NORMAL – With COVID-19 still in our midst and parents and students age 12 and up receiving vaccinations, District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle took to the visiting speaker’s lectern and faced members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board and laid out plans for the upcoming school year. First item on her list: Students will be expected back in classrooms when the 2021-22 school year opens on Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Dr. Weikle began by explaining she and assistant superintendent Michelle Lamboley had meetings with groups she identified as “a variety of stakeholders” within the district – primarily Kindergarten through fifth grade educators followed by educators serving 6th through 12th graders, as well with the district’s Citizen Advisory Council, as well as the district’s pandemic advisory committee.

First, she explained, the district would purchase, with Board approval, equipment which would be attached to heating, air conditioning, and ventilation equipment at all of the district’s 17 schools. The equipment, Dr. Weikle said, “Will help with the air quality to kill a number of viruses.” She said the system to be purchased has been tested against the COVID virus “and proven to have a high level of efficiency” in fighting it.

She added Illinois Department of Public Health is requiring schools throughout the State to continue to mandate use of masks through until the end of the school year. Dr. Weikle added she has not heard any information from IDPH regarding the status of the use of masks for the 2021-22 school year. As a result of that, Dr. Weikle told Board members, “We’re preparing for all possible

She explained the district hosted two vaccination sessions for students and that district employees have been getting their shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer created vaccine. Currently, the Superintendent said, 70 percent of district employees have received their shots.

Dr. Weikle then quoted a resolution passed by Illinois State Board of Education which states, “All schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days provided and pursuant to” COVID.” She then told Board members, “So basically, that statement right there means we have to provide in-person instruction to our students.”

She said ISBE added that as a result of its resolution, at-home learning may, may, not will be available for remote instruction. That would also mean a student who meets “specific medical criteria” may be able to continue remote learning. She said the district would need to see doctor’s information before granting a student approval to continue remote learning. How many students fit that situation, Dr. Weikle said, will determine the staffing level the district will need to provide.

She added remote students may be kept together under one campus. Doing this, Dr. Weikle explained, “helps the parents find one common place to get information from.” She added this gives “families, students, and staff one administrator, and support staff to go to should they need further assistance.”

Dr. Weikle told Board members and cautioned parents wanting to continue to exercise the remote option that should they change their mind and want to put their student back into a physical classroom, such changes will not be permitted to take place after one month but changes can take place at the end of the semester. She added students in 6th through 12th grade who opt to do remote learning will not be permitted to participate in extra curricular activities per a State School Code.

Human Resources Update: Board members were informed by Roger Baldwin, director of human resources for the district, that among the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for the district included issues revolving around sick leave and family leave matters, and various staffing issues.

Budget Update: Among the highlights District Chief Financial Officer Marty Hickman presented to Board members were that the district experienced less income from food service due to fewer meals being served by schools because of the pandemic. Countering that, the district received more Federal revenue from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) Grants. Conversely, district teachers encountered lower than expected salary and benefit expenses due to online learning.

He added the district’s spending laid out as anticipated in the last fiscal year resulting in a $3.5 million surplus for the 2020-21 school year. The district had a budget of $202 million in all of its funds.

Hickman added the savings were primarily due to unneeded positions which weren’t filled for online learning. In addition, Hickman explained the district mended budget for the current fiscal year includes $13 million abatement from Working Cash into Education Fund. He said the actual amount could be lower and require Board approval at their June 9 meeting.

Public Comments Continues To Revolve Around Masking Children: While the district continues to abide by State mandates regarding masking students, seven citizens spoke during public comments again protesting needing this to be done to students. Katie Lavoie, a parent of future Towanda Elementary School students, told Board members she will not mask her children in public and said she believes masking children who have no illness is wrong. She said she was speaking out on behalf of those who do the same and fear retaliation on the part of the district.

Resident Larry Dibway also addressed Board members, calling the policy instituted by the District, which was following a State mandate of requiring masks, “cruel, unnatural, and unneeded and capricious.”

Dawn Bergeron, parent of a Normal West student, became emotional as she explained her son “wants to come to school, he wants to see his teachers, he wants to see his friends, he wants to see smiles.” Adding that she takes part in natural health, she said the policy of wearing masks “has never made sense to me from day one.” Saying she is employed in holistic health care, she told Board members, “There are plenty of ways to heal the body and build the immune system.” She added school lunches feed chemicals to students.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2021 at 10:04 pm and is filed under The Normalite, Unit 5. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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