Mercer County schools may offer summer meals

Cathy Decker Correspondent

ALEDO — Students may be offered summer meals, similar to what was given during the two-month pandemic school shutdown. The Mercer County School Board discussed May 20 continuing some form of food support during the summer months.

“The Mercer County Health Department and other organizations have urged us to continue providing meals during the summer,” said Superintendent Scott Petrie. “We are working with the health department to explore alternatives.” There are currently no more meals being provided.

He said the district has given out 20,000 sack meals to around 200 district families over the past two months since the school shutdown. “Wednesday was the last day of school,” he said.

Retirements acknowledged this year included Bob Stockham, junior high athletic director and 8th grade physical education; Joan Showalter, junior high paraprofessional; Denise Clark, Apollo paraprofessional; Cheryl Miner, Apollo cook; Candy Swank, high school custodian and Kathy Campbell, intermediate paraprofessional.

Petrie told the board the district’s health insurance costs will go down.

“The district bears 85 percent of the cost,” he said. The district will also be keeping registration fees the same as what was charged for 2019-2020 school year, although lunch prices will be 10 cents higher to $2.70 for students in the upcoming year.

“Forty percent of families have free or reduced price meals,” Superintendent Petrie said. The district receives close to $100,000 from registration fees annually.

The board will determine milk prices at next month’s meeting.

The board will also hold a budget hearing at the start of the June meeting, due to some needed changes in this year’s budget. There are several funds that showed a deficit, according to Petrie, but the total fund balance being proposed is $9.7 million, up from the original budget for $8.7 million.

“There is some good news,” said Petrie. The state is proposing to send the district the same amount next year as was budgeted this year.

Board member Tab Balmer told the board he attended the Black Hawk Area Special Education meeting on Tuesday and learned the deaf and hearing impaired students will be taught out of the Sherrard School district in the upcoming year. This should save the district money on transportation costs. There are currently two students in that program.

The board held a lengthy discussion about what next year’s school attendance will look like because of the COVID-19 shutdown. The superintendent said the state board of education has not yet revealed what their intentions are. “We are starting some plans for remote learning,” he said, in case the future includes continued social distancing. “Learning needs to be based on IDPH guidelines.”

He pointed out that one good thing for the district is the fact that last summer 30 teachers were trained and certified as “Google level 1 certified teachers.“

In personnel issues the board approved resignations of the high school wrestling coach — Steve Speaker, and (at the end of the 2023-24 school year) 6th grade English instructor Michelle Aldinger and high school Math/Spanish instructor Marcia Garrett. A maternity leave was also granted to New Boston preschool teacher Cassidy Murray.

The board agreed to rehire winter coaches and created head cook positions at the Intermediate school: Julie Oary and Junior high school: Bobbi Jo Retherford. Trenton Magedanz was approved as a summer worker.