If things go according to plan and Hillsboro School District students return to a normal-length school day next school year, it will be on a slightly different schedule, members of the board of education decided at their Tuesday, May 11, meeting.
During the 2019-20 school year–the last year students were in classes for a normal-length day–start times ranged from 8:05 to 8:15 a.m. and dismissals ranged from 3 to 3:13 p.m. Under the plan adopted by the school board and presented by curriculum director Hope McBrain, next year start times will be at 8 a.m. and dismissals will range from 2:45 to 3:10 p.m. The workday for teachers will change from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Board member Dan Tester asked if the new schedule will help alleviate staff and school busses arriving at the same entrance at the same time at Beckemeyer. Principal Zach Frailey believes it will.
Board member John Lentz asked if parental opinions had been solicited; it has not, but board member Nathan Kirby said teachers were positive.
"I'll just say as a working parent, this dismissal time is much more doable than what we had this year," board member Kassie Greenwood said.
The motion passed without opposition, but board member John Lentz abstained.
Although the start and dismissal time will adjust by a few minutes next year, school fees and lunch prices will not. That was Superintendent David Powell's recommendation, and the board agreed.
During the portion of the agenda for recognition of audience, parent Tom DeVore criticized a staff member for passing out a flyer offering a potential financial incentive for students who choose to be vaccinated.
"I would hopefully like to see this board take some action that this kind of action will no longer be tolerated," DeVore said.
He also asked board members to relax the school mask mandate.
"There is one thing we know for certain: children are not at significant risk from COVID," he said.
When the item came up on the agenda, Superintendent Powell said it was there at the request of a board member. Although he said he anticipates masks will not be required next school year, he doesn't see a need to change course this year.
"Seniors have only about a week and a half left of school," the superintendent said. He also added that the school district was able to open this fall–and remain open–because staff members feel safe under current requirements.
New board member John Lentz said that a majority of people he has talked to are not in favor of requiring students to wear masks.
"I'm a strong believer in civil liberties," Lentz said. "I don't want to put any kids in harm’s way, but they have a right to decide for themselves. I've talked to a lot of parents who want kids to go to a normal school the last two weeks."
Responding to a question from board member Bryce Rupert, Powell estimated that about 80 percent of certified staff are vaccinated, and about 60 percent of non-certified staff are. Rupert also pointed out that the board unanimously voted to go against Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines when expanding the number of spectators allowed at sports events.
Rupert had hoped to make a motion regarding the mask requirement for the rest of the school year, but the item was only on the agenda for discussion.
At the recommendation of the Building and Grounds Committee, the board voted to divide the Title classroom at Beckemeyer into two classrooms with a block wall. Similarly, the board voted to add walls in the high school basement to create a new art room there.
"We have 240 students committed to summer school, pre-K through 12th grade," curriculum director McBrain said of a month-long plan that is intended to help students who have fallen behind during the pandemic to catch up.
Summer school will include door-to-door transportation, breakfast and lunch, and a school nurse available.
Because the school district spent "Esser" pandemic-related grant money that came in during the coarse of the school year, as well as spent sales tax money for capital projects, Powell said he will ask the board to amend this year's budget after a hearing at next month's meeting.
The board made what the superintendent called a "soft commitment" to cooperate with school districts in Macoupin and Montgomery counties for sharing career and technical education services–a step down a road that may eventually lead to a new vocational center in Litchfield.
To begin the meeting, both the superintendent and high school principal shared notes from parents praising school staff for compassion and extra attention for students with special circumstances.
Heyen also recognized high school Illinois State Scholars: Nathan Bellaver, Vanessa Compton, Allyson DeVore, Maria Hernandez, Sarah Huber, Catherine Lieble, Rylee Morford, Brook Ozier, Kylee Pastrovich, and Ella Pfeifer.
As part of the consent agenda, the board renewed its annual memberships in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA). The difference this year, however, is dues apply–$2,188 spread out over three years. Typically, due to the money raised by both organizations in their scholastic sports state playoff series, dues are waived. Those series have been pandemic-cancelled the last two school years though.
After a closed session, the board accepted resignations from grade school teacher Megan Cady, junior high special ed teacher Ruth McCario, aides Ashley Steed and Coral Christian, and head football coach Aaron Duff and assistant football coach Andy Stritzel. Letters of intent to retire at the end of the school year were accepted from aide Bev Kenny, bus drivers Jerry Woods and Laura Mills, and library aide Patsy Beasley. The board accepted high school teacher Kathy Baker’s letter of intent to retire at the end of the 2024-25 school year.
The board hired Lyle Polus as junior high special ed teacher and Kevin Wiltshire as custodian, and assigned food service director Kristin Gregory to teach high school culinary arts classes part-time, and pre-K director Marci Gutierrez to teach early childhood classes part-time.
Also after the closed session the board heard from parent Sara Duff, who asked if phones could be prohibited from school busses due to a student sharing inappropriate material.