Community support appreciated during school shutdown 

Posted

AMBOY – When faced with the challenge of a lengthy school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Amboy community stepped up and the school district is grateful. Reporting at the April 23 board of education meeting held at the Amboy Junior High gym and remotely on Zoom, Superintendent Joshua Nichols expressed his gratitude to parents, teachers, support staff and students. 

“We appreciate what everyone has done,” he said. “I have been very impressed by everybody.”

The district’s head cook, Toni Fassig, who has overseen the effort to provide carry-out meals for students over the past six weeks, attended the meeting to thank Nichols and the school district for all of their work and support during the school closure. But Nichols said the work done by the kitchen staff truly deserved recognition. 

“They have been providing meals for 262 students - that’s a crazy amount of meals,” he noted. “I just want to say thanks to everybody for what they’ve done during this time.” 

SUPERINTENDENT REPORT

Now that schools are closed through the end of the school year, Nichols said he and school principals, Janet Crownhart, Andrew Full and Joyce Schamberger have been discussing plans for end of year dates and activities. The possibility of postponing graduation and awards ceremonies until June or July will be determined by future rulings from the state, depending on whether in-person gatherings are deemed safe to be held. 

“But I don’t think we’ll know for sure by May,” Nichols said, adding that some type of alternative graduation ceremony may have to be planned. 

On April 27, Nichols posted the tentative dates for end of year activities including prom and graduation on social media. The following dates are now our new planned activity dates for the 2020 school year. A decision will be made by June 8th for those events with 2 dates.

Pre-Registration Packets for Kindergarten: Beginning on Wednesday, April 22, available at Central School

Prom at Dixon Elk’s Club, Saturday, July 18 - Tickets go on sale July 6

Preschool Screenings, Wednesday July 29

Honor’s Night for High School, Wednesday, June 24 or July 29, AHS Auditorium

Baccalaureate, Thursday, June 25 or July 30, St. Patrick’s Church, Amboy

8th Grade Promotion, Friday, June 26 or July 31, AJHS Gym

High School Graduation, Sunday, June 28 or Aug. 2

Summer School, July 13 - Aug. 7, AHS Computer Lab 8-11 am

He noted that the new dates are subject to change based on orders from the Governor, ISBE’s guidance, and/or any local health department regulations. If concerns regarding social distancing are still a concern by July 6th, new announcements and decisions regarding these events will be made at that time.

At the board meeting, discussions were also underway regarding final grades and final assignments. Currently, students receive either a “pass” or “incomplete” on their school work. 

“The biggest thing for us is to ‘do no harm,’” Nichols said. “We’ll have to figure out the incompletes. If there’s missing work, there will be time at the end of the year to make it up. We understand that some kids won’t be able to do everything. Many parents are still working and aren’t at home to help them.” 

But board member Katie Pratt expressed concern. 

“I’ve heard from some parents who are ready to throw in the towel because it has gotten overwhelming,” she said. “They’re working and they don’t have five hours a day to help with school work.”

Board member Carol Schnaiter agreed, noting that she knows of some parents who work nights and have to sleep during the day, so the kids have babysitters during the day.

Nichols said he had talked with teachers and with parents. 

“Some families are asking for more school work and others can’t keep up,” he noted. “There is such a wide difference from one family to the next.”

Board president Nicole Jones agreed. 

“We don’t know the stress level of anyone else’s home. There are all kinds of scenarios,” she said. “We’re all just trying to get through the day and we are all going to work through this together.”

As for final grades, Nichols said the state left it up to each district to decide how to grade and that is now under discussion. 

“Some kids have done nothing at all and they have not responded to us when we reach out to them,” he explained. “I’m all about accountability, but this is uncharted, unprecedented territory. There are kids on the borderline and we are trying to get as much done as we can.”

OTHER BUSINESS

The construction project at AHS is continuing on schedule. Nichols said crews are pouring foundations for panels now and they will also be working on the front, so there is a lot of progress. Other building maintenance, which would not normally be done until summer, is also being done.

A first reading of the fee schedule for next year was held. Upon recommendation by the board, registration and tech fees will remain the same as they were this year. 

A three-year bid from auditors Winkel, Parker & Foster, CPA PC of Clinton, Iowa was approved by the board. 

The board discussed a possible coop agreement with Paw Paw for junior high soccer. Amboy students would be bussed to Paw Paw to play. Pratt said she did not like the idea of taking Amboy kids to Paw Paw since there is already a local soccer program. But Nichols noted that this was only a matter for discussion and no action would be taken at this time.

Meeting dates and times for the coming year were approved. Due to construction at Amboy High School, meetings will continue at the Central School gym. Meetings will begin at 7 p.m. on the following dates: Thursday, May 14; Thursday, June 18; Thursday, July 16; Thursday, Aug. 20; Thursday, Sept. 17; Tuesday, Oct. 20; Tuesday, Nov. 17; Thursday, Dec. 17; Thursday, Jan. 21; Thursday, Feb. 18; Thursday, March 18; Thursday, April 22 (Amboy Junior High School). The board retreat will be on Saturday, March 6.

REMOTE SERVICES

Posted by the Amboy School District on social media: All district operations for foodservice and remote learning will continue to be centralized at Central including materials for both the junior high and the high school.

Due to guidelines from ISBE, any student or child from birth to age 18 is eligible for free school meals. [Families must sign up in advance.] Pick up at Central on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on bus routes based on demand.

On the district web page, an electronic resource hub has been created to help provide Remote Learning electronic resources at: http://www.amboy.net/remote-learning.html. 

If you have any questions, concerns, comments or cannot make the scheduled times, please reach out to Superintendent Joshua Nichols at (815) 857-2164 or jnichols@amboy.net.

PERSONNEL

Following closed session, the board approved two new teachers at Amboy High School, Joseph Heavner, agriculture and Abelardo Sustaita, Jr., physical education, both for the 2020-21 school year. They also hired Hunter Zimmerly as summer help at the bus garage.

The next regular board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 14 at Central School. All meetings are open to the public.