DANVILLE – With all the maneuvering school officials in Danville District 118 have had to do this school year with continued cases of COVID-19 and teacher and bus driver shortages, it’s a miracle that ‘they were able to stay open, said Superintendent Alicia Geddis.
Aside from the switch from Pre-K to virtual learning, the entire district has remained open.
One day, 12 teachers were missing at South View Upper Elementary School. The state council asked school districts to shut down when needed, but Geddis said they made better use of the resources they had.
Geddis said school administrators have taken on the roles of teacher and class, and have continued to adapt as needed district-wide.
She said no one wanted to take days off either, and school days were added at the end of the school year to go further in June.
“It’s a concentrated effort,” Geddis said.
She said there was no warrant for the children to attend kindergarten, so she could remotely pass it to use the bus drivers, once around 20 drivers broke down due to COVID -19, to serve the rest of the district.
Teacher shortages and some small enrollment in classes are also part of the reason the school board continues to consider closing Garfield Elementary School.
Geddis said adopting a facilities plan was a big step for the school board this year, after years of discussions.
“Keeping our schools open has been the priority. Once we get back to some normalcy then we can go back and analyze the staff and see what they look like… ”she said of the facilities plan, including the possible closure of the Garfield Elementary School.
Geddis said they are looking at what they can do with Garfield. With declining enrollment, they may merge buildings and need fewer teachers.
Geddis said demographic studies can come from the district architect.
As many schools see declining enrollment, Danville School Board member Darlene Halloran asked for a summary of where students are going. She asked if it was because they had gone to parish schools, had moved, or for what other reasons.
School district officials will provide this follow-up summary next year.
Also in the facilities plan, the school district must follow state regulations on the demolition of the old Cannon Elementary School.
“It’s the state that predicts it,” Geddis said.
The last report card for Danville District 118, like other schools, was not complete due to the lack of regular testing due to COVID-19.
However, enrollment continued to decline in Danville, as did the census figures. The numbers change throughout the school year, for example 5,400 to 5,200 due to mobility rates and other reasons.
Enrollment in December reduced the district to just under 5,000 students in total.
“When we talk about the difficulties at the end of the year, when we start testing, we have 600 students that we haven’t educated all year, and they are included in our tests,” Geddis said.
“We don’t have the opportunity to educate our children all year round,” she added of families moving in and out.
The graduation rate is also a goal of the school board to improve. It was about 70 percent. The board has already voted not to require so many additional electives, it’s been 11 years to graduate from DHS. The electives had been above the state graduation requirements.
“It’s pretty substantial,” Geddis said.
She said it was a five year program at DHS.
“You can’t have a five-year program and expect your kids to graduate in four years,” she said. “When you add these extra requirements for graduation, the kids take longer to come out. So we created barriers to graduation.
Danville District 118 also does not have enough teachers to teach all of these electives.
“We just don’t have the staff,” Geddis said.
They combined classes, used substitutes in buildings, and made other changes.
Some other schools offer different degree options, if students take additional courses.
Geddis said they would also like to see the return of the community service graduation requirement. It’s not a requirement for a long time, she said.
It’s the third school year with Covid, and the state has relaxed some of the state’s standards due to the ongoing pandemic.
Works on the Danville High School auditorium are taking longer than expected to upgrade the aging and outdated sound and light system and rigging system.
School officials say work is behind schedule with supply chain issues.
This affects the Midwest Classic Choir Competition and other activities.
Jeff Thomas, director of the DHS choir, said the show choir competition will be moving to the gym next year.
“We are at the mercy of supply chain issues,” Geddis said.
Construction companies are also having staffing issues due to COVID-19.
DHS officials say they had to cancel 10 major events that use the auditorium. Three have been transferred to the Fischer Theater, four are transferred to the DHS gymnasium and three events have been canceled, including a jazz festival. Lakeview College of Nursing used the Fischer Theater for its graduation ceremony in December.
DHS auditorium events through June have been affected. The work could be finished by then, but officials did not want to risk scheduling events.
Geddis said when it comes to school safety improvements, the portal’s metal detectors are also affected by supply chain delays.
“As soon as we can get them, we’ll start training them and using them periodically,” she said.
The district will use portable metal detectors at random.
“It won’t be a permanent fixture,” Geddis said. “We can do it for a basketball game. It’ll be random, and we’ll just appear … “
She said as soon as they have the metal detectors, additional video cameras and Skyward access system entrances to the doors where students enter and exit DHS, they will start working with the equipment. Rods for detecting students with weapons or other objects have been used in DHS in the past.
School officials also conduct the same type of safety study at North Ridge Middle School.
Other major construction projects for 2022 are planned expansions at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy and Northeast Elementary Magnet School.
The expansion of Kenneth D. Bailey Academy aims to extend the alternative program to grades 5 and 6. It will include eight additional classrooms, a new gymnasium, additional toilets and offices.
“The expansion of the KDBA is huge and the second health center (Southern Illinois Health Foundation) will be just around the corner. Students will also have access, ”said Geddis.
Northeast will see a separate gym and cafeteria, additional bathrooms and other work. There will be two additional classrooms, a new music room and additional offices.