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Tuscola BOE discusses year’s Return to School Plan

By Kendra Hennis 
The meeting of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order on July 27 at 7 p.m. with members Bob Devlin and Jerrod Baird absent. The biggest discussion point on the board’s agenda was the Return to School plan for the 2021-22 school year. 

Superintendent Gary Alexander explained that the draft of the Return to School Plan had been sent out to students, families, and the community for input. He reported that the plan closely follows guidance from IDPH and the CDC–masks are recommended, social distancing will be followed as closely as possible, frequent hand washing is encouraged, they encourage symptomatic individuals to stay home until they are feeling better, and they will be working with students and families to handle any homework that may be missed. Remote Learning will only be offered to students who are under quarantine by the Health Department; a child that must stay home for the school year for medical reasons must be moved to Homebound Learning. He noted that student athletes will be given an excused absence from participation if they are under quarantine by the Health Department. He then said that the school also plans to return to five-day school weeks with a full day of learning. Alexander explained that the guidance they recieve is changing frequently and that they are changing with it and that each situation is a little different so the school will be working through it as the school year goes on. The full approved plan can be found on the Tuscola CUSD 301 Facebook page or website. 

East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll led the principals’ reports. He noted that this school year would begin an activity period rollout on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students to do reading activities and receive extra class help as needed. Students will read two books a semester per class level and will do activities and have discussions based on their reading. He then congratulated the food service staff for receiving a Gold Spoon Award from the Douglas County Health Department, as well as a thank you for all of their hard work. Vanausdoll then said that East Prairie and TCHS will continue using GoFan for ticket purchases. Tickets will also be available for purchase at games and offices and there will be more information released soon. He ended noting that he is excited for the school year to begin, and that girls basketball begins their first practice on August 3.

North Ward Principal Jason Wallace followed with another congratulations and thank you to the food service staff, noting that he and all of the kids really appreciate them. He explained that the jump start summer school program was in the second session and that they are seeing an increase in attendance, and that Tech Camp with Ms Holmes would be held next week. Wallace announced that welcome back night for first through fourth graders on August 16, and that pre-k and kindergartens will meet with their teachers before they begin school. He also noted that pick up and drop off procedures have been prepared for this year, thanking those who suggested it for easier and more efficient pick up. 

TCHS Principal Steve Fiscus was absent from the meeting, so his report was read by Superintendent Alexander. Fiscus’ report thanked the summer custodial staff for all of their work this summer. He also announced that the school had decided to not allow golf carts on the track for next football season due to the new track. Fiscus said that fall sports begin on August 9, and congratulated multiple students on their accomplishments from the spring sports season.

In his report, Superintendent Alexander announced that the district had ended the year fiscally much better than expected, with the education fund currently $475,000 ahead. Alexander said that he will continue to monitor expenses and hope that revenue keeps moving forward. Alexander explained that online registration is happening now on teacherease and in-person registration will be held Aug. 10. He then told the board that the auditors would be at the school August 2 and 3. Alexander additionally explained that they are still awaiting information for the School Board Conference, and that the school is hiring for some open positions.

The board also: 
* Heard public comment from Todd Black asking if it would be possible to recieve information from the board and that he would like to have meetings with interested board members to discuss information.

* Heard public comment from Nancy Broch in regards to the potential SB18 law being passed. Broch asked if anything had changed on the board’s end if that bill is passed. Ingram explained that at this time this is not a concern of the board since the bill is not passed. Broch also asked about the Asian-American History Teaching law and how the school planned to implement those teachings. Alexander noted that they have not received clarification or expectations from the state regarding that bill yet. Broch then asked if there were tampons available for students in both restrooms. Alexander explained that products were available for purchase at the Warrior Store for any students that needed them.

* Heard public comment from Derek Holmes about the mask policy. Holmes expressed concerns in the school’s wording regarding mask wearing, saying it allowed for a lot of personal interpretation and didn’t match the CDC’s guidance of encouraging mask wearing. Alexander explained that the school is closely following the CDC and IDPH guidelines and while the school is not requiring masks to be worn, they do encourage it for students that would like to wear them.

* Heard communication from Ken and Judy Landeck along with their donation. The Landeck’s donated $1,000 to the Chorus Department and $1,000 to the Band Department in honor of their fond memories of band and chorus in high school.

* Accepted a $250 donation from the Mannen Family for the Warrior Store.

* Accepted a $250 donation from the Mannen Family for Help A Child.

* Accepted a $300 donation from FFA Alumni for FFA.

* Accepted a $333.74 donation from the Class of 2022 for the Warrior Store.

* Accepted a $1,000 donation from Ken and Judy Landeck for Band. 

* Accepted a $1,000 donation from Ken and Judy Landeck for Chorus.

* Approved the minutes from the June 28 Board Retreat and Regular Meeting.

* Approved the payment of bills in the amount of $1,026,301.83.

* Approved the monthly Treasurer and Bookkeepers Reports.

* Approved closing the activity account office closing.

* Approved closing the activity account for Lietz Memorial CD.

* Approved a request for FMLA Leave for Jorden Lauwers. 

* Approved renewal of the District Insurance Policy to keep 100 percent coverage of students by the school.

* Approved the recommendation to destroy Verbatim Records older than 18 months. 

* Approved the recommendations to continue to seal the minutes and seal all previous executive session minutes.

* Heard the first reading of Policy Updates 107.

* Moved to closed session for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (1)-personnel; 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (2)-collective negotiating matters; 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (11)-pending litigation. 

* Approved the personal resignation of Jessica Hanner as Social Worker.

* Approved the hiring of the 2021-22 Coaches.

* Adjourned until the August 23 Board meeting at 7 p.m.

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