Summer work — in and out of the classroom — is underway at Massac Unit 1 schools.
Superintendent Jason Hayes informed the board of education at its meeting Monday that all four maintenance projects are in progress — the restroom/concession buildings at Massac County High School, the district maintenance building at Massac Junior High School and the storage building at Metropolis Elementary School. In addition, bid requests for the MCHS HVAC system — a project being funded through ESSER II money — have been made and will be open soon with replacement to take place in summer 2022.
In the classroom, summer school began this week for first- through eighth-graders. Held at MES and MJHS, it will help students recover skills. MCHS summer school begins June 7. Students will be bused in as needed.
“We’ll give the kids a break in July and come back to normal in August, fingers crossed,” Hayes said.
The Illinois State Board of Education passed a resolution on May 19 calling on all public schools to return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, which for Unit 1 is scheduled begin Aug. 16.
Hayes noted while specifics and guidance from ISBE haven’t been finalized “at this time, it looks like the medical-remote option will still be made available. Right now, the plan is when we start back in August to start back as normal. And that could change. Last year, it changed all the way up to the end of July. We’ll see what happens. If we go to Phase 5 on June 11, I think it’s more of a sure thing that we’ll be back in person like normal, but the mask thing is still a question.”
Hayes noted that over the past week the district office has received several calls concerning Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Benefits cards, or P-EBT cards. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), in collaboration with ISBE, began issuing the cards in March to families with eligible children for the 2020-21 school year.
Through the eligibility guidelines, all Unit 1 students are receiving the card as the district, through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Program, has met the community threshold of free lunches for all students, regardless of income. The district applied for CEP prior to COVID.
While the card “is a blessing for some folks,” Hayes said others “don’t want to use it. We’re encouraging those parents to buy food and donate it to someone or to a food pantry,” as the cards are non-transferrable but can be used for food purchases out of state.
“We hope it helps kids through the summer,” he said.
The cards are being mailed out in cycles. The district advises parents who haven’t received a card to start with IDHS before contacting the school.
In other business, the board:
• Held two separate hearings pursuant to district policy to deny admission to school or events or meetings. The hearings were in response to an altercation between two fathers following a fifth- and sixth-grade ball game at MES. The board, at the recommendation of the school attorney, voted to ban them for a year but hold it in abeyance, meaning “if they violate any part of our code moving forward, the ban goes into effect,” Hayes explained.
• Approved the propane contract bid from Southern FS for Jefferson and Unity elementary schools for school year 2022.
• Approved the resignation of Grayson Dawes, effective at the end of the school year.
• Approved the retirement of Karen Bunch, effective June 30.
• Approved the new employment of Barbara Lindsey, Sandy Obermark and Donna Stratmeyer as cooks; Lisa Burton as MCHS special education teacher; Karsyn Shoulta as MJHS teacher aide; and Mike Stepter as MES teacher aide.
• Acknowledged the transfers of: Karen Hodge; Tina Caldwell as MJHS English Language Arts teacher; Summer Smallman as MCHS personal teacher aide; Deisha Gilbert as Unity secretary; and Aaron Clark as MCHS German teacher.
Hayes noted that due to the limited schedule this year, “we were able to make it without hiring cooks, but now that the state board has passed a resolution stating we will be back in person, we needed to fill those spots. We’re starting to take care of staffing for next year.”
The next regular school board meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 28, in the MCHS library.