COVID Funds Boost Panhandle Coffers

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The Panhandle Board of Education held two special meetings prior to their regular meeting on Monday, June 21, the first of which was to amend the 2021 fiscal year budget.

The need for the amendment was due in part to an influx of grant funds from the Cares Act and the State of Illinois, which will be used for COVID associated expenses and technology.

Superintendent Aaron Hopper said that the additional funds can be used on a number of items, including the addition of support personnel at the junior high. He added that some of those new staff members could then be used to replace staff that are retiring after next year.

Hopper said that the final number will have to wait until after the audit, but the district is anticipating to have $1.6 million in the ed fund after receiving the grants.

The board approved the amended budget later in the meeting, which will now be taken to the county clerks’ offices in Montgomery, Macoupin and Christian counties, along with the Regional Office of Education before the end of June.

The second hearing was to renew the ISBE waiver application, which allows children of employees to attend Panhandle schools without paying tuition. That measure also passed later in the meeting.

Prior to both hearings, the board appointed Heather Millburg as the newest member of the board. Millburg lives in Waggoner with her husband Chad and children Kaleb, Kharynn and Katrina.

During the regular meeting, the board approved the consent agenda, the tentative 2021-2022 schedule and the 2021-2022 student handbook.

Principal Ken Schuster said that the changes to the student handbook focus on consequences for violating the district’s cell phone policy, changes to the PE dress code, clarification on the homework policy and the closing of school grounds during after school activities.

Hopper said that the homework policy previously gave an extended amount of time to allow students to get some points back, but did not specify that time. The changes add a timeline for the students.

Board member Gabe Pope asked if the cell phone policy would be similar to the previous year. Hopper said it would be more like in 2019-20, with more structure added.

In non-action items, Hopper updated the board on the maintenance schedule around the district, saying that floors had been waxed and carpet will be laid in the near future. Updates are also being made to the kitchen with the replacement of a steam table and convection oven.

Hopper said that the district is on schedule for what they are trying to do and that Jason Wagahoff is doing a good job coordinating teams for projects. Board president Terri Payne asked if students were hired this year to assist with projects as temporary help. Hopper said that the district was using substitute custodians to assist in the work, including one recent graduate who may be able to continue in some capacity during the school year.

Hopper also provided an update regarding reorganization talks with Morrisonville. He said when the committee met in May, talks focused on proposed courses at the high school and middle school if reorganization occurred.

Hopper said that juniors and seniors would have 44 options to take either on campus or through cooperative agreements and distance lerning. He added that the biggest benefit would be the increased number of sections that the school would be able to offer, which would free up schedules for students to take other classes. At the middle school level, new opportunities would be available for vocational classes.

Hopper said that he will be speaking to the Morrisonville board this month and a press release is being written that will include a time table and requirements if reorganization goes through. With the primary being moved back to June 28, 2022, the district is still looking at starting the reorganized district for the 2023-24 school year and would have a full year to implement and structure the district.

Board member Brett Slightom asked if Morrisonville will have a 1-to-1 technology program at the junior high level, saying that it would be unfortunate to give access to computers at the grade school level, only to have to skip two years. Hopper said he believed that Morrisonville does have a device program, but will check on the details of it.

Hopper said that the next reorganization meeting will be to discuss teacher contracts and how to integrate the different contracts into the district.

The board would enter into closed session at 7:19 p.m., reconvening at 8:21 p.m. They would approve the personnel contracts (with board member Scott Cowdrey abstaining), the administrative increase and the non-certified positions and pay increase for the 2021-2022 school year, along with accepting the resignations of Taryn Markezich, Mark DalPozzo, Karla Kloss and Tabetha Pritchard.

The meeting would adjourn at 8:25 p.m., with the next meeting set for Monday, July 19. Registration for the 2021-22 school year will be held online on July 20 through Aug. 5.

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