DANVILLE — The next few months will be very different in Danville District 118 as administrators and the board try to modify plans to ensure students will be able to graduate, attend summer school and register for the 2020-2021 school year.
The COVID-19 outbreak will change how the district operates this summer.
One possible change the board discussed at its Wednesday night meeting was not opening Northeast Elementary Magnet School, which follows a balanced year-round calendar, in July but rather in August. Northeast would temporarily follow a traditional calendar, such as the other schools in the district, just for the 2020-2021 school year.
“We don’t have direction as to when to start the school year or how the transportation would work,” Superintendent Alicia Geddis told the board.
Geddis said she is considering “bringing the Northeast students along when the traditional calendar students start.”
“I would like to go back to the balanced calendar the following year,” Board member Lon Henderson said.
The board adopted a resolution Wednesday night to suspend graduation requirements based on Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) guidelines, which loosens the amount of credits students need to graduate.
Last week, ISBE notified school districts statewide that it would suspend certain statutory graduation requirement minimums to allow local districts to modify or reduce their local graduation requirements. That way, students who, through no fault of their own were unable to complete certain graduation requirements due to the suspension of in-person instruction, would still be able to graduate in 2020.
Some of the state’s emergency modifications in graduation requirements include exempting seniors from physical education participation, exempting them from taking one semester of health and nine weeks of consumer education, and exempting them from taking the SAT and government and Constitution exams.
Also, the minimum number of years in certain subjects required to graduate was reduced by half a year in language arts, math, science, social studies and music/art/foreign language/vocational education.
The modified graduation requirements only apply to the Class of 2020.
Summer school for Danville High School students will start in early June, while administrators hope to offer summer school for elementary and middle school students up to the eighth grade in July.
Curriculum Director Mary Ellen Bunton said high school summer school would take place virtually.
“We will start high school summer school as soon as possible because they have to get 60 hours (of instruction) in,” Board President Bill Dobbles said. “They will do it virtually through using Odysseyware.”
The centralized registration days that had been scheduled for mid-June have been canceled. Instead, District 118 is considering a hybrid approach with parents being encouraged to register their students online. A small-scale registration event is being planned for August at the DHS field house, if the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by then.
“Palmer Arena is getting all new ice, so we wouldn’t be able to hold registration there in August,” Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Beth Yacobi told the board.
Registration materials also can be mailed if parents do not have access to the Internet.
Henderson, however, was concerned that without an in-person centralized registration, students might not be able to get the required physical exam and immunizations required to attend public school in Illinois. At last year’s centralized registration event, medical professionals were on hand to conduct physical exams.
“One of the parts of registration is health compliance,” he said.
“Right now our students won’t be able to see a physician,” Yacobi said, referring to medical professionals currently focusing on COVID-19. “It might take until August until children can see a physician for immunizations.”
To facilitate registering students online, the board Wednesday approved paying Skyward – the district’s school management software program — $19,483 to develop a module for parents to access the district’s online registration packet that can be sent directly to each school building. The cost also includes six hours of training.
Also on Wednesday, the board:
• Appointed Buildings and Grounds Director Skip Truex to serve as a board member on the Danville Public Building Commission for the next five months. He will fill the remainder of an unexpired term served by former Business Manager Heather Smith who resigned from District 118 in mid-March.
• Approved paying $10,354 in membership dues to the Illinois Association of School Boards.
• Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Danville Education Association to postpone all evaluations of noncertified staff until the 2020-2021 school year. Non-certified staff evaluations were unable to be completed during the 2019-2020 school year.
Human Resources Director Kim Pabst told the board that certified staff evaluations were completed on time and were submitted by the second week of February to the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education.
• Renewed the district’s Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) contract for three years through the 2022-2023 school year. The cost of the three-year contract is $37,854 the first year, $39,044 the second year, and $40,219 the third year. The cost of the contract will be covered through Title I and Illinois Empower funds.
The district has supported all of its middle and high school students through the AVID program, which teaches skills to prepare students for college and careers, for 20 years. As of the current 2019-2020 school year, all of the district’s schools, including Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, participate in the AVID program.
“The buildings are very much in support of the program,” Bunton said.
• Entered into a contract with Blackboard for website design for the district. The cost of the three-year contract is $34,248 the first year and $11,228 the second and third years each.
“Our website is very outdated and lacks navigation aspects,” Yacobi said. “They will give our website a fresh look and upbeat approach.”
Blackboard’s Web Division has created websites for the Decatur, Urbana and Peoria school districts. Yacobi said District 118’s website hasn’t been updated for 10 years.
The district, however, will need a webmaster to update content on the new website.
“If we’re going to spend this money, we need to follow through and keep it updated and not let it go,” Board member Darlene Halloran said.