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Newton Replaces Sutton On Illini West School Board

Joy Swearingenm Quill Correspondent

Illini West High School students will continue with the blended school attendance plan that was started on September 8. The board took no action at their Sept. 16 board meeting to make any change in the schedule, and will review the situation in 30 days at their October meeting.

On Sept. 8 the students began a schedule that brought La Harpe area students and half the Carthage students to school all that week, while the other students had remote learning. In the second week, Dallas City/Lomax and the remaining Carthage students attended in-person classes.

The weeks will continue to alternate for the duration of this plan. Some students have chosen to do all remote learning.

Principal Scott Schneider said there are about 115 students attending in person with each week's alternating group. About 70 students chose full time remote learning.

"With this number of students we are able to do social distancing in the buses and classrooms," Schneider said. "With the smaller numbers, they can get to their classrooms quickly."

Students attend classes at the school 8 a.m. to noon, and all remotes students must be logged in to Zoom and participate in the class each day.

The board discussed returning all students to in-person classes, however there was concern about making another change for the students and staff.

"We know the best way to educate kids is in the classroom," said board president John Huston. "Full attendance is the goal of the teachers. It is the goal of the administration, but we don't want to go too quickly. We will work toward the time when we can 100 percent move our kids back safely."

He credited Schneider and his team for developing three different scenarios for student attendance as the COVID-19 has changed their plans over the past month.

"Our administrators have done a wonderful job in making plans to have school happen in three different ways. Doing one way is quite a job to tackle," Huston said.

After the resignation of board member, Darrell Sutton, in August, the board interviewed two candidates interested in the position. Beth Newton was approved as the new board member from the Dallas City Elementary district, and will serve until the next board election in the spring.

Superintendent Kim Schilson submitted her resignation effective June 30, 2021. She has been superintendent at Illini West for 11 years. She started teaching in 1984.

"I have seen schools get their first computers, to having a school year begin with all on-line instruction," Schilson stated in her letter of resignation. "I can't even imagine the changes that will come in the next 37 years."

After a budget hearing at the beginning of the meeting, the board approved the 2020-2021 budget. While there are deficits for the year in the education and transportation funds, Schilson said the current cash on hand would assure that fund balances would remain positive at the end of FY21. "Our fund balances are very healthy," Schilson said.

In other staff action, Brandi Simmon was recalled as a bus aide, medical monitor and custodian. Robert Duffy was hired as a part time COVID custodian. The board accepted the resignation of Lee Unger as bus driver.

In other action, the board:

Beth Newton was approved as the new board member from the Dallas City Elementary District, replacing the vacancy left by Darrell Sutton who resigned in August. She was sworn in by board president John Huston.