Chrisman schools end academic year

COVID-19 forces adaptations

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 5/18/20

HRISMAN — Thursday, May 14 was the last day of a unique school year for Chrisman Community Unit School District #6.

During the board of education meeting that night, school administrators …

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Chrisman schools end academic year

COVID-19 forces adaptations

Posted

HRISMAN — Thursday, May 14 was the last day of a unique school year for Chrisman Community Unit School District #6.

During the board of education meeting that night, school administrators discussed how staff and students adapted to an unusual last quarter that kept students out of the buildings and attempting to continue education at home through e-learning.

Elementary principal Kelly Schluter said the end of e-learning appeared to be a relief for both teachers and parents, but it is still continuing for some students who are at risk of getting an incomplete because they either did not finish or turn in assignments.

“So many teachers are doing one on one with Zoom to help those students,” said Schluter, adding the work must be completed by May 18 to avoid an incomplete. “They are really wanting to do the best for our kiddoes.”

Cole Huber, principal of the junior high and high school, described the participation in e-learning as mixed. He explained online class sessions offered via Zoom had disappointing attendance, with some students never signing in. Math participation was exceptionally low, he said.

Teachers, he said, estimated between 70 and 80 percent of the students did attempt to take advantage of online learning in some fashion.

As an administrator, Huber does see a positive developing from the experience of doing remote learning.

“It is really forcing our teachers into thinking about how to push individual kids instead of trying to keep a class to a standard,” said Huber.

The need to maintain social distancing and prevent the gathering of large groups is disrupting the final rite of the school year — high school graduation. Chrisman High School has adapted so graduates can still walk across the stage in cap and gown to receive a diploma. It will be done one student at a time, accompanied by family, over the course of a day.

“I’ve got kids signed up every 10 minutes from 8 to 3, May 30,” said Huber.

Each student will be videoed crossing the stage and there will be time for a family photo opportunity. Valedictorian and salutatorian speeches will also be recorded and the finished video of the graduation is scheduled for release June 7 through the school’s website. Also on June 7 is a graduation parade through Chrisman, and perhaps Scottland.

“There will be one graduate per car, and about 25 cars,” said Huber. The graduation parade starts at 2 p.m. June 7 from the high school, although details of the parade route are still being worked out.

Current and future finances was the topic of interim superintendent Jim Acklin’s report. He presented an amended budget for the current fiscal year. He said a couple of issues are driving the need for an amended budget.

The district was awarded a $100,000 state School Improvement Grant but some of that money may not come in until the new fiscal year starts July 1. The operations and maintenance line item also spent $14,000 that was not originally budgeted for security cameras.

“We still anticipate being in the black in all funds, but it is not quite as rosy as we expected in September,” said Acklin.

He also provided a warning to board members the state shutdown for COVID has resulted in less tax revenue for the state, and there is speculation that loss in revenue will translate into less state aid next fiscal year.

“I expect we will have to cut into reserves,” said Acklin. “We are positioned well to ride out any storm next year. We just hope it is not more than one year.”

Board member Cory Chaney asked if the new budget will include the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical related items as safety measures against a continued corona virus outbreak.

Acklin said the most recent CARES act from the federal government included financial aid for schools and Unit 6 is scheduled to receive $61,000.

“Almost all of the superintendents I have talked to anticipate using the money for PPE, thermometers and technology upgrades in case we have to go back to remote learning,” said Acklin.

Schluter announced school nurse Tricia Brinkley has already researched touchless, scanning thermometers and has money left in the nurse’s budget.

“We are going to order a couple of them,” said Schluter. “It is good practice anyway, and better than what we have now.”