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  • Fairbury News staff

Board votes down plan

It’s back to the drawing board for leaders in the Prairie Central school district after a motion to approve the reopening plan for 2021-22 failed during a special meeting Thursday night.

The “no” votes were cast by all of the board members in attendance, including president Mark Slagel, Ted Bachtold, Tim McGreal and Brian Plenert. Three board members were absent, including vice president Lori Schahrer, secretary John Wilken and Dana Kafer.

At the start of the meeting, which once again had an overflow crowd in the PCHS library, Slagel emphasized that the board wants what is best for the kids. He acknowledged there are strong opinions on both sides of the mask issue.

“Try to stay cordial and be nice to each other as we get started here,” Slagel told the crowd.

Superintendent Paula Crane presented the reopening plan and reminded everyone the goal has shifted from in-person learning last year to keeping kids in school this year.

“This plan is written for the education of students,” she explained. “We have to learn from the things we did.”

Had the plan been approved and the governor not issued a mask mandate on Wednesday, parents would have been able to choose from three options which include: masking, a weekly testing program or vaccination for appropriate age levels. A minimum of one option would have been required. This is when community transmission rates are at moderate or substantial levels.

Everything now defaults back to mask wearing with the state’s newest mandate for students in preschool through 12th grade, although many parents in attendance Thursday did not agree with this. In fact, some called for the school district to defy the mandate.

“Why do we have to follow this dictator?” Logan Spenard said, referring to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “Somebody’s got to start standing up to these people.”

Amy Haberkorn said her son has had a rough time and always did well in school until last year.

“As his mother, this absolutely breaks my heart.”

Haberkorn urged the board to “be brave” and stand up to do what is right for the kids. She feels a mask optional status can be accomplished.

Melanie Overend has different feelings toward the mask situation. Since her youngest can’t have the vaccine, she is all for masks if that is what keeps kids safe. She admitted not everyone likes wearing them.

“There are other folks in the district that have other opinions,” Overend said.

Kristin Zehr pointed to the need to make a pro and con list when decisions are made and she is not seeing too many pros.

“We’re parents and would like to make a choice for our own child.”

Samantha Yard questioned why children are being forced to wear masks, saying they need to have a voice. Yard is concerned about her daughter wearing a mask all the time.

“I can’t allow my child to sit there and suffer. She is crying because she doesn’t want to go to school.”

Following the public comments, president Slagel said the board was not comfortable defying the governor’s orders as members could face lawsuits.

“Yesterday, our governor threw a monkey wrench in the plan,” he stated.

The next regular Prairie Central Board of Education meeting is slated for Thursday, Aug. 19.

Here is the plan which was presented to the members of the Prairie Central Board of Education Thursday evening along with a complete meeting recap, provided by the district.

Review of August 5, 2021 Special Board Meeting
Download PDF • 773KB

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