The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Illini West board meets with social distancing

Joy Swearingen, Quill correspondent

The Illini West School Board met in the school's gym for their regular meeting Wednesday, March 18. The gym allowed the board to be seated at large tables with appropriate spacing between each person, and a large amount of room on the bleachers for guests to be comfortably separated, based on current social distancing recommendations related to COVID-19 prevention.

During her report, Superintendent Kim Schilson explained the district's efforts to stay ahead of virus exposure to their students and staff.

In the first week of March, the Illini West administrators, counselors and some teachers met to create a plan for remote learning in case it became necessary.

"Everyone had duties to complete last week so that this week we could start professional development (on Google Classroom) after school, test it out by Thursday (March 19), make adjustments and have it ready to go Monday (March 23)," Schilson said.

However, things moved faster then they expected. After a series of changing notices, schools were closed by the governor, starting March 16.

"So that is where we are. On Monday we had the teachers all in, we made our plan. The teachers were great, the administrators were great."

The school is now closed. Schilson is at the building each day, and other staff comes as needed for bookkeeping, maintenance and other essential jobs.

After a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the school, the custodial staff is home until they are called back.

"Chromebooks or laptops were checked out to students who did not have these available at home. We worry about our students who do not have that internet access. Lots of kids have limited access," she said.

The board discussed options for helping students make up material in classes if schools remain closed for an extended period of time. This could include tutoring, computer learning and possible summer school.

About 15 visitors were present at the meeting. Tom Hartzell was the only one who asked to speak.

"I wanted to come tonight to thank Kim Schilson for her professionalism," Hartzell said.

"I think she knew what side of the fence (building referendum) I was on and how I was going to vote, but she still responded to my emails timely. She was polite and courteous and professional. I want to take this time to thank her and her staff, also."

Dean of Students Jim Short presented handbook changes for the coming year. Most adjustments are minor wording changes.

Some of the changes involved absence incentives for grades 9 to 11, and for seniors; allowing Carl Sandburg College dual credit classes even if they duplicate a course already offered at IW; adding a point value to letter grades; and requiring all seniors to file the FAFSA application.

Schilson told the board that both Illini West and Carthage Elementary districts have received the $50,000 maintenance project grants that are matched by the state.

This total $200,000 will be used to add new heating and air-conditioning to the building this summer. This will not include the gym.

In other business, the board: