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No mask requirements for new year
PANA – Members of the Pana School Board approved a resolution at their meeting on Monday night, approving $7 million in bonds in order to replace the 100-year-old elementary schools in the district. The vote was 7-0 to approve the measure.
The district has been looking for alternatives to spending millions of dollars in life/safety funds to repair both Washington Elementary School on Sherman St. and Lincoln Elementary School on East Second St. Both build- ings were built in the 1920’s. Currently, Washington houses Pre-K through first grade and Lincoln, second through fifth grades.
“These buildings are pre- World War II design and construction,” Pana School Superintendent Jason Bauer said. “They are not 21st century learning facilities.”
The current budget estimation is $24 million to replace the aging structures. Or, the same budget could be applied – $12 million apiece – to upgrade the current buildings.
Breaking down the budget, $13 million will come from life/safety bonds and this $7 million from what are called Alternative Revenue Bonds. The district would come up with $2.5 million from current fund balances and $1.5 million coming from ESSER 3 (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds from the American Rescue Plan which Congress passed to combat the COVID- 19 pandemic. Theses funds would be used in construction of the HVAC portion of the building.
The bonds could be issued anytime after a 30-day period following a Public Notice of the bond sales. However, they could also be delayed if 434 voters (15% of registered voters in the district) signed a petition requesting a vote on the proposition. That would take place at the Primary Election to be held on June 28, 2022. The District has until 2024 to issue the bonds.
The Facilities Committee report indicated the committee has interviewed two construc- tion management companies – Core Construction of Peoria and O’Shea Builders of Springfield – to over see the project. A thing company is slated for interview in August. Core is currently overseeing constriction of a new elemen- tary school in El Paso-Gridley, similar to the proposed Pana project.
But to get things rolling, Bauer said the school board needs to contract with BLDD Architects to come up the plans for the new school. A proposal from the firm as pre- sented to the Facilities Committee back in June and it was reviewed by the school district’s legal firm. They offered a few minor changes which has been presented to BLDD.
Tentatively, the new school would be built around the high school/junior high school complex.
A back to school plan will be presented to the school board by the superintendent once guidelines have been handed down by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Bauer said he will recommend the school district follow the CDC guidelines, except for the use of masks inside school build- ings.
“We will not require the use of masks in the classroom,” Bauer said. “We will continue our safety protocols when it comes to cleaning, wiping down desks and social dis- tancing as much as possible.”
Bauer said he was prepared to make a recommendation face coverings are recommended for those not vaccinated, but it will not be required.
Masks will be required when students are riding buses. Bauer said school buses are considered public transportation and federal guidelines require the wearing of masks on public trans- portation. But, the superin- tendent said if a student refuses to wear a mask, no action will be taken.
“Our job is to transport students to school,” Bauer said.
The superintendent said IDPH is meeting this week and the Governor’s Executive Order on remote learning expires July 24 so he was holding off on a full back to school plan pending those actions. He said if remote learning is required, a third party platform will be employed. He said anyone who is out for COVID related quarantines will be treated like any other illness. Homework will be assigned and teachers will be available to answer student’s questions. The student is expected to turn in the homework assigned.
Bauer said the District would continue to offer COVID testing in the schools. But bottom line, Bauer said if a student doesn’t feel well, they shouldn’t attend school.
Board Member Kyle Anderson said he wanted the district to discontinue any contact tracing. He said the Christian County Health Department should be responsible for the contact tracing. Bauer said it was the school district’s responsibility to report any COVID cases to the health department. He said last year, the department only had three contact tracers and they are looking to hire more.
He continued by saying the District needed a return to school/safety plan to submit as part of its $3.6 million ESSER grant application.
Once the state and CDC guidelines have been estab- lished, he will complete the plan and asked a special session of the Board be held to approve those recommenda- tion.
The Board heard a request from Gina Osborn and Rhonda Weideman from the Mid-Fielder’s Club (PHS boys and girls soccer boosters) for the District to take over the funding of the sports. They said the Mid-Fielder’s have been responsible for all of the expenses – uniforms, field maintenance, officials, etc. – since the sport was approved.
But with the recent pan- demic and a dip in fund-raising, the club has enough money to fund both sports for another school year, but they are uncertain after that time. The Board will take the request under consideration.
Jeff Stauder, Director of Buildings, Grounds and Transportation, reported summer maintenance work is well under way. The new floor for the auxiliary gym at the high school will be installed beginning on Aug. 9, but crews will begin to remove the old floor this week. The other gym floors have be resealed in the past week.
Bids were approved for cafeteria commodities, including Milk, juice, bread and canned goods. Single bidders – Prairie Farms, Aunt Millie’s Bakery and M. J. Kellner and Khol Wholesale – were successful bidders.
The meeting adjourned at 7:51 p.m.