COVID-19 repercussions tackled at Rockridge

Cathy Decker

EDGINGTON — A heavy discussion was held at Rockridge’s June 8 school board meeting involving whether or not the district schools would be opened for in-school attendance, or would have to wrestle with continued virtual learning. Gov. J.B. Pritzker shut down all Illinois schools in mid-March, leaving students and teachers to complete the last quarter of the year using the internet.

Superintendent Perry Miller said it was still up in the air on how the upcoming school year will be handled. He said the Illinois State Board of Education has been working with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control to come up with guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year. Meanwhile the district is working through offering summer time driver’s education drive time opportunities for around 35 new drivers who are scheduled for working on summer driving hours. Students need to put in six hours of drive time to get a driver’s license at age 16. “We still have 70 kids that still need to drive,” High school principal Katy Hasson said.

Hasson said the 30 hours of classroom driver’s education was pretty much completed before the school shutdown occurred, with around half the students working toward completing three remaining hours drive time and remaining students still needing six hours of drive time. The classroom driver’s education class is one of Rockridge’s graduation requirements.

Superintendent Miller said that a June 11 new guidelines approach was submitted to schools for a possible phase 3 reopening of schools in August. He said he is putting together a survey “to get a feel for how our older students are seeing the issues.”

The board also discussed how transportation to and from schools will be problematic, with a six-foot social distancing requirement and CDC suggestion of having 10-12 students per bus.

“This is going to cost the district a lot more money,” said board member Brian Dinnon.

Superintendent Miller said district teachers will need to prepare much more robust plans for continuing instruction, in case of the need for remote learning.

The district has been providing prepared meals (a week’s worth) on each Monday in June for 48 students, with two remaining Mondays scheduled for the remainder of the month.

The board authorized the superintendent to prepare a tentative budget for the 2020-2021 school year, which will be presented at the July 13 meeting, updated in August and final approval set for the September meeting. The district’s fiscal year ends June 30.

The board discussed two options for paying student fees for the upcoming year — either through Illinois E-pay or using Illinois funds (which would go directly into a bank account used by the district). There was no decision on which way to go with this issue.

Another issue — allowing for a tuition waiver for students of full-time teachers or staff living outside the school district was discussed. Superintendent Miller said the financial implications are that the district receives around $1,200 from the state for each student, with the cost per student being $9,655 (which is the current tuition rate). “It could be perceived they would receive $8,455 incentive per child,” said Miller.

Miller added “Most of our funding comes locally (property tax payments).”

Brandee Neece, teacher’s union representative, said the there are several teachers who are watching this issue closely and estimated there could be as many as seven students from teachers and at least four more students from non-certified staff who might be interested in becoming out-of-district students.

The board asked Miller to visit with the district auditors to see what the additional costs are for any out of district students who might be attending Rockridge and at what grade level. This will be reported at the July meeting.

A special meeting will be held June 22 at 6:15 p.m. to discuss moving $400,000 from the Tort fund to be dedicated for needed high school projects.

In other business the board:

• Learned that Nov. 3 (Election Day) is an additional legal holiday for school districts;

• Approved resignations from Amy Benac (JH yearbook advisor), Matt McKay (8th grade boys’ basketball coach) and Veronica Schroeder (speech-language pathologist).

• Approved hiring: Lauren Long (Andalusia Elementary Title I teacher), Daphne Graves (high school assistant softball coach), Tom Hasson and Sam Graves (assistant football coaches),

• Approved three-year contracts for Jayme Lum, (district bookkeeper) and Jenna Emery (Taylor Ridge and Illinois City administrator)

• Learned July 22 starting at noon is new student registration day and July 29 is the district payment day.