The Illinois Valley Central District 321 Board of Education meeting began on a somber note before tackling the Board’s agenda Tuesday, July 25.

The Board held a moment of silence in memory of Laura Richards-Ryan, who passed away Wednesday, July 12. As a math teacher and scholastic bowl coach at IVC, the Board, recognized Richards-Ryan for her passion for teaching and her dedication to the District. Richards-Ryan worked in the District for two years.

With all board members present, IVC District Superintendent Chad Allison began the meeting by discussing the progress on upgrades to the District’s facilities.

“There’s lots of progress going on,” Allison said. “I think we are in really good shape to get school started.”

The main upgrades include work at South School, CEC and IVC, with Allison pointing out, “everything is on schedule.”

“South had very little, really one bathroom was the main project and it’s ready to go. CEC … carpet is going down and the classrooms look ironically like our South classrooms,” Allison said. “Not an area that many people go through, but (IVC’s vocational area) was probably, to me, one of our ugliest hallways — most neglected in the District. We did ceiling and lighting upgrading and then we had some tile issues that were starting to break up, which were asbestos. That hallway, we actually just polished the concrete, so it’s kind of a different look and the bathroom is kind of interesting.”

With everything on track at the District’s main facilities, Allison recognized the work that has been started and the work that still needs done to the new IVC Learning Center.

“The IVC Learning Center is obviously a little bit different … but I certainly do want to thank the City Council for approving our request,” Allison said. 

The District purchased the former Commerce Bank building in downtown Chillicothe on July 19, to turn it into the IVC Learning Center. The Learning Center will house three programs: an alternative high school, a life skills independent living classroom and evening adult learning and community meeting space. The District anticipates it will play a vital role of success for its students, the community and downtown Chillicothe.

“ … I’m looking forward to getting the Learning Center up and running. I stopped by there today and the teller area — all of that — has all been removed,” Allison said. “They are looking at some of the ceiling stuff and it’s starting already to look a little bit better and not so much like a bank. I’m not certain we’ll have it ready for Aug. 16, for students, but I think everyone is working as quickly as we can.”

With no official completion date set yet, Allison said the District will be looking at an agreement with the park district for its students, who will eventually attend the Learning Center.

“We are going to look at kind of an intergovernmental agreement with the park district — kind of sharing with them some of our expertise, especially the wireless, because they would like to get that upgraded for their building anyway,” Allison said. “So, I think, we are going to kind of barter — wireless service, our expertise — for rental of their facility and that will give our kids the ability to be away from the school, but not costing us a whole lot of money. That’s kind of our tentative plan. If it’s a week, two weeks, a month, they are really flexible and excited to have us in that capacity.”

Another topic of discussion for the Board was school funding and Senate Bill 1. As of that evening, Senate Bill 1 had yet to find its way to Governor Rauner’s desk. The funding fight that determines whether schools will get state funding before the start of the academic year stems from the recently passed state budget that ended a two-year long stalemate and a new evidence-based model of funding. 

IVC District Assistant Superintendent Adam Bussard said the District’s numbers have yet to be finalized, but were coming in better than what was projected. He also said, he expects to have more sound numbers for the August Board of Education meeting. 

While the District’s numbers look better than expected, Allison noted the fight over Senate Bill 1 could cause problems for other districts throughout the state.

“The big difference, to me, is you’re looking at General State Aid as being the piece you’re talking about. So, if the evidence-based formula isn’t implemented there will be no General State Aid payments in August, which most school districts will be okay with because most of us have gotten property taxes,” Allison said. “In my previous district, we didn’t see property tax money until September sometimes and so a district like I was in, if you didn’t see property tax money until September and you didn’t get General State Aid payments in August that would put them in a really bad situation for the first payroll in September. Obviously, we are a little bit ahead of the game as we have talked about because of our property tax situation and the money that’s there, but it’s definitely a different scenario for a lot of different districts this time around.”

One item on the agenda that was thoroughly discussed before it was unanimously approved, was for the Board’s approval of a co-op agreement at no cost to the IVC District between IVC High School and Dunlap High School for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years for boys and girls swimming and diving.

The discussion stemmed from a new $525 fee Dunlap High School will impose for each individual IVC swimmer, who wants to participate in the co-op.

“That has been the status quo for that entire time our students and athletes have gone over there and played there and paid their activity fee just like they would here,” Allison said about the way the co-op between the two schools had worked for years. “The difference (now) was Mr. Camp received an email from their athletic director stating this year we would be billed $525 per swimmer who participates in the program.”

IVC Athletic Director Dan Camp said he received an explanation for the fee from Dunlap’s Athletic Director as a way to offset the cost of Dunlap’s coaches and that she was directed by her Board of Education and her district’s administration to charge IVC $525 per swimmer. 

Currently, Camp said, IVC has the possibility of two female students and one male student who would want to swim this upcoming year. 

With the Board’s approval to enter into the co-op at no cost to the District, parents of the swimmers would assume the $525 fee. Board member Steve Garrison pointed out the repercussions it could have on the District before the vote, as other sports become more popular and sanctioned by the IHSA.

“I think it sets a bad precedence. The IHSA just allowed lacrosse to be a sanctioned sport. Lacrosse is getting to be a very popular sport in the suburbs and you have gymnastics and so forth,” Garrison said. “Eventually, lacrosse could find its way down here and the people that play lacrosse could come back and say, ‘Well you paid for the swimmers, so why don’t you pay for the lacrosse players.’ If they want to pay to be in the co-op and swim at Dunlap High School then that’s a different story.”

In other business, the Board approved contracts with Kelcey Malahy as a fifth grade teacher at Chillicothe Elementary Center for the 2017-18 school year; Brittany Underwood as an English teacher at IVC High School for the 2017-18 school year; Jacqueline Nieukirk as an art teacher at IVC High School and CEC for the 2017-18 school year; Nick McMillion as public relations director for IVC School District effective July 1, 2017, and Jessica Szmania and Jolyn Ward as Team TRRFCC co-sponsors at Chillicothe Elementary Center for the 2017-18 school year.

The Board accepted resignations from IVC English teacher Bridget Disler; IVC School District Public Relations Director Karen Moewe and IVC Highs School assistant football coach Dwayne Siggers. The Board also accepted the retirement of IVC teacher and coach Jerry Rashid.

The next public meeting of the IVC Board of Education will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, in the IVC High School library.