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  • Fairbury News staff

New lighting on the way

Lights at Lewis Field of PCHS are shown last Sept. after a football game.

New lighting is coming to the Prairie Central High School track and football field after a bid was approved from Vissering Construction Thursday evening.

The Prairie Central Board of Education approved the $630,000 price tag during the group’s regular meeting held this month at the Upper Elementary school in Forrest. The cost came in higher than expected but reflects an increase in price for materials such as copper, pipe and steel – along with labor costs.

Three different contractors submitted bids and Vissering came in the lowest. Current poles along the football field are in poor shape, which prompted the board to move forward on the project.

“Unfortunately, some of our poles are rotted,” explained PC board president Mark Slagel.

While eight poles are currently used, the field will get by with only four and new LED lighting will be included. The poles are galvanized steel.

Items such as new poles and fixtures could take 12 weeks or more to receive. The wait for a new electrical panel is around 365 days which means the school will have to use the existing panel with the new lights for now.

Under old business, the board approved a junior high policy which includes upper elementary students in some sports, such as track, scholastic bowl, wrestling and speech. The idea was discussed at a previous meeting as junior high participation numbers were low for certain sports.

“I met with every single coach we have,” said Ben Klekamp, athletic director at Prairie Central Junior High. “No upper elementary student may take a spot from a junior high student.”

For now, basketball is off the table as Klekamp feels the school can do a better job advertising camps and promoting the sports programs.

“That’s something I want to take on, especially with girls basketball.”

“I like the proposal,” added Superintendent Paula Crane.

A consolidated district plan was another item approved by the board on Thursday. Codi Conway, K-6 director of curriculum and instruction, explained the district must complete several grants annually. This plan outlines goals for all of the grants and how funding will be used.

“That does require board approval each year,” Conway noted.

Funding is used for software programs, professional development and different supplements.

During her superintendent report, Crane gave an update on buildings and maintenance. The district is compiling a list of what needs to be completed this summer. Doors must be replaced and gym floor work is planned.

Crane shared information on end of the year dates for students and teachers. A two-hour early dismissal is planned for the first Wednesday in June so teachers can collaborate. Seniors finish May 20 with graduation at 6 p.m. May 27. The last day for student attendance is June 6 with teachers finishing June 7. An open house for retirees will be June 7 at 9:30 a.m. with a staff brunch at 10:30 and recognition at 11:30.

Upper Elementary Principal Hannah McDermaid gave an update on her school, which is trying to bridge the gap for students from the elementary to junior high setting.

“My hope is that will sort of ease the transition,” she said.

PCUE is in the process of hiring a sixth-grade teacher and is preparing for Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I’ve seen a great number of kids who have made significant growth,” McDermaid concluded.

Brian Quam, director of curriculum, instruction and technology, gave a testing update. The recent testing process went well and Quam thanked staff for helping with the required process.

“It’s a stressful time,” Quam admitted.

He recapped a senior career day at the First Baptist Church in Fairbury which has transitioned into job visits for a few students.

Quam explained the adoption of a new math curriculum which will be recommended in May. This is a problem-based curriculum. Math teachers are starting to work on an implementation plan. Quam also said the district is creating a technology rotation where it would not have to buy several computers at once.

Work continues on a teacher preparation program to help address the teacher shortage in Illinois. Quam is still waiting to hear if Prairie Central received a grant. There are multiple components of the effort, including the formation of a club for those wanting to go into education. The goal is to incentivize young adults to return to Prairie Central as teachers.

In other business, the Prairie Central Board of Education:

-Approved board policy updates.

-Renewed membership with IHSA for the 2022-23 school year.

-Authorized the stipend and fee schedule for the next year.

-Okayed an overnight high school girls track trip May 19-21 to the state meet in Charleston.

-Approved the consent agenda, which included the activity fund report, bills, financials and sales tax report.

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