Panhandle Board Discusses Parking Lot

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The parking lot at Lincolnwood High School has been a problem for several years for the Panhandle School Board. At their latest meeting, the board heard about one of the options to fix the long-standing issues.

Jeremy Connor of Hurst-Rosche, Inc. was on hand at the Panhandle School Board meeting on Monday, March 15, for a presentation regarding a total reconstruction and new lighting for the project.

Connor said that a pavement assessment was completed, along with a drainage study and lighting study. Six pavement cores were taken from the parking lot, which showed 5.5 inches of asphalt with 4.5 inches of rock beneath it.

Connor said that it looked as if there were several different types of asphalt, indicating that it had been covered multiple times, and that several inches of rock had sunk down into the dirt over the years.

Connor recommended a full reconstruction for the parking lot, including fabric under the rock to prevent it from sinking down into the ground. He added that tearing down and replacing three inches of asphalt could be a temporary fix, but the problems would persist and would need to be fixed again in the future.

Connor also spoke about the drainage plan, which included running tiles and redirecting the flow of the drainage to the south instead of the north, where it currently builds up.

For the lighting study, the plan recommended ten poles in the lot, plus two in the entrance way on the north side of the property. 

Four of the poles would be located in the parking lot itself. Board member Scott Cowdrey asked if that could be changed. Connor said it could, but would require taller poles than the ones in the plan.

Cowdrey also asked that the dimensions and angles of the parking aisles be looked at, which Connor said they could do.

Cowdrey asked how much material would be used for the reconstruction of the project. Connor said that eight inches of aggregate rock would be placed, with fabric underneath it to keep it from settling, followed by four inches of asphalt.

Superintendent Aaron Hopper asked if the sidewalk would be flush with the pavement or if there would be a curb. Connor said that it would probably be best to leave it flush (as it is currently) due to drainage.

After Connor’s presentation the board briefly talked about the plan, which carries a total estimated cost of $544,000. Hopper said that there is currently $350,000 in the capital improvements fund, along with another $100,000 in health/life safety, but the project could be done in phases.

Board member Dana Pitchford said that she never saw the need for lighting improvements, but knew that there had been complaints. Principal Ken Schuster said that with the deterioration of the parking lot, the darkness of the area could be a safety hazard, with board members Terri Payne and Cowdrey both saying that they believed the lot, illuminated by one pole light and two lights off the school, was too dark.

Cowdrey also said that the fabric and some of the drainage items might be able to be changed to reduce the overall cost of the project, which will be discussed further at future meetings.

In other building updates, Hopper said that he is looking into upgrades for the HVAC system in the gym, with funding coming from the CARES 2 Act, which includes projects aimed at improving air quality. Schools have until 2023 to use grant money from the act.

In other business, the board approved the consent agenda, which included renewal with the IHSA. Hopper mentioned that fees this year are $100 per sport, due at the time of the sport, which is an increase over past years. In years past, the IHSA has waived fees, but with the cancellation of most state tournaments last year, the organization is less financially stable.

Hopper said that the IESA has not sent out its renewals yet for junior high sports, but he expected them to rise too.

Hopper also updated the board on the proposed all-sports co-op with Morrisonville, which Panhandle approved at the last board meeting. He said that he met with Superintendent David Meister from Morrisonville and their board plans to vote on the measure at their meeting on March 18.

Payne asked if Morrisonville had guaranteed that there would be junior high girls basketball, which they currently don’t offer, with Hopper saying they did.

Payne also asked about the coaching staff and whether Panhandle would have input on the decision and if the current junior high coaches would be considered. Pitchford also said that she believed that Panhandle administrators should have input on the coaching hires.

Athletic Director Josh Stone said that he believed that would be the case, with Hopper saying that a memo of understanding could be done once the agreement is finalized.

In curriculum updates, Hopper spoke about Camp Lancer, which will be a 12 session summer camp for students who might need interventions or additional learning opportunities. Hopper said the program, which will have eight sessions in June and four in August, will also help ease the transition from school to school.

Board member Linda Brown asked about the use of busses for transportation. Hopper said that wasn’t in the plans right now, but the district was looking at other options.

Pitchford asked how many students would be able to utilize the program. Hopper said the current plan calls for a max of 30 students, ten per room with three rooms.

Pitchford also asked how staff would be selected. Hopper said he would put out a posting for the positions and then the staff would be selected.

He added that the program would look much like their after-school tutoring program. Schuster said that the camp would have the standards of school, but would also have a theme and they had looked into doing prizes for consistent attendance and other accomplishments. Hopper said that the program would be paid for through grant funding.

Schuster also spoke about the upcoming changes to curriculum at the school, including expanded career and technical education opportunities and dual credit classes. He said the biggest change is addition of new agriculture classes and lauded Lincolnwood ag teacher Monty Elvidge as one of the best around.

Hopper said that the district is planning a parent night on March 30, with Lincoln Land Community College also in attendance. Parents of eighth graders, freshmen and sophomores are encouraged to attend to learn about the expanded course options, including distance learning courses and classes in computer science, education and the trades. Schuster added that information on FAFSA and career path opportunities would also be available.

Hopper said that he continues to work on the proposed agriculture academy, which will be able to offer certifications for students. He added that the academy will offer options for students wishing to go straight to work after school, students who chose to go to a community college like Lincoln Land or students who pursue and education at a four-year university.

Hopper said that he has also been in contact with local farmers and businesses regarding possible internships and work study opportunities through the ag academy.

Cowdrey asked if the ag academy would eliminate the need for sending students to the Capital Area Career Center in Springfield. Hopper said there would be some overlap, but there are some programs that 

In other business, the board approved the calendar for the 2021-22 school year, which was developed in conjunction with Morrisonville, the other Montgomery County schools and the teachers union in order to allow students possible career technical education opportunities and dual credit classes off campus.

Board member Bret Slightom asked about offering some classes online as an independent study to free up students to take classes off campus. Hopper said that had been done in the past, but most of the electives are scheduled in the first two or last two hours of the day to limit conflicts with core classes.

The board also changed the date of the April meeting to April 29. April 27 is the earliest that the upcoming election can be certified, so the board would have to meet twice in a little over a week if they kept their April 19 date. After the election is certified, the board can start the process of finding another board member. There are currently two candidates, current board members Gabe Pope and Scott Cowdrey, running for three spots.

In her administrative report, Farmersville Principal Jana Masten highlighted the March calendar for the grade school. 

Principal Schuster pointed out six upcoming FFA contests and events and said that junior high and high school sports are underway. He also recognized teacher Sarah Weatherford and the Lincolnwood Drama Club for another successful school play.

Schuster also recapped the RTI (Response to Interventions) meeting for the board in his report. The program has shown that 20.8 percent of students have grown at least one or two levels, 27.1 percent have grown three levels, 48 percent of students have grown four or more levels, 22.9 percent of students have met their goals and have graduated from needing Title 1 services and zero percent of students have regressed.

In Superintendent Hopper’s report, he noted that third quarter report cards would be available online on March 19. Hopper also updated the board on the ag academy, the FarmBot application and the IASB Kaskaskia Division virtual meeting, which will be held on March 23.

The board entered closed session at 8:10 p.m. and reconvened at 8:25 p.m. After the closed session, the board accepted the intent to retire letter from Debbie Jenkins after the 2025-26 school year and accepted the resignation of Kristen Thomason effective May 28, 2021.

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