Paris 95 board elects to close schools until after Thanksgiving

By Nancy Zeman nzeman@prairiepress.net
Posted 11/16/20

The decision to close Paris Union School District 95 schools until after Thanksgiving was a difficult one and happened quickly on Friday, Nov. 6, according to a report given during the Monday, Nov. …

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Paris 95 board elects to close schools until after Thanksgiving

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The decision to close Paris Union School District 95 schools until after Thanksgiving was a difficult one and happened quickly on Friday, Nov. 6, according to a report given during the Monday, Nov. 9, school board meeting at Mayo Middle School.

Wenz School principal Megan Carroll, who is working toward her superintendent’s certification, presided at the meeting as part of her requirements. Paris 95 Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson was present.

Carroll explained by noon on Nov. 6 there were 46 positive cases at her school and by the time contact tracing was completed by the Edgar County Health Department, “We were looking at 20 staff members just at Wenz,” she said. That’s when the decision was made to move from in-person learning to remote learning for that school.

That afternoon, another student at Mayo Middle School tested positive and shortly after, seven additional staff plus 35 students were contact traced.

Carroll said that was when Larson — in consultation with the Mayo principal Kyle Shay and herself — made the difficult decision to close until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The decision was applauded by the Association of Paris Teachers, according to a statement made during the meeting by APT president Emily Vaughn.

“We appreciate the tough decisions Dr. Larson and the board of education made to shut down the schools due to the Coronavirus. We understand that our jobs are to educate students. Students receive the best education with in-person learning with their teachers,” Vaughn said. “With that being said, dealing with the coronavirus and all that it entails, the decision to shut down for a few weeks was in the best interest to all those working and learning in the school buildings.”

Vaughn concluded by praising the school district.

“Thank you for being a great district to work for and being transparent when dealing with COVID-19,” she concluded.

Students in the Paris 95 schools picked up their homework assignments for remote learning Tuesday at each school, Larson said. In addition, the district made Chromebooks available to students to check out and once again established hot spots in the community for those who do not have Internet access.

Temporary Internet hotspots for students are:  Mayo - maintenance shop; Wenz - bike racks; Memorial - bike racks; Templeton Funeral Home; Highland Court - three locations; Crow's Nest on Lincoln Street; and the new pavilion at Allen Field.

In addition to providing Internet access, the district is also providing meals. Hot meals may be picked up every day from 9-11 a.m. at each school and some meals are being delivered.

Shay told the board the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) earlier on Monday parted ways with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and voted to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommendation of moving boys basketball and girls volleyball to the high risk category.

According to Shay, as of Monday, the IESA board members were unsure whether schools can participate in the two winter sports beginning in January.

A news release from IESA executive director Steve Easley stated, “If competition is not approved by IDPH by the time these activities are scheduled to begin, then the IESA Board will meet to discuss the possibility of moving the seasons.”

IESA has scheduled girls basketball beginning March 8 but, Easley said, “If conditions require boys basketball and girls volleyball seasons to be moved into spring, scheduling becomes difficult.”

Easley emphasized the IESA wants, “students to have an opportunity to play all the activities but it will be difficult to accomplish this without causing students and schools to choose between activities.”

Before Monday’s meeting, Larson said he is already looking forward to and working toward the return of in-person learning for Paris 95 students on Nov. 30.

In other business, Carroll announced the Paris 95 pre-school program was recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as a Gold Circle of Quality program from ExceleRate Illinois, which oversees the early childhood program.

In the letter of commendation, Paris 95’s program was recognized for its, commitment to providing quality early childhood education. The designation is for one year, Carroll said.

Carroll noted the district received several monetary donations during the past month: Longview Bank, $5,000; Dirt Poor, $500; The Prairie Press, $100; and HRC, $20.

Additional donations were made by: Presley Baldwin, Simonton Windows, JK & Crystal Vilk, Sugar Creek Dental, Lake Ridge Church, Jose Amaro, Cody and Lindsey Keys, Carla and Mike Duke, Damita Lewis, Hopes and Dreams, First Mid Bank, Beautiful Blossoms Daycare, Mel Ogle, Amanda Culkin and Tonya Westerfield.

Carroll also acknowledged the receipt of a thank you from Arcola Superintendent of Schools Tom Mulligan, praising the district for the Oct. 9 virtual Edgar County Institute.

Mulligan said it was full of excellent content and was an amazing opportunity provided to the staff of the many school districts who participated.

“Thank you for allowing your staff to support others,” Mulligan wrote.

The school board also moved to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year by approving the school calendar, awarding grocery, bread and milk bids as well as the fuel bid for the district.

Students return to class Aug. 12 for the 2021-2022 school year, and the first full day is Aug.16. If no emergency days are used, the final day of student attendance is scheduled for May 19, 2022. Larson said the calendar was prepared in cooperation with Crestwood Unit 4.