- Fairbury News staff
School board meets
Thursday’s regular meeting of the Prairie Central Board of Education in Fairbury opened with a public comment session opposing mask wearing in school.
Logan Spenard was among a number of parents and community residents attending the meeting in the Prairie Central High School library. A few members of the audience addressed the board, including Spenard.
“Let’s get these kids unmasked and give them the education they deserve,” he said. “How much longer are we going to play this game?”
Spenard said it is a sad situation as his daughter needs to learn while not having a mask on.
Following comments, the board moved on to approving the consent agenda which included the activity fund report, bills, café report, sales tax and treasurer’s report as presented.
During her monthly report, Superintendent Paula Crane gave an update on COVID numbers, noting that the district is at a peak higher than it ever has been. The test-to-stay program continues and Crane said school leaders continue to problem solve every day.
“Every situation seems to be really unique,” Crane admitted.
A new nurse will soon begin working on the east side of the district as another nurse remains on the west side.
“We are really working hard to keep the kids in school despite the high numbers.”
First Baptist Church of Fairbury will be the site for a February teacher’s institute which will feature a keynote speaker who is a teacher and author. The presentation known as “180 Days of Awesome” will celebrate kids and education. Collaboration time is planned for the afternoon of Feb. 18 and trainings will be provided as needed.
Crane updated board members on the cafeteria department, noting they are still missing shipments but most of the staff has returned. USDA has increased reimbursement for meals.
Board President Mark Slagel gave a building and grounds update on several district projects which are in the works. He said the football field light poles need to be replaced or football games cannot be held at night. The poles, estimated around $400,000, would have new LED lighting and Slagel hopes the work is done by summer. Re-roofing the high school gymnasium is another priority which is in the $600,000 price range.
“It really needs to be stripped down and started over again,” explained Slagel.
Gym windows need to be replaced since they are old and no longer able to open and could cost $190,000 to $200,000. Plumbing at Prairie Central Elementary is in bad shape with poor pipes. This work will likely need to be done in two phases. The high school south parking lot also needs to be addressed since water gathers and freezes-up, posing a danger. It cannot all be surface drained and there is no good solution at this point so the parking lot work is on hold.
The board voted to proceed with the maintenance projects. Crane had sought an emergency resolution for an air handling unit at the Upper Elementary school since work needs to be done in a quick fashion but not enough board members were at the meeting so a special meeting is needed.
Under new business, a Junior High music department request was granted to allow band and choir members to participate in a music clinic at Six Flags Great America on a Saturday outside of school hours May 21.
Crane presented a certified substitute plan proposal with hopes of attracting additional substitute teachers. This proposal, approved by the board, increases sub pay rates and provides an incentive for former Prairie Central teachers. It also includes a couple of year-end bonuses.
“We are just looking for something to bring more substitutes in,” Crane noted.
Several policy manual updates were reviewed, including new laws and mandates pertaining to education. Some are simply changes to legal references or cases. All of the information comes from the School Board Association in response to new legislation. There are more reporting responsibilities and evaluation of a superintendent should be consistent with state law. Districts must have a law enforcement lockdown drill and work authorization status is added to workforce harassment.
A draft calendar proposal for the next school year was released to the board. Teacher institute is planned for Monday and Tuesday of Fairbury Fair week with the students starting class on Monday, Aug. 22. Winter break would start Tuesday, Dec. 20 after school with classes resuming Jan. 4. Spring break 2023 is proposed from March 20-24. One difference about the new calendar is the idea of one-hour early dismissals on Mondays to replace the two-hour early outs on the first Wednesday of the month. This would allow for more teacher collaboration time.
Also at Thursday’s regular meeting, the board approved an energy feasibility study for the high school. Reimbursement is possible for making schools more energy efficient.