Panhandle Prepares For Graduation, Prom

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Superintendent Aaron Hopper discussed the district’s plan to celebrate the end of the school year during the Panhandle Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 22, the board’s first in-person meeting since March.

Hopper said they are still waiting on approval from the Montgomery County Health Department, but presented a map for the board members for the events to be held outdoors the second weekend in July.

The events include eighth grade promotion at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, high school graduation at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 10, and the 2020 Lincolnwood promenade and prom coronation at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11.

The map shows that the school will use the Raymond 4th of July stage, which will be located behind the school. There will also be a secondary stage and backdrop, which will allow families to take photos with their graduate.

Those wishing to attend graduation have the option of two lawn viewing areas, along with a vehicle viewing area. Hopper said that the district has obtained an FM transmitter that will broadcast the events and they are working on a live video feed of the ceremonies. He added his appreciation for the custodial staff and administrators who had worked to make these plans come together.

Hopper did note that the original plan called for celebrations for the Farmersville Grade School and Raymond Grade School students, but social distancing guidelines will make those events impossible.

Board Presient Terri Payne asked about a junior high and high school awards night that was also in the original plans.  Hopper said those events have been turned into a digital presentation and will be included in the graduation ceremonies.

Board member Gabe Pope asked about rain dates for the events, since they will be held outside. Hopper said unfortunately, the events will be canceled if inclement weather becomes a factor.

The prom will also take on a different look, with no dancing allowed due to social distancing. Hopper said that the district had a few events planned, including the promenade for public viewing at 7:30 p.m., and the coronation. After the coronation, Hopper said that the event would be done.

Lincolnwood Post Prom, which is not officially affiliated with the school, posted on June 24, that they would have to cancel this year’s event. All Lincolnwood juniors and seniors will receive a T-shirt and a monetary gift from this year’s Post Prom Committee, which will be distributed in the coming weeks.

The 50/50 winner will be announced on the Lincolnwood Post Prom Facebook page on July 1, with further information on the distribution to the students as well.

The district is also planning to have the Lincolnwood Drama Club performance on July 20, with details still pending. Hopper said that the performance will depend on the phase the state is in, but it is unlikely that it will be live to the public.

Hopper and Lincolnwood Principal Ken Schuster said they are working on avenues for the play, including recording it and possibly having a drive-in showing of the production.

In other business, the board met earlier in the night to amend the FY20 budget. Hopper said that the district had $137,000 in added revenue and $300,000 in added expenses, but still finished with a surplus of $213,00 in the general education fund.

Hopper said that some of the discrepancy is due to grant funding and money from the Cares Act that is still pending, which allowed the district to purchase 225  computers for students in first through 12th grades. A little over half of those computers have been delivered to the school, with the other 100 scheduled to be delivered in July.

Board member Dana Pitchford asked if all of the Cares Act money had been spent. Hopper said it hadn’t and didn’t expire until September 2021.

Hopper said that changes in accounting for the special education fund and $47,500 in transportation vouchers also affect the budget.

Pitchford asked what affect the quarantine had on the district’s finances. Hopper said that the district used less gas and did fewer routes for transportation, a cost savings, and were on budget.

The board briefly discussed what would be required of students and faculty by the state for in-person school, but the details had not been released by the state at the time. Later in the meeting the board approved the amendments made to the budget.

The board would pass the consent agenda, which included financial reports, the approval of Scheffel and Company to prepare the audit, approval of the disposal of closed session recordings over 24 months old and approval of the consolidated district plan. Hopper noted that the consolidated district plan pertains to state and federal grants, not school consolidation.

Dana Pitchford noted that some athletic teams still had money remaining in their TEAM golf outing account, but the TEAM committee knew that the current situation could affect those teams from spending down that total. She added that this year’s event will be different, but hoped it would still raise some money for Lincolnwood athletics.

In the maintenance update, Hopper said that insulation had been installed in the bus garage and some painting had been done. He added that they were planning on waiting to wax the hallways until Christmas, since they were used less this past year.

Among the items still to do, the ceiling in the Hall of Champions outside the gym will be repainted, along with the installation of LED lighting. An automatic lighting system and updates to the parking lot and boys locker room are also on tap.

After discussing the matter earlier in the year, the board also approved a new co-op agreement with Morrisonville Junior High for softball, which Lincolnwood will host.

Hopper said that Coach Greg Neisler was in favor of the co-op and did not believe a second schedule would be needed. He also noted that he had Athletic Director Josh Stone survey the district coaches to see if they were interested in further co-ops with Morrisonville. Stone and Hopper said that the response was nearly unanimous in furthering co-ops with their Christian County neighbors.

Payne asked how many players were expected for the co-op team. Stone said about 20, 13 from Lincolnwood and six to seven from Morrisonville.

Board member Scott Cowdrey asked if the co-op could be reassessed after one year. Stone said that the contract could be reassessed after two years due to IESA regulations.

Board member Bret Slightom said he had a parent ask if the high school softball team was also going to co-op and play at Morrisonville. Hopper said that was currently not the case and there was not a plan to do that.

Cowdrey stated he believed that Morrisonville was trying to be sneaky and say in a few years that since Lincolnwood had the junior high softball team, Morrisonville should have the high school. He reiterated that he did not want this to be the case.

Payne said at one point during discussions on cooperative efforts with Morrisonville, the idea of co-oping all sports, with Lincolnwood hosting high school sports and Morrisonville hosting junior high sports, was also presented, but it was not the current source of discussion.

Pitchford asked what would happen if Lincolnwood players approached the board and said they wanted to play at Morrisonville. Hopper said he did not believe that would be the case and there were no plans to co-op high school softball at the time.

Stone did say that he would like the co-op at the high school level to happen sooner rather than later, in part to protect Coach Neisler. He said Neisler would never treat players differently, even if they were potential opponents down the road, but did not want bias to be a factor in Morrisonville parents’ minds.

The board and Principal Schuster also commented on potential further co-ops and consolidation, with several comments that Lincolnwood was in a position of power in regards to academics and Morrisonville would eventually have to come to them.

Also approved were the school fees for the 2020-2021 school year, a tentative 2020-2021 high school schedule, the FY21 board meeting dates, the district surplus list and the 2020-2021 student handbook, which will be digital this year since all students will have access to computers through the 1-to-1 program.

Principal Schuster also discussed an RTI program for seniors, which would allow them to be dismissed at 2:15 p.m. if they were passing all of their classes, maintained a C- grade point average and had a 94 percent attendance rate. Schuster said that he knows the program wouldn’t affect all students, with some having continuing education classes or work study programs, but he felt it would provide some incentive for attendance for others.

In his superintendent report, Hopper said that personal protective equipment had been acquired, including masks, shields and thermometers, but the district was still waiting for other phase four guidelines.

He added that he, Schuster and Stone had a meeting with  a representative from the NFHS Network regarding live event streaming for sporting events and other school activities. 

Payne asked how sports will look for the coming school year. Hopper said no one is sure yet, but a plan will be rolled out soon, with teams allowed to meet on June 29, after players sign a consent form.

The board would enter into closed session at 8:11 p.m. and reconvene into open session at 9:41 p.m. They would vote to employ Tabetha Pritchard as Farmersville Grade School secretary, approve James Whalen as junior high assistant baseball coach, approve Dawn Germann as district treasurer and accept the resignation of Montgomery Elvidge as class sponsor.

The meeting would adjourn at 9:43 p.m., with the board scheduled to meet again on July 20, at 7 p.m. at the Lincolnwood High School library.

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