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  • Fairbury News staff

Pandemic not easy for schools

The emotional impact of COVID-19 was felt at this week's regular monthly meeting of the Prairie Central Board of Education.

“There is nothing easy about this year,” PC superintendent Paula Crane said. “It’s stressful on teachers like it is on everyone.”

Crane acknowledged the pressure schools are facing during these unpredictable times. A big concern is keeping everyone healthy so teachers are available in order to keep the schools open. The governor recently announced two goals: keeping people alive and keeping kids in school.

The district released a survey asking staff members if they wanted to come back from the most recent closure. There were strong opinions both ways as the staff was pretty much split down the middle. Crane noted that even in her position, she feels like she is playing a game where you don’t know what is going to happen next.

Crane said kids have made it clear they want to be in school, however.

“Our metrics didn’t go higher until the community went higher.”

Faculty member Angie Kratochvil told board members during public comment that the team at Prairie Central needs them. She noted the pandemic has divided our country and now the district, leading to a more divisive climate.

“We need you to have very important and hard conversations for all of us, your staff and your students,” Kratochvil said.

Board president Mark Slagel noted the group will take this to heart.

During her report, Crane also reported work has started on the underground tank removal at the old Meadowbrook Elementary site in Forrest, although it wasn’t easy. Crews were digging around the tank but having a hard time getting it to move as work continues at the site.

Crane also updated the board on winter sports. The Illinois High School Association had asked the governor’s office to meet but there was no answer. Basketball would need to be moved to a medium risk sport in order to be played and this is all on hold right now. An updated five-year projection was given which indicates education expenditures continue to climb mainly due to salaries and the transportation fund never really goes up.

The board adopted an E-learning program in lieu of district emergency or snow days. This means kids will learn remotely at home during these days and the resolution is good for three years. The board has the option to decide each year.

“We are in a better world than we ever have been to do this,” explained Crane.

Under new business, the group authorized a seven-year property tax abatement for Technical Metals of Fairbury, which is planning a $3 million capital investment to the facility. Adam Dontz of the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council reported the business is maintaining all of its positions and creating 10 new ones. SELIG in Forrest has benefitted from property tax abatement in the past.

A health insurance quote from Blue Cross Blue Shield was approved for the 2021 calendar year. The district currently has BCBS and the transition to the new year is expected to go smoothly by staying with the company. Principal Insurance was authorized for dental and vision coverage for 2021 and 2022.

Board members also heard information on the levy, which is different than it has been in the past. A vote is expected next month. Also, meeting minutes were approved from the Oct. 15 regular meeting and Nov. 10 special school board meeting.

Following an executive session, the Prairie Central Board of Education:

-Accepted the resignation of Seth Welch as PCHS assistant wrestling coach and the resignation, with the intent to retire, of Teri Rutledge, PCP East café worker.

-Approved medical leaves of absences for two employees.

-Appointed Amber Henrichs paraprofessional at PCHS contingent upon licensure, Amanda Hempstead as paraprofessional at PCUE, Elizabeth Carrion as first grade teacher at PCP West, Katie Taylor as sixth grade teacher leader and Meredith Johnson as third grade teacher at PCE.

-Authorized a memorandum of understanding regarding e-learning days as agreed upon by PCEA.

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