DANVILLE — Danville District 118 Superintendent Alicia Geddis reported at Wednesday night’s school board meeting that the number of registered students in the district had increased in the last two weeks.
A total of 4,635 students had registered as of Wednesday, compared with the 3,832 students who had registered by Aug. 21. The district’s enrollment is still more than 1,100 students short of last year’s enrollment of 5,804.
Geddis said once the technical issues are resolved with the Chromebooks and the remote-learning program, she and other staff members are committed to supporting the district’s students and parents by every means possible.
“We are going to provide tutoring. We are doing multiple food distribution sites. We are implementing flexible support hours for parents and students. We will be providing virtual library services, and we’re trying to make our help desk more robust,” she said.
“We’re committed to making this year one in which we will see substantial growth during a challenging time,” Geddis said.
Meal distribution began Sept. 8 for remote-learning students and will continue to take place every Tuesday.
Meals are to be picked up using the student’s barcode meal ID at one of the following schools and times: Danville High School, 202 E. Fairchild St., 10-11 a.m. or 5-6 p.m.; Mark Denman Elementary School, 930 Colfax St., 5-6 p.m.; South View Upper Elementary School, 133 E. Ninth St., 5-6 p.m.; or North Ridge Middle School, 1619 N. Jackson St., 5-6 p.m.
Also on Wednesday, the board:
• Approved the reappointment of Buildings and Grounds Director Skip Truex to the Danville Public Building Commission for a five-year period ending September 2025.
• Entered into a contract for $78,000 with K-12 Elevate so the service may provide a certified bilingual/ESL staff member to work with North Ridge Middle School and Danville High School students remotely.
The district has been unable to fill two bilingual teacher positions and an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher position that would provide sufficient bilingual and ESL services as required by the Title III grant.
Brandie Kuchefski, a grants coordinator who oversees the district’s English language program, told the board that the district has four certified teachers and three teaching assistants to cover bilingual and ESL services in all the elementary schools and South View Upper Elementary School.
“It’s filling six periods of instruction,” Curriculum Director Mary Ellen Bunton said of the current staffing.
An ESL opening now exists at North Ridge Middle School and a position at DHS has remained unfilled for three years. A bilingual-certified substitute who previously met the needs of the students for the last two years moved away from the area, Kuchefski said.
In addition, a full-time bilingual teacher at Northeast Elementary Magnet School left at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, as did a shared bilingual teacher at Mark Denman and Southwest elementary schools.
The vacancies create a compliance issue for the district with the Title III grant.
The district’s Title III state consultant verified that using K-12 Elevate would allow the district to remain compliant and appropriately serve North Ridge and DHS students during remote learning.
Board President Bill Dobbles and board member Lon Henderson said they supported offering a monetary incentive to attract bilingual teachers to the district.
“We need incentives to hire bilingual teachers or to have our teachers go back to school to become a bilingual teacher,” Dobbles said.
• Heard Geddis debunk a local TV station’s report that some of the district’s support staff received notice that they would be laid off.
“The goal of the Board of Education is to use our support staff in new and creative ways to move our students forward and to the next level,” she said. “So no, we have not done a Reduction In Force.”
Geddis also told board members that when general obligation bonds — which were not to exceed $10.5 million — were sold last week to refinance the district’s outstanding bonds from 2011, the cost savings was greater than anticipated.
Because of the current low interest rates, the district anticipated a cost savings of $2.4 million over the remaining 10 years of a 2011 bond it sold to fund the renovations of North Ridge Middle, South View Upper Elementary and Mark Denman Elementary schools.
The cost savings ended up being $2.9 million, according to Geddis.
The refinancing will help to lower the interest amount the district pays on the bonds, therefore lowering the tax rate levied on property owners in the district.