In light of the school shooting in Florida last month, the Monticello school board is once again looking at safety measures implemented throughout the district’s five schools.
Superintendent Vic Zimmerman presented an "exhaustive" list of current planning and safeguards in the district to board members during their March 19 meeting. The list, which included 32 items, ranged from the use of cameras in schools to visitor protocols; ALICE training to the social thinking curriculum used for students.
Zimmerman explained how ALICE training has taught school staff that a lock down approach may not always be the best method during an active shooter situation.
"The program was implemented after Sandy Hook," he said, "and deals with the best course of action whether that be hiding, running or fighting back."
MMS Principal Jeanne Handley said the ALICE training was "a humbling experience after 24 years of hearing lock down was the way to handle those situations."
Zimmerman also discussed five additional measures which could be adopted by the district to improve safety but prefaced the discussion by noting that most were typically seen in urban settings. Those measures included uniforms, ID cards, metal detectors, the use of school resource officers and no longer allowing high school students to carry book bags during school.
ID cards were previously used in MMS but the consensus was that they did not contribute to the overall safety. Handley said they do a good job of knowing all of their students and requiring ID cards was a "pain and distraction."
Metal detectors are relatively inexpensive at a cost of $2,500 to $3,000 each but Zimmerman questioned how many would be needed and where they would be placed. There would also be the additional cost of x-ray machines and staff to run them.
Adding a school resource officer would mean an intergovernmental agreement between the police or sheriff’s department as they would carry the liability insurance. Zimmerman did note that St. Joseph and Unity schools utilize resource officers and if implemented in Monticello, a decision would need to be made if there was one officer for all five schools or if each school would have its own officer.
Utilizing a resource officer piqued the interest of School Board President Gary Huisinga, who asked Zimmerman to start a conversation with local law enforcement about a possible partnership. Police are presently asked to stop by schools periodically so that students are not associating officers at the school only with negative events.
The final suggestion of high school students not carrying book bags during the day is something the current administration has already been researching. It is common for students to carry all of their necessary books in back packs rather than returning to their lockers throughout the day.
The discussion of school safety concluded with Dr. Zimmerman admitting that none of the safety measures in the district are 100 percent effective.
"There is always human error. We could have buzzers on every door or monitoring boards like a prison but I’m not sure that is necessary." Zimmerman also asked the board to remember that if someone causing harm is willing to give up their life, "it’s pretty tough to combat."
The board reviewed a bid a food service bid from ARAMARK. ARAMARK was the only company to bid this year and Zimmerman felt that a re-bid would not yield any additional offers. During the original bidding process four years ago, the district did receive a bid from Chicago based Arbor Management but the company declined this go around because no other schools in the area are using their services.
ARAMARK’s bid is up 18 percent and sets the cost of breakfast at $1.11, $1.65 for lunch and $.28 for milk. Zimmerman estimates a loss of $70,000 on food service this year and $90,000 next year.
"With five buildings and cooks at each location we can not break even," he said. "We will continue to lose money." Zimmerman suggested the board accept the bid official board action on a contractd will not take place until the April meeting. He also stated that if the district handled its own food service, the estimated loss would be $90,000.
With approved technology funding, the Monticello school district will have 1,500 Chromebooks for student use. A total of 310 Chromebooks will be leased over the next four years, with 240 will having their lease expire and being purchased for $40 each.
Although there are not enough Chromebooks for students to have one of the year and take home, the district is almost at a 1 to 1 ratio for computers and students. In addition to the computers, LCD projectors, teacher laptops, tablets and wireless hubs will also be added.
Eighth grader honored
During the Monticello school board meeting MMS eighth grader Sophie Happ was presented an engraved bronze medallion to recognize
her selection as a Distinguished Finalist for Illinois in the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. According to Shanon Patterson who presented the award Sophie is one of thousands of students considered. Happ received the award in conjunction with her collection of more than 15,000 books for children in need.
Summer Facility Projects discussed
Maintenance projects will take place at all district schools this summer including a new sidewalk at MMS, roof repairs over the cafeteria and band room and tuck pointing at MHS, sink hardware and air compressor at Lincoln School, hot water valve replacement at MHS and WHS and a new floor machine and carpet cleaner.
Even with the passage of the referendum, Lincoln school is not scheduled to close for three years and necessary repairs must still be made, said Zimmerman.
In other action the board:
—approved the renewal of all 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year teachers as well as the honorable dismissal of Marissa Brewer;
—approved the resignation of Alina Schoenecke (HS Math);
—approved the retirements of Stephanie Stoddard and Lois Doherty after the 2021-22 school year;
—hired Chris Jones as assistant football coach and Hannah Remmert as MHS assistant cross-country coach.