“We invented school this weekend and are rolling it out tomorrow,” Panhandle Superintendent Aaron Hopper said to members of the school board, who met on Monday, March 16, the day before Governor JB Pritzker mandated that all schools close until March 30.
The school is utilizing the Common Goals/student management system to implement an e-learning system for the district. An email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, was also set up and parents are encouraged to contact the school if there are any questions or if anyone needs any school supplies.
He added that state testing has been postponed and may be waived, depending on when and if students return to school. SAT and ACT testing have also been postponed for the time being.
Hopper and his staff in Raymond and Farmersville have also been working to make sure that not only are the students still learning, but that they are also well fed.
Cafeteria workers prepared meals for students who requested the breakfast and lunch sack meals, with buses rolling out Tuesday morning to make deliveries.
For students not on bus routes, meal pick-ups were also available at Lincolnwood High School and Farmersville Grade School.
Board member Scott Cowdrey asked if it was mandated that the district provide these meals. Hopper said that the program was encouraged by Illinois State Board of Education and simply required a form to be filled out to make it fully reimbursable, which Hopper did over the weekend.
Hopper said that staff had volunteered to help distribute lunches and that Project Third Day was assisting families in need of food during the coronavirus crisis. More information on their efforts can be found on the Project Third Day-Panhandle Facebook page.
Board member Dana Pitchford asked if the district would have much food waste from the shut down. Hopper said that the district was able to change the menu to utilize food on hand, along with a shipment they received Monday. He added that some food may not be able to be used, but that the district is working to get that food to families in need.
Cowdrey asked how many responses the district had received from the survey where people could ask for meals. Hopper said he had 149 responses, which included families who were not in need of meals. The survey is still online and on the Panhandle CUSD 2 Facebook page.
The closure has also affected some of the plans to upgrade lighting in the parking lot at Lincolnwood High School, for which the district received a grant recently. While the lighting and drainage work is temporarily on hold, some patching has been done in the parking lot, which board member Brett Slightom said had helped the problem areas a lot.
Hopper said that maintenance projects such as painting are being done at the school during the shutdown and floors may be waxed as well.
Hopper also updated the board on sports cooperative possibilities with Morrisonville. He said that he had spoken with Morrisonville Superintendent Dave Meister, who asked for a meeting between the superintendents and the board presidents to discuss educational and athletic opportunities.
Board President Terri Payne said that she would be willing to meet, possibly once the coronavirus situation is resolved, but asked when a decision on junior high softball co-op needed to be made, since that was the specific sport Morrisonville mentioned at the last meeting. Lincolnwood Athletic Director Josh Stone said technically the agreement doesn’t need to be to the IESA until July 30, but the earlier the better for scheduling purposes.
The board would also approve the 2020-2021 school calendar at the meeting. The calendar was built in a cooperative effort with the other three Montgomery County schools in an effort to allow for sharing of classes if that possibility comes to fruition. Hopper said that the calendar is very similar to the one Panhandle currently has, with high school classes going from 8:05 a.m. to 3 p.m. He added that the first two and last two hours of each day would be the ones that fit best for career and technical education opportunities.
Unless changed, the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year would be on Aug. 13, with the final day on May 21. Payne asked if the calendar was approved by the Panhandle teachers. Hopper said that teacher Shawn Andrews was involved in the calendar committee and the calendar was approved.
The board would also approve the consent agenda in their 19 minutes of open session discussion. The consent agenda consisted of the financial reports, minutes from the Feb. 24 meeting and renewal of the IHSA membership and South East Purchasing Cooperative Agreement for 2020-2021 school year.
After meeting in closed session from 7:19 to 8:10 p.m. the board returned and approved seven personnel motions, including the hiring of Jana Masten as the Farmersville Grade School Principal.
Masten, who has worked as an art teacher in the Panhandle School District for 13 years, has a bachelor of arts degree from Blackburn College and a masters from the University of Illinois at Springfield in educational leadership.
“I look forward to the experiences and challenges of my new position within the Panhandle School District,” said Masten, who will also teach physical education at FGS. “I’m excited to work collaboratively with the staff members at Farmersville Grade School to maximize the students’ educational experiences.”
The board also approved the hiring of Joe Webb as Dean of Students for the 2020-2021 school year. Webb, a Lincolnwood and Illinois State University graduate, has been with his alma mater for the last ten years, first as a part-time teacher and aide, then the last nine as an English teacher.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” said Webb, who is a new father after welcoming Cal Joseph Webb to the world in January 2020. “I’m looking forward to working in a different aspect of education.”
Two other Lincolnwood graduates were also hired as special education teachers. Alexis Emerson, a 2016 graduate, was hired as a special education teacher at Lincolnwood, while Skylar Krager, another 2016 grad, was hired as a special education teacher at Farmersville Grade School. Both Emerson and Krager are also in their final year at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, specializing in special education.
Before adjourning at 8:15 p.m., the board approved the resignations of Monty Elvidge as junior high assistant baseball coach, Bridget Presnell as Lincolnwood Junior High School aide and Heather Harris as a cafeteria cook.
The next regular board meeting is set for Monday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Lincolnwood High School library.