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  • Kent Casson

Learning updates given to board

An update on remote and in-person learning was given to members of the Prairie Central Board of Education during the group’s regular December meeting Thursday night.

Superintendent Paula Crane reminded the board students are on remote learning one week before and after the scheduled holiday break, when the situation will be re-evaluated. Crane said the hope was to keep students healthy so they wouldn’t have to miss their own Christmas celebrations.

There was no big uptick in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving which many had expected. Crane suggested this was due to individuals being more careful or maybe not gathering quite as much.

Board President Mark Slagel acknowledged the board is often faced with tough decisions, but feels kids need to be in school.

“I think it is very important we keep these kids in school as much as we can,” Slagel commented.

Even though his opinion may not be popular with everyone, Slagel said it was something he needed to say. He has been approached by upset parents who also feel their children should attend class in-person.

Board member Brian Plenert echoed Slagel’s thoughts.

“We need to have these kids in school,” he said. “They want to see the teachers; they want to be in school.”

During her superintendent report, Crane gave an update on immunizations for educators as she has been collecting data from employees on whether or not they plan to be immunized. Prairie Central employees would fall under Phase 1-B which is the next phase after healthcare and other frontline workers and those in nursing homes.

It could be a month before this happens with the vaccine most likely being Moderna’s version due to transportation logistics and storage requirements. The effort will involve the local Health Department.

“They’ll come here and they’ll administer at each school,” Crane explained.

Crane estimates slightly under half of the staff want the vaccine. She believes the best defense is to immunize adults, although little is known about the disease. Making a decision from a lack of information can be tough.

“We are excited to have the opportunity anyway.”

Crane reported on student failures during the pandemic and noted other schools agree failure rates are much higher than they should be. This often comes from kids choosing remote only options.

“There are kids that just aren’t doing (the work) and they don’t see past tomorrow,” Crane observed.

Though teachers are trying to keep students engaged, some kids are turning in blank work. Meetings are underway to figure out how to help these particular students.

Good news came from the district sales tax report which showed impressive numbers as more people are shopping local. Crane is hopeful the encouraging trend continues. Slagel said families doing less traveling could be helping the local sales tax numbers.

Under old business, the board approved the levy. According to Crane, the wind turbines alone from the McLean County wind farm added plenty to the EAV which she considers “huge” for the district. A truth-in-taxation hearing was held prior to the levy approval although no one commented. This had to be held since the board asked for slightly more tax money than it did the previous year.

There should be no increase for taxpayers. If a property does not get assessed higher, payment will be the same.

A 2019 Dodge Caravan was purchased by the district from Rieger Motors at $17,962. An extended warranty was purchased for the 2019 model at $2,760. The white van has 32,000 miles on it.

Crane told the board a bill has still not been received for tank work at the former Meadowbrook Elementary site in Forrest. The amount will be higher than expected since it took longer than originally thought and more machinery was used.

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