odessa or El Paso for work.”

He doesn’t have the exact data on how many families  moved, how many chose homeschool and who might be coming back as jobs return and the threat of COVID lessens. The margins are tight for Marfa ISD to meet the funding criteria. Attendance needs to be at 80 percent to qualify for projected funding and the school attendance presently sits at 77 percent. There may be an 8-10 percent drop in funding based on the current numbers. Budgetary spending is right at 50 percent, where it should be at this point in the school year. However, going forward has some unknowns. Next month’s board meeting will have more current financial information, and more will be known about the attendance numbers. 

In the event of a budgetary shortfall, the school district owns several small plots of land throughout Marfa that could be considered for possible sale, if the need arises to meet financial goals. Mr. Aguero thought the only interested parties might likely be abutters since the lots are small, however the proceeds would go directly to the school and the properties would then be back on the tax rolls as well. 

The board voted to approve the Resolution Authorizing the Use of the National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance (region 14), which gives the school the option to purchase through the cooperative, where all offerings have been preapproved and releases the school from getting three bids for any product they might require, covering a broad range from learning companies to cleaning companies. 

Lastly, after returning from the executive session, the board accepted the resignations of both Cinda Muench, the dyslexia interventionist, and Crystal Amaro, fifth  and sixth grade teacher. Both are moving away from Marfa at the end of the school year.