District 117 Approves Bidding For New Fire Alarm Systems & Purchase of New Snow Truck; Awaits Verdict on School Closure Length

By Benjamin Cox on March 19, 2020 at 8:42am

Jacksonville School District 117 met for some essential business last night. Many of the board members tele-conferenced into the meeting. Governor J.B. Pritzker has relaxed the requirements for quorum for essential public meetings, so only 3 board members were in attendance last night so social distancing could be maintained.

The board took action on a set of annual personnel items. The district approved the bidding process to begin for replace of the fire alarm system at Murrayville-Woodson Elementary School, Washington Elementary School, and the Jacksonville High School Fieldhouse. The district also accepted the purchase of a 2019 Ford F-350 from Morrow Brothers Ford in Greenfield. Ptacek said the current truck had broken down twice during the winter almost causing school to be closed because the parking lots at the district’s schools couldn’t be salted or plowed. “We don’t buy trucks for our maintenance department very often. This truck will last a long time and it was something that had to be done.”

Ptacek says the district remains on hold for any other information coming down from the state in regards to the completion of the school year. “I predict by next Wednesday or Thursday that I will have to get team leaders in the district together to talk about what we are going to do when this current closure is going to be over on March 30th with the return of students scheduled for March 31st. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen but there’s a strong possibility that the [closure] will be extended. I’ve not heard that from the state other than them stating there is a possibility of that happening. With them opening that door, I think it makes that idea more realistic.”

With Governor Laura Kelly ending the in-person classroom K-12 school year in the State of Kansas yesterday, there is a possibility that it may become the next step for students in the State of Illinois. Ptacek says that planning has begun if that may happen. “We have to start in that planning for what if that happens. If that happens, we have to look at if we have students who needed to get some work in to pass a course. If students are passing and the school year were to end, that would just be it. We have to look at those outliers and those exceptions to work with some kids, and we have to look at some kids who are really going to be behind if there is a loss of time. We have to start talking about the form of a summer school at the beginning of next year before the school year begins to get certain students in here to get them on track so this doesn’t damage them in the long run. This closure is not just about right now but what will be the long-lasting impact. Those are the problems we are going to have to address.”

Ptacek says he will continue to update via Facebook, the district’s website, and via phone message when necessary as more directives and information comes from the Illinois State Board of Education and Governor Pritzker’s office.