Nokomis Board Learns One May Opt Out Of NPT

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President Chad Ruppert called the Oct. 20 meeting of the Nokomis School Board to order with all seven board members along with Superintendent Dr. Scott Doerr, principals Reedy, McDowell, and assistant principal McDonald present. Board member Dennis Bauman participated via conference call. 

In his report to the board, Dr. Doerr stated that the State of Illinois owed the Nokomis School District $105,174.39 for mandated categorical payments.  He advised that nothing was going to happen in the General Assembly until after the election, but that several legislators were saying to expect “an exciting and interesting spring with more mandates, school law issues, and the budget.”

He also reported of one FOIA request from Robert Degree of ADAC regarding information from the last five years on special education IEPs and funding.  He said between Midstate and NPT special education cooperatives, they were able to complete the request in a timely fashion.

Lastly, he reported that the NPT board will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 28, and discuss a Taylorville School Board committee recommendation to withdraw from the NPT.  He reported that he had also been informed that Pana might be considering withdrawal from the association as well.  Doerr said that he had had discussion with two other districts that might be interested in joining the group.  Board member Joe Gasparich asked if any employees of the Nokomis district were tied to this funding and would be in danger of losing their positions as a result of these moves.  Doerr said there was not.

Later under new business section, Doerr also reported to the board that several students have requested to come back to in-person learning. 

He also anticipated the addition of a third pre-K class in January.  With regard to remote learners in the district, he said 10 percent of the students were full-time remote and 17 percent were part-time as of last week, but some subsequently came back to in-person learning, having received permission to do so.

Doerr also reported that a lengthy Regional Office of Education meeting had determined remote learning is only an option and is not required.  He said the Nokomis district had several remote learning students that were not participating in classes, not doing their work, and not communicating with their teachers.  He said this constitutes a truancy issue.  Beginning later this week, the office will determine which students are not meeting the minimum participation standards and they would be sending them letters to rescind their online remote learning, requiring them to return to school unless they have an underlying medical condition that a doctor has specified.  His fear is that all of these students would need to repeat first semester.  He added that Cornerstone had rescinded two remote learners last week and they were back in class this week.  

As part of his principal’s report, Principal Reedy told the board that his teaching staff would be back to full strength as early as Oct. 26.  He also wanted the board to know that he felt his staff had demonstrated impressive teamwork thus far during the past few weeks.  He said parent-teacher conferences were forthcoming and reported that 99 percent would be done using phone calls or Google meets; only a handful of parents were actually coming in.

Principal McDowell reported that the fall SAT exam was coming up and that there had been some classroom preparation for it, but no additional reviews.  She said there would be preparation for the spring SAT test.  She reported that of the parents participating in parent-teacher meetings, 75 percent were coming in in-person.

With regard to athletics, McDonald reported that there had been no decisions with regard to winter sports.  He said there was supposed to be word next week, but he thought Nov. 13 was probably a more realistic date.  He relayed that everything he hears is that Governor Pritzker just does not see how it can be done safely.

Ruppert summarized the principals’ reports by saying the board appreciated everyone’s efforts and that “everybody is doing what needs to be done to keep the ball rolling.”

The board considered input from Coach Watson regarding the purchase of a new water sprinkler system for the football field.  The current system is old, leaks, and has inefficiencies leading to unnecessary water expense for the district.  They had identified two potential replacements.  One was a new system from Site 1 Landscape for $11,359 and Cornwall Equipment has a used one for $9,390.  Cornwall would allow a trade-in, bringing the final cost to $6,500.  Doerr recommended the Cornwall system and said the money would come out of the Building and Maintenance Fund.  On a motion by Eisenbarth, second by Tarter, the board approved the purchase of the 2016 KIFKO B140 water reel with trade-in from Cornwall Equipment for $6500.  The motion passed on a roll call vote with Carl Ray Fesser voting “no.”

In open discussion the group addressed a couple of questions relayed by Fesser on behalf of parents.  With regard to the question of why students were made to get out of their cars early instead of remaining there until five minutes before the bell, Doerr and McDonald answered that it had always been the rule and that it was to cut down on the congregating outside.

Fesser also relayed a concern that parents had asked if there could be more mask breaks for the elementary students.  Reedy said there were four or five mask breaks per day, including lunch, PE, and any other time they were outside.

With no need for executive session, the board adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

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