On March 16, Superintendent of Schools David Cowger addressed several items at the Edwards County Community Unit School District #1 school board meeting that maintained that the district was looking to continue to do business as usual within the district despite students and staff not able to attend school during the ongoing COVID-19 situation affecting the entire state.

Cowger discussed with the board the implications from Illinois State Board of Education in regard to the current COVID-19 situation. He explained the expectations for the “act of God” days, which currently consist of March 17 through March 30 for the entire state of Illinois. “There is no making up these days,” he told them. He also discussed current guidelines and restrictions from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the ISBE and the Center for Disease Control. He was concerned about the continuity in education, citing various resources various members of the teaching staff within ECCUSD#1 are utilizing to continue to provide educational instruction to students.

March 31 through April 30 will be considered Remote Learning Days.

“The teachers are all doing what they can,” he said. 

Later in the meeting, Cowger explained the notion of e-learning and how such program infrastructure was not currently possible within the district.

He addressed the four emergency days the district still retained, and the board approved to shave the days off the end of the current school year and amend the current school year calendar. With those days shaved off, the last day of school is now scheduled for May 18.

Graduation dates are set as follows:

ECHS Baccalaureate, May 10, 8 p.m.

ECHS, May 15, 8 p.m.

AGS, May 14, 8 p.m.

WSGS, May 12, 8 p.m.

Brian Mewes asked why the graduation times were so late and indicated he had been asked by someone outside the board about the topic. Most replied that 8 p.m. was just the time it had always been. Richard Wolfe pointed out that family and friends of those graduating would attend because of the student, regardless of the time being 6 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Cowger mentioned that it might be too late to do anything about it for the current school year-as he believed that the invites, which had already been ordered, indicate the time. However, it was feasible to take it under consideration to change it to 7 p.m. for the future.

The board did approve several field trips for the current school year, “just to have it on file,” according to Cowger. They also approved a Panthers Basketball athletic camp for the end of April under the same premise.

The board approved the release of bus bids for the purchase of one 71-passenger bus. Before approving, Jo Rector asked if they could even afford it, as the transportation fund did not have any monies. Cowger noted that they would utilize EVF funds and transfer it from the educational fund to the transportation fund account.

Cowger provided the first reading of several updated policies, to include:

-Vacancies on the School Board-Filling Vacancies

-Board Member Conflict of Interest

-Ethics and Gift Ban Act

-Qualifications, Term and Duties of Board Members

-Leave of Absence

-Sick Days, Vacation, Holidays and Leaves

-Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace

-Abused and Neglected Child Reporting

-School Accountability

The board unanimously approved a motion to accept donations over $500. The district received two anonymous donations since the last regular board meeting. One for $3,000, to applied to the school lunch program for those students that do not qualify in the free or reduced-fee lunch program, but have a financial hardship. The second for $28,000 to be applied towards extracurricular programs and activities. The donor stipulated that $2,000 should go to High School programs, $1,000 to the Grade School programs and $1,000 to Scholastic Bowl programs.

Cowger discussed the need to advertise for summer maintenance/summer help, suggesting that student workers and possibly staff be considered. He also shared with the board that throughout the school closure, maintenance staff will be deep cleaning the buildings and possibly beginning some summer maintenance projects, such as painting, if able.

Before entering a closed session, Ms. Wells told the board the schools were still waiting on more testing guidance form ISBE and other entities. However, SATs have been cancelled state-wide. She assessed as more information is filtered down to the schools over the next few weeks, hopefully answers will be provided.