The Effingham Unit 40 school board this week discussed possible plans for the 2020-2021 fall semester.

With the on-going COVID-19 pandemic there is no clear choice of whether students will continue learning online or return to the classrooms.

District Superintendent Mark Doan said the district should be prepared for both scenarios, and some form of instruction must be implemented if eLearning has to continue.

“We need to try to be as prepared as possible,” Doan said. “Whatever we do, we’ve got to do 100 percent and the best we can. We have to have more instruction moving forward. That has to be a part of it.”

Students were being assessed on a pass or incomplete grading scale for this spring semester, but Doan said the district is looking at possibly reimplementing letter grades. That would require some form of instruction over what teachers are doing now, which is making sure kids are doing work but they are not learning new material.

Doan said the district is also looking at technology and connectivity for students for the fall semester, evaluating the flow of curriculum from one grade to another, evaluating the professional development needs of the staff and how to provide summer school.

Board President Angie Byers said she, too, wants the district to begin formulating a plan for what may be an uncertain future of schooling.

“I would like to make sure that we have a plan in place for when they do come back, if we start in the fall, that we’ve made sure that we work with the other levels to see where they have left off (and) that we have a plan in place in case we leave maybe in October or a plan in place if we’re out for an entire year,” Byers said.

Meanwhile, the board approved the $112, 953.97 purchase of 185 laptops and six laptop carts for two wings of Effingham High School. The board discussed the idea of one-to-one laptop use for the high school students and agreed the purchase was a step in that direction.

The board also approved the purchase of 31 pieces of janitorial and custodial equipment to be used at several of the district schools. The total for the purchase came in at just over $52,000, and Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox said the equipment would come from three vendors: Rural King, Schools of Illinois Purchasing Cooperative and Hillyard.

The board additionally approved the replacement of the old football field lights at the junior high school.

Fox said when renovations at the junior high began, district staff checked to see if the lights worked so they could tell if the construction crew hit wiring or did damage to the lights to cause them to not work. He said upon that check, they found that 17 of the lights did not work.

Fox said he consulted Sandschafer Electric Inc. out of Teutopolis. They recommended replacing the lights with LED bulbs under the Ameren Illinois rebate program.

“In talking to Sandschafer Electric, the price to replace those, to fix the metal lights that were there was $6,250. In talking with them, they said you really need to look at the Ameren rebate just to upgrade these to LED because I think given your annual consumption, you’ll qualify,” Fox said.

Fox said in total, having Sandschafer Electric replace the current lights with LEDs would cost $31,565, but with a $24,479 rebate from Ameren, the price for the replacement would be $7,086.

Fox said the annual savings anticipated from changing over to LED lights is over $9,000.

Though the field will no longer be used for football, the high school band will still be able to practice in the band area. Fox said just one month of band practice will see the over $7,000 cost covered.

“We’re talking about this will pay itself back in the first month the band is practicing out there. Now, that’s given the fact that the band still gets to practice and we can come back to school,” Fox said.

Board member Kathleen Smith was not present at the meeting.

The district also announced in a news release Monday that it will continue to serve lunches for five days a week until May 29 across the five locations established in March.

In other matters, the board:

• Approved the $43,800 purchase of a bucket truck to replace one housed at the high school.

• Heard from Fox that windows are being replaced at the junior high, and the front windows will be redone starting June 8.

• Approved the selection of board member Jane Willenborg as the district’s Eastern Illinois Area Special Education representative and board member Steve Bone as the secondary representative.

• Approved the following personnel matters: hiring Abra Woomer as a South Side second grade teacher; Charity Ozier as an Early Learning Center music teacher; Theresa Fuesting and Laura Hodges as seasonal transportation staff; and Jordan McCabe as seasonal maintenance staff and appointed Stephanie Mitchell as the junior high yearbook advisor; Morgan Wilson as the EJHS assistant softball coach; Lacy Althoff as the EJHS eigth grade girls basketball coach; and Janelle Schuette as the EHS football cheerleading coach.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Reporter

Kaitlin Cordes covers Effingham County, police and courts and sports features for the Effingham Daily News. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. Cordes is a native of Effingham.

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