Hillsboro Graduation Will Be On Sawyer Field

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Hillsboro High School graduation will be outdoors on Sawyer Field next month, members of the Hillsboro School Board learned at their Tuesday, April 13, meeting in the junior high cafeteria.

Last month, assuming that there was no way to provide enough socially distanced seating at the football field, the board consented to a drive-up graduation like last year.

After doing more work on the plan, Superintendent David Powell said that 540 people could be seated safely in the bleachers, and another 540 could be safely seated on the track.

"That would allow each senior to have nine tickets to attend," Powell said. The ceremony will begin at 8:30 p.m. and feature a "good quality" video presentation.

The superintendent enthusiastically updated the board  on the progress of a consortium with nine other school districts for a new vocational education and workforce development center in Litchfield.

"Litchfield School District, to their credit, purchased a building in the Industrial Park," Powell said.  "That building is owned by the Litchfield School District and has a potential for development for the South Central Illinois Regional Workforce Training and Innovation Center.  The facility is perfect for what we're looking for."

The consortium has been a cooperative effort between the four school districts headquartered in Montgomery County, plus six districts in Macoupin County and four community colleges.  Unions and economic development organizations are also on board.

Career pathways include agriculture, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, information technology, automotive, construction, medical, and welding.

Powell said last year the General Assembly appropriated $8.6 million for the project, but that money is tied to gambling revenue that has yet to be realized.  The good news, however, is that the Governor is "100 percent on board" with using federal pandemic stimulus money for the project.

The superintendent shared information on a similar facility in Marion where construction trades training is offered to students.

"This is not your freshman shop class," Powell said, showing board members photos of a full-scale bridge that is built, disassembled, and re-built in the Marion facility.  "The students are put on the job with ironworkers and others, all inside a laboratory-type setting.  It's really remarkable."

Curriculum Director Hope McBrain said that at Marion, students not only get high school credit, but they also get college credit and credit toward a union apprenticeship program.

"There are some summer hours there as well," McBrain said.

At the recommendation of Tim Downen of Hurst-Rosche, the board accepted a bid of $412,057 from DE Martin of Lebanon, one of five bids to replace roofing over the L-shaped classroom section of the Hillsboro Junior High School.

Downen said the winning bidder was not the lowest bidder; the lowest bidder only turned in a base bid and not an alternate bid, and indicated he was not interested in doing the alternate work.

The job will be completed over the summer before classes begin in the fall.

After awarding the bid, the board approved paying for most of the project out of health/life safety funds.

"The remaining $70,000 or so could come from sales tax revenue or next year's health/life safety money," the superintendent said.

The board approved a new junior high science curriculum recommended by McBrain at last month's meeting.  Cost for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade–including staff training–is $54,255 for eight years.

The board also approved a social worker position at the high school, requested by Principal Patti Heyen at last month's meeting.  Funding for the new position will be paid from special pandemic funding.

With about six weeks left in the school year, district administrators reported that there are 13 remote learners at Coffeen pre-K, 32 at Beckemeyer, 27 at Hillsboro Junior High, and 54 at Hillsboro High School, plus nine more who have chosen to do so to protect themselves from quarantine before the annual choir musical.  Principals also told board members that they have begun recruiting students for the new summer school program designed to help those who have fallen behind during the pandemic to catch up.

"Our boys soccer team just won the conference championship tonight, just a few minutes ago," Principal Heyen said near the beginning of the meeting.

Beckemeyer Principal Zach Frailey said second grade students have resumed swim lessons at Fusion, and third graders, who missed the opportunity last year, will get lessons in May.

Board member Matt Lentz was not present at the meeting.  After a closed session, the board hired Jennifer Cearlock as high school guidance counselor to replace Tim Morford who will transition to driver’s education, hired Katie Hilgert as the new high school social worker, and hired four new elementary teachers: Alana Eaker, Jaclyn Hellums, Kelby McCoy and Lauryn Tuetken.  They accepted the resignation of Jessica Furness as junior high cheerleading coach, and approved Matt Vaughn as volunteer cross country coach and David Riggs as volunteer assistant fishing coach.  The board also accepted a letter of intent to retire at the end of the 2024-25 school year from Tim Morford, and will act on the resignation of elementary teacher Megan Cady at the next meeting.

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