MHS District 280 reports very few problems with in-person attendance


MENDOTA – The first six weeks of in-person classes at Mendota High School have gone better than expected. Reporting at the Oct. 19 Mendota High School board of education meeting, Superintendent Jeff Prusator said he is very pleased with the start of the 2020-21 school year.

“We couldn’t have anticipated things going any better than they have,” Prusator told the board. “We are one of the few high schools that are in session all day, five days a week.”

Much of the credit for this success is due to the work and planning done over the summer, Prusator noted, along with cooperation from MHS students who have been wearing masks and following the other safety protocols put in place this year.

Since the start of school, MHS has had seven positive COVID cases – four students and three staff members. Prusator said all of the cases were transmitted outside of school. Even when contact tracing was done, only five to eight other students had to be quarantined due to close contact. “So, we still have over 400 students who were able to attend school in-person,” he added. “If we keep wearing masks, distancing and do all the other safety measures, we can do this.”

But Prusator cautioned that because this virus is so unpredictable, things could change overnight. His biggest concern is if a large number of staff members had to quarantine at the same time. If that happened, he said everyone would have to switch to remote learning for two weeks and then come back in-person. “The buy-in to what we’re doing has exceeded our expectations,” he emphasized. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done so far.”

Looking ahead, discussions regarding second semester will be held, but Prusator said they will mainly talk about ways to help the remote learners, which is the biggest concern right now. Some of those students are not doing well even though efforts have been made to reach out to them, as well as their parents, and even going on home visits.

Prusator expects even more MHS students to attend in-person next semester. “I think they will feel comfortable to come back to the building – they can see that we have had very few issues with in-person attendance,” he said.

PRINCIPAL’S REPORT

On Oct. 14, MHS seniors reported to school for the mandated SAT test. Principal Denise Aughenbaugh thanked the test proctors, Mr. Landgraf, Mrs. Tarr, Mr. Masini, Mr. Hill, Mrs. Becker, Mrs. Beals, Mrs. Espinoza-Zamora, Mrs. Campbell, and Mr. Doyle for running an additional test this year, and the teachers who assisted as room monitors, hallway monitors and test readers. “We needed more help with safety protocols and we were very happy that we had a good turnout for the test,” she said.

Curriculum Committee

The Curriculum Committee held two meetings to review updates to the Student Information and Registration Guide. The Science Department also presented a course proposal on a physical science class update. All recommendations were approved by the board.

Aughenbaugh thanked the student and board representatives who served on the committee: Carrie Escatel (parent of a Holy Cross 8th grader); students, Jack Beetz and Faith Anderson; and board representative, Jim Sundberg.

The physical science course will be a freshman level science class starting in the 2021-22 school year. By taking physical science freshman year, students could graduate with their two-year science requirement by taking either biology or agricultural science as sophomores and not have to take chemistry.

Changes in the Student Information and Registration Guide will include: renaming a ceramics course to 3D Art to reflect the more comprehensive curriculum being taught at MHS, language to explain a new graduation requirement regarding the Federal Financial Aid Form (FAFSA), and a recommendation from Mr. Landgraf, who wrote an equity statement with collaboration from the ICSPS/ Civil Rights Review agency at Illinois State University.

PRELIMINARY TAX LEVY

During a presentation of the preliminary tax levy, Prusator delivered good news about increases in the EAV for all three counties served by MHS. In LaSalle County, the tentative EAV is up 5.25 percent, in Bureau County 5.5 percent and in Lee County 2.78 percent. Prusator said that will mean an increase of about $195,000 in the school district’s operating funds. The “best guess levy” shows a tax rate of $2.20, a slight decrease from last year and a 70-cent reduction over the last five years.

PERSONNEL

Following closed session, the board accepted the resignation of Stacie Biers as administrative assistant and hired Patti Blumhorst for the administrative assistant position. They also hired Lucille Knuth as a custodian.

The next regular board of education meeting will be held at the high school on Monday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

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