By CHRISTY JANKOWSKI
The entire Bement School board, plus staff and some members of the public met virtually through Google Meet for their May meeting. They also met through Google Meet in April of 2020.
Principal Doug Kepley thanked various people for their support during this time of remote learning, and virtual ceremonies. For Honors Night which is typically held in person, the district put together a virtual video honoring their students. “And had our teachers all video themselves, so big thanks to all our teachers and a big big thanks to Andrew Brown because he took all these videos and put them together for the creation.” Kepley went on to say, “Very proud of kids and still able to honor them with a virtual honors night.” The video is available on their Facebook page.
Speaking of honoring students, graduation looks different across the State this year. Both Cerro Gordo and Bement School districts will hold a parade social distancing style for their graduates this week. Kepley stated, “We want to recognize our kids and have everybody see them.”
Bement’s will be on Friday, May 22 at 7pm and Cerro Gordo will hold one May 23 at 5pm. Bement is honoring their students through a limited in person ceremony as well which will be held in the small gym. Each student accompanied with a limit of 4 family members will have 5 minutes for grabbing their diploma and a photo. “No handshakes, no handing out diplomas,” states Kepley. That presentation will be held at 5pm and will be recorded, as will the Valedictorian and Salutatorian speeches. All will be combined in a video format.
Cerro Gordo tentatively plans to hold a graduation ceremony in person July 25 at 7pm.
Board Member Denise Strack asked Kepley how the remote learning went with the students the past few months. “I would say for the majority it has worked fairly well. I know these last couple weeks, just like everybody they are just mentally emotionally exhausted.” Adding that,
“Just like any situation even with remote learning, we got a few of those kids waiting til the last minute this week to sit down and complete some things or turn some things in.”
Superintendent Sheila Greenwood added they will have drone footage of the graduation parade as well. “Little added thing for graduation is one of my nephews has a drone and it’s a nice drone so he is going to be shooting some footage of the school itself from a drone perspective and adding it to the video.”
Greenwood went on to add that the district will be receiving $46,000 from the Cares Act which is for Covid-19 relief. Greenwood is skeptical if the money will be added to their budget for the fall, or if it is additional funds. “Its 80% of our title one money so that is how they calculate that
The unknown is whether that 46,000 dollars will be considered part of our funding in the fall of fiscal year 2021.If that happens we are not one dollar ahead, if not we can do some things that would be helpful with some hotpots that have occured over the last two months.”
With the storm damage that occurred on April 8, the district plans to use some of the money to replenish funds that had to be used to recover from the damage. They are still waiting on insurance for some, “Some of the estimates involve critical pieces so we are having to do some of that…but hoping to get that wrapped up in the next few weeks.”
As far as whether or not to plan on students returning in the fall Greenwood states she is hesitant to state whether students will receive in person classroom instruction. “As far as for next school year, you go with your gut and my gut tells me that we are not going to be doing regular on site instruction in the fall.” She added, “I am hopeful that is wrong. I am hopeful that we do get back to something like that. But we have been told to have a plan a for coming back on site instruction and plan b to continue with remote learning and the administrative team and our union leadership have met and we are going to work on a plan c which is something totally different.”
She added that she wants the staff to take a break after school is officially not in session. “Without any guidance at this point we are still waiting and I also really seriously have told the staff and administrators we need to have some closure for this year and then I want you to step back away from it for a few days and just have some time for yourself without this bombarding your brain. It has been a big responsibility and it has been very testing. It has been hard on parents, teachers, administration, everyone.”
All schools in Illinois officially closed for in-person sessions on March 16, 2020 and have been since. Remote learning was required, but grades were not given. Greenwood also expressed complaints about the ability for teachers to introduce new material. “We were not allowed to grade and consider assignments…we were very empathetic which we are supposed to be and I appreciate that, but we were not able to introduce new material and we did not have effective ways to introduce new material, so you can only review so much.”
According to Governor Pritzker’s plan schools can resume in person sessions in Phase 4.
Greenwood also expressed her concern with citing a local radio show, “The amount of instruction that was lost with this one quarter of the school year is going to take years to catch up.” Adding, “When you think of it that way if we don’t come back full time if we don’t find a new way to do this or a better way, we are going to really reap some core benefits for these kids, maybe for their educational careers.”
“We are just brainstorming and praying we don’t have to do any of it and can get back together in August, but we just don’t know. Hoping for the best and try to be prepared if we have to head the other direction.”
The board is still taking photos of Veterans or Active Duty Military members for their Veterans wall. They have delayed the deadline of getting photos and information until the end of the summer. What is needed? 8×10 photo of the service member, their graduation year from Bement, type of service.
The district adopted the mathematics curriculum of Envison currently used in the Elementary for the Middle School.
A donation of $1,000 from Bill Kurr, a Bement alum for Chromebooks was accepted