Planning for all students to return to in-person learning
By ARIANA R. CHERRY
“I am pretty proud of where we are. We are in good shape. I feel pretty confident we will continue to move in that direction,” quoted Superintendent Shannon Cheek when he presented COVID19 updates to the board during his superintendent’s report. At the time of the meeting, there were 16 students who were in quarantine and only one student in quarantine due to a positive test. No staff were in quarantine. Since August 19, the district has only had 75 positive cases among students and 21 positive cases among staff.
The district is planning on a full return with pre-COVID schedules for the next school year. This means that all of the buildings are looking at a full school day with everyone returning to in-person learning. There will be guidelines that the district may have to follow and if there are students with health conditions that have a note from their doctor that requires them to have remote learning, then the district will make plans for that.
During the treasurer’s report, Shannon stated that for transportation they have received only one payment that was from last year. He said that the district is still getting one less payment than they should be getting. “It is frustrating,” he said. “It could continue for two or three more years,” Shannon added. He informed the board that in the district there is flat funding and increased expenses. Another blow to the district was a massive increase in its utility bills from Ameren. While the energy bill normally runs an average of about $4,000-$5,000 a month, in February, the district received a bill for $18,000. This high bill was related to the energy situation that Texas had a few months ago.
Board members passed an amended budget. The district is projecting an increase in fund balances of the operating funds of approximately $70,000. The overall projected increase in total fund balances is $274,000.
An ESSER Fund (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) update was presented. ESSER Funds were originally known as CARES ACT Dollars but was recently changed to ESSER. It was established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act,1 State educational agencies (SEAs) will award sub-grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to address the impact that the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had, and continues to have, on elementary schools.
Shannon informed the board that the district received $265,000 during the first wave of distribution and was very grateful. “We utilized the dollars very well. We are in a good place with technology. We used about $260,000 of that in technology. It couldn’t have come at a better time in the situation we were in. Another $50,000-$55,000 was used for supplies. It helped to maintain the environment we were in to move forward,” he said.
There will be a round two of ESSER for about $960,000. Shannon noted that he has started the grant application process and has not yet said what those grant dollars will be used for yet. In July, there will be a round three of funds that will be available. That amount will be around two million dollars. To be eligible for that, 20% of that has to be allocated to learning loss. “We need to be very strategic in how we do this and include others in the conversation. These dollars are used to supplement to get through the times we are in. They will not be around forever,” Cheek quoted. He did explain that there was time to decide how to utilize the funds as they had to be utilized by September of 2023 and spent by 2024.
The Amish Representatives were present during the meeting. Arthur Grade School Principal, Sage Hale, noted that there would be one new Amish family coming to the school next year which would be bringing a new kindergartner. She told the representatives that she had appreciated all of their communication and thanked all of the families who had been able to get hot spots to do remote learning with their classmates. Cheek also stated his appreciation. “Their work and cooperation with us have been phenomenal. I can’t thank you enough for your understanding,” he said.
The board discussed and passed the bids for roof repair. The bids came in at $276,000 ($284,000 was budgeted). The amount budgeted also included contingency money ($15,000) to cover any unexpected costs.
A first reading of a science curriculum update was held to basically just give the school board some information of what had been done in the past year. Teachers met several times and have researched eight different options. They mentioned that when studying science, it should be more interactive instead of more text-book reading. They hope to return for the May school board meeting to adopt the new curriculum.
The Task Force Initiative which started back in November 2020 whose goal was to assist the board in the process of moving forward to make improvements and changes to the facility brought forth two initiatives to the board. There were 60 different individuals who participated in five different focus group meetings in March.
The following initiatives were brought forward:
Strategic Initiative 1: The Board of Education shall consider and implement appropriate, equitable, effective and feasible improvements to the programs and opportunities for students; considering the “whole child” and the resources necessary to meet their academic, social, emotional and physical needs. The Board of Education shall charge the Superintendent to lead a process that will allow for the planning and implementation of curricular and instructional improvements that address the academic and social-emotional needs of all students in Arthur CUSD 305. The planning process shall build upon the current strengths of the district and address teaching and learning gaps that may exist. The planning process shall be driven by student learning evidence, and shall identify any student learning and/or identified student engagement issues. This initiative projects a review that contains, but is not limited to, (and is in no specific order)
a. Science and technology teaching and learning needs
b. Career and technical education opportunities, both high school and junior high school
c. Socialization and transitional considerations for junior high school students
d. Junior high school electives
e. Ensuring that curricular and learning objectives are contemporary
f. Ensuring that instructional methodology and resources are contemporary
g. Dual credit, and advanced learning opportunities
Strategic Initiative 2: The Board of Education shall review identified facility needs, develop plans to remedy prioritized needs, and engage appropriately and responsibly in processes to finance and schedule approved facility improvements, considering a student-centered focus to the greatest extent possible. The Board of Education shall charge the superintendent to complete a formal facilities review that augments the work presented with the QLEO report shared in the summer of 2020. The purpose of said review should result in no more than 5 options for facility improvement work that satisfies Strategic Initiative 1 to the greatest extent possible.
This initiative projects a review that contains, but is not limited to, (and is in no specific order)
STRUCTURAL, ACCESSIBILITY, NON-INSTRUCTIONAL NEEDS
a. HVAC needs in all school buildings
b. Accessibility issues that must and should be remedied in all schools
c. Restrooms, kitchens, cafeterias
FUNCTIONAL, ENGAGEMENT AND INSTRUCTIONAL NEEDS
a. Athletic spaces
b. Artistic spaces
c. Science & Technology spaces
d. Career and Technical Education spaces
This review shall begin in the summer of 2021 and may proceed into the school year allowing for continued feedback and refinement, aligning student needs with facility needs along the way.
The two plans were approved as presented. “I love that we had a process that involved our community in so many different ways. The opportunity was there and I am glad so many took part,” said board member, Monica Green. “I am proud that is what they came up with and I am excited to move forward,” she added. “Thank you to everyone who put in their time. It was a good process,” commented board president, Beth Wiley.
High School Graduation and Senior Trip Update
It is planned that May 19 will be the last day for seniors. The graduation will be held May 29 at 7:00 pm. The rain date is May 30. It is estimated that seniors will receive 10 tickets that they may give to family and friends to invite to graduation. It will be held outside on the football field. The rehearsal will be held on Thursday, May 27. For the senior trip, currently there plans for a possible trip once graduation is over for students to go to a Cubs baseball game and Great America in Chicago. Planning is still in the works.
8th Grade Promotion Update
We are planning on having a promotion ceremony for our 8th graders this year. We are coordinating efforts with all buildings to hold the ceremony at Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond High School. The ceremony will take place on the football field on Friday, May 28, 2021 at 6pm. The rain date is Saturday, May 29 at 10:00 am. We are anticipating restrictions to our capacity and will be working with resources to have the ceremony live streamed. We will be sending out a more detailed plan as it all comes together.
-Accept retirement of Marcia DeLong as custodian at AHGS effective June 30, 2021.
-Accept retirement of Jorena Hammel as lunchroom supervisor at AHGS effective May 26, 2021.
-Recommend for hire, Lyle Dorjhan as High School Assistant Track Coach
-Accept letter of resignation from Emily Sproat as Speech and Language Pathologist at AHGS and LGS effective at the end of the school year.
-Accept letter of resignation from Curtis Plank as JV Basketball Coach.
Accept letter of resignation from Marylisa Renfro as Student Council Advisor effective at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
-Recommend for hire Kylie Russell for Guidance Counselor for Arthur Lovington Atwood Hammond High School.
-Recommend for hire Grace Hartrich for JH Math at AHGS for the 2021-2022 school year.
-Recommend for hire Kathy Frye for Summer Driver’s Ed for Summer of 2021
-Recommend tenure for the following teachers, Amber Crothers, Brianne Eads, Chris Kessler, Michaela Ponstein, Roger Punches, Bryton Ragon, Jenny Rau and Jill Wulff.