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Police escort woman from school board meeting refusing to put on mask
PANA — During its regular monthly meeting Monday night, members of the Pana School Board voted unani- mously to approve a contract with BLDD Architects of Decatur to design a new elementary school for the District. The contact will cost the District a little more than $1.4 million.
Early on in the meeting, which was held in the Board’s small meeting room at the Unit Office on Main St., one citizen was asked to leave the meeting because she didn’t have a mask. Jamie Glick of Pana refused to leave which prompted School Superintendent Jason Bauer to call police and a few minutes later, Pana Police Chief Daniel Bland entered the meeting room and escorted Glick outside. Loud voices could be heard outside of the meeting room, but the meeting continued without interruptions.
School Board President Doug Kirkbride asked those who entered without masks to put one on if they were going to stay in the meeting.
“We don’t like this anymore than you do, but it’s our policy,” Kirkbride said.
He had asked Glick three times to put a mask on, but she responded, she was drinking, a reference to a cup she was holding with a straw in it. She offered Chief Bland the same explanation and Bland responded, “Let’s go.” Glick said, “You’ve got to be kid- ding,” put did leave the meeting room quietly.
Two other women who were opposed to masking were in the audience. One of them produced a medical wavier and the other finally agreed to put a mask on as the meeting started.
During the visitor’s considerations, Anna Everly asked the Board about hearing impaired students who read lips and would have a hard time learning with the teachers being masked. She contended her son’s teacher agreed to wear a face shield instead of a mask but was supposedly told she could not wear the shield.
Kirkbride said the parent and other parents in a similar situation should first contact the teacher, then the building principal. If they are not satisfied, they have the option to contact Superintendent Bauer.
Another woman, Beth Moran, spoke in opposition of the masks and asked the Board “Not to be bullied into submission” by state orders. She also contended only the M-95 masks could stop the spread of the virus and the paper masks which they were wearing “are useless.”
Bauer said there had been 69 court challenges to the governor’s executive orders, “and all 69 have failed.” He went on to explain the state board of education has told districts not complying they would lose recognition, meaning diplomas issued by those schools would be worthless and schools affiliated with the IHSA or the IESA would not be permitted to participate in sports.
Damien Schlitt of BLDD, head of the K-12 design group ,explained to the Board the procedures of designing and coming up with plans for a new elementary school which is to be build at a location near the current high school and junior high. Estimated price tag is about $24 million. The new single building would replace Washington Elementary School (grade Pre-K-2) and Lincoln Elementary School (grade 3-5). Each building is approaching 100 years old.
Jeff Stauder, director of buildings, grounds and transportation, said there are numerous life/health/safety issues at both schools which are mandated to be fixed or the district will not be able to use them. He did not elaborate on what the problems were or the timeline to fix them, only to say, soon. Cost of those repairs is nearly the same as replacing the schools with a new facility.
Bauer said the current district finances would allow for construction without raising property taxes. Bonds which the District will sell for construction will be paid for with the 1% sales tax for Capital Projects.
Schlitt said there are three milestones in coming up with a new school design.
First is the concept plan where architects meet with teachers, staff and administration to get their ideas on what a new school should contain. Following this step, comes the schematic design, the nuts and bolts of what materials should be used in construction of the facility. He suggested to the Board if they will be utilizing a construction manager, they should have one in place at this stage.
In the final stages, once the plans have been approved, bid packages will be prepared – perhaps up to 10 or 15 – for contractors to bid. He anticipated construction would require about one year. Completion and occupancy in the new school could be as early as the second semester, January of 2024.
A tentative fiscal year 2022 school budget was approved by the Board. Expenses for the Education Fund are up just over $70,000 as com- pared to last year at $12.7 million. Estimated revenues are up by $3.7 million at $16.6 million. The Education Fund anticipates a $3.9 mil- lion surplus at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2022. The higher surplus is attributed to ESSER II and ESSER III (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grant money from the federal government.
The budget shows a $178,000 deficit in the Transportation Fund and $70,000 in the debt services.
A public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 20, 2021, at 6:15 p.m. in the Library of Pana High School. There is also a new teachers reception planned for the same day at 5:30 p.m. in the Panthers Den of the high school.
Following a 40-minute executive session, the Board approved several employment recommendations by the superintendent. They include hiring Donald Simpson as district bus mechanic. Resignations from Rebecca Dagen and Lisa Schmitz were accepted. Spring sports coaching assignments were approved including, Marty Cloe, soft- ball head coach; Jessica Etter, assistant softball coach; Mike Malisia, baseball head coach; Brent McKinney, assistant baseball coach; Will Shalter, boys head track coach; Taylor Cothern, girls head track coach; Mitch Cloe, high school/junior high tack coach; Paul Donahue, junior high boys track coach; Missy Ade, junior high girls track coach; Mike Weideman, girls head soccer coach; and Mark Shelite, high school fishing coach.
The meeting adjourned at 8:22 p.m.