MHS loosens restrictions on graduation capacity


MENDOTA – Good news was recently announced for Illinois students graduating in the Class of 2021. Reporting at the May 17 Mendota High School District 280 Board of Education meeting, Principal Denise Aughenbaugh said the state’s transition last week to the Bridge Phase of reopening will allow 60 percent capacity seating in the stadium. Mendota High School will be able to distribute nine tickets per graduate, which is very close to the number of tickets normally issued for ceremonies held in the gym.

The outdoor graduation is scheduled for Saturday, May 29 at 1 p.m. Aughenbaugh said there are currently about 106 graduates who wish to participate in the ceremony. Tickets will be distributed to graduates on May 21.

Superintendent Jeff Prusator said he hopes parents are happy to get the larger number of tickets and emphasized that they cannot give out any more than nine tickets per student, so please don’t ask. “Last year they only got two tickets, so we are pretty excited to be able to have so many more people attend this year,” he said.

Aughenbaugh also noted that the band will be able to play during graduation this year, which they could not do last year.


Proposed Handbook Changes

The board approved two proposed student handbook changes for the 2021-22 school year, which were presented by Assistant Principal Joe Masini. One involves a change in the wording regarding adherence to CDC and IDPH Guidelines and the second makes an addition to the advertising for the State Seal of Biliteracy.

Both Masini and Prusator pointed out that MHS students have been very cooperative in following all the CDC and IDPH safety protocols during the past year including mask wearing. Prusator also noted that the attitude of students attending school in person has been especially good this year. “The senior class has so much input in the climate of the building and they deserve a lot of the credit for setting a good example,” he said. “They wore masks, so the younger kids did. A few kids had to be reminded to wear them properly but generally, we had very few issues.”

Aughenbaugh agreed, saying that the students wanted to be at school. “They want the interaction of being here in person,” she said. “It has been very rewarding to watch.”


As of May 17, the junior class had sold 75 tickets to prom, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 22 from 5 to 9 p.m. This year’s theme is “Carnival” and the Post-Prom Committee has donated carnival games and prizes. A deejay will provide background music and five food trucks have been booked to provide food.

Aughenbaugh said the Grand March and Royalty Coronation will take place in front of the high school and parents can park in the front parking lot for viewing. The prom activities for students will then move to the back parking lot. “We have some unique things planned and we hope the students enjoy it,” she said.

Summer School

Summer school credit retrieval will be held June 7 through July 2. A hybrid format will be used to motivate and encourage student success. Students who are working daily on Edmentum may only be required to attend two days in person and work remotely the other three days. Everyone can attend five days if they choose. If/when a student is not making adequate progress, they will also be required to attend five days a week in-person.

Driver’s Education will begin June 9 and IVCC dual credit summer speech will take place on multiple days with three sections of courses.

Aughenbaugh said the high school will be busy this summer with a lot of students in the building and noted that COVID protocols will still be in place.

Fall Athletic Bids

The board approved a request of $8,575 for fall sports as recommended by the Athletic Committee.


Prusator announced that the LaSalle County Health Department will hold COVID vaccine clinics at MHS this summer for students 12 and older. The clinics are scheduled for June 23 and July 31 in the gym and will also be open to the public. Time slots will first be scheduled early in the day and more times will be added as needed. Information will be sent to parents this week. “This is a great opportunity for all students to get vaccinated,” he said. “We are excited and thankful that they reached out to us.”

The board approved the purchase of four school busses instead of two, based on recommendation by Prusator. He explained that transportation expenditures are way down this year, so it is a perfect time to buy four busses to replace some of the older ones that have serious maintenance issues. Total cost of the busses is $279,000.


Athletic director Steve Hanson updated the board on changes and improvements being discussed within the athletic department. Hanson said the past year has been rough on the coaches and students as well as everyone else. In order to work on improving the program, coaches have volunteered to meet and share ideas for various ways improvements can be made.

Hanson also sent surveys to the student-athletes asking for their input. “I sent 110 surveys and got 56 responses,” he said. “Most of the kids think it’s going okay, for some really well. Generally, they are happy with the program, which is similar to the responses we got three years ago.”

Hanson praised the coaches for doing a great job all year in spite of the obstacles and restrictions caused by the pandemic. “They did everything we asked of them,” he said. “We want our coaches to work together as a team, not just within their own sport. And they had some good ideas of what we need to do to improve our program.”

Among the topics to be presented to students will be maintaining eligibility, physical preparation and communication. In addition, a youth program will reach out to youth coaches and young athletes so they know what to expect before they get to high school.


A seventh board member, Sarah Coss was sworn in during the meeting. Coss was selected to fill the remaining open seat following the April 6 election.


Following closed session, the board accepted the resignations of Cody Zinke, assistant football coach and Todd Doyle as summer school administrator. They also accepted the retirement notice of Brenda Westphal, cafeteria worker.

Steve Wasmer was hired as assistant boys’ basketball coach and Brock Zinke was hired as summer school administrator. David Dye and Alexis Finley were hired as summer maintenance workers.

The next regular board of education meeting will be held at the high school on Monday, June 21 at 6 p.m.