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  • Fairbury News staff

District adapts to changes

The impacts of COVID-19 on education were front and center during Thursday’s regular meeting of the Prairie Central Board of Education held online via Zoom.

Superintendent Paula Crane discussed distance learning and what the district is doing for the students. Activities depend on grade level and a certain number of minutes are expected each day for the different grades. A large number of students are participating in the learning at home but some aren’t.

“I think we are doing very well compared to a lot of other districts,” Crane told board members.

The state says the district cannot do anything that would hurt a student’s grade. Most high school teachers will follow a 1-4 grade scale and students will receive a “P” for pass or “I” for incomplete.

“No kid will fail but they might have to re-take (a course),” explained high school teacher Caren Appel.

Crane said they have already picked their power standards so kids can go on to the next level, although she admits it will take a lot of effort to get everyone caught back up at this point.

“It’s got to be hard,” said board member Brian Plenert.

Board President Mark Slagel commended the teachers for giving it their best effort.

The board agreed to partner with Maxwire to provide Internet service to families that need it. The company is ready to proceed with installation at a low-income home as a pilot project.

“They’re providing the hardware and the means to get it there but they are using our bandwidth,” Crane noted.

This does not cost the district anything and it could be beneficial to have this in place for the future. The district is searching for additional families who may be in need of this.

Meal distribution is going well in the district. Things weren’t perfect at the start but changes were made along the way. Distribution will continue to be three times per week as everything is running smoothly currently.

Different options for high school graduation are being explored including a virtual experience where a company creates a video that would include the traditional speeches.

“Different schools are looking at different options,” said Crane.

Banquets and award nights will most likely be cancelled this year but could be incorporated into an online graduation ceremony.

Crane suggested the board proceed with caution as far as big projects over the summer. She hopes to come back with recommendations next month for timelines and completion dates.

“We just want to be sure where we are at before we spend big bucks.”

Prairie Central should be receiving money through its title grant, although there has been no guidance regarding what the money can be used for. COVID-19 will have impacts on the district budget as Livingston County is not going to charge a penalty if someone doesn’t make their first tax payment. This delays when the district gets money. McLean County has also delayed their payments by a few weeks.

“In June, we are going to do some major amending of this year’s budget,” Crane said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the Prairie Central Board of Education:

-Ceased all field trips for the remainder of the school year and recommendations by the governor and CDC will be followed at the discretion of the superintendent.

-Authorized IHSA membership for the 2020-21 school year.

-Approved rates, fees and costs for the upcoming year.

-Made handbook changes for 2020-21.

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