It was a very busy meeting of the Monticello school board Wednesday night. Some highlights:

– A Return to School Plan resolution was approved. It gives parents the option of sending their children to school five days per week for in-person learning, or to sign up for online learning for the first semester. Those who wish to opt in for online learning must do so by noon on Monday, Aug. 10. The first day of school for students is Sept. 2.

Several people commented on the plan at the meeting, mostly through emails that were read by Superintendent Vic Zimmerman. Among their comments were the need for more detail on both in-person and online learning, how safety protocols will be followed in classrooms, and how contact tracing works if there is a positive COVID-19 test in a student.

DeWitt/Piatt Bi-County Health Department Administrator David Remmert gave the school board an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, and said Piatt County is “doing very, very well,” noting that there had been no hospital admissions or deaths due to coronavirus in Piatt County.

Athletic Director Dan Sheehan indicated that middle school sports for the fall may not be dead. The Illinois Elementary School Association cancelled fall sports last week, but may reconsider after additional guidance was given this week by the governor's office.

– If middle school sports are not allowed, MMS will offer eight-session skills workouts in August for baseball, softball and cross country athletes.

The Arthur 'Buz' Sievers Center should be complete by the end of August, but it's dedication will be pushed back now that the volleyball season has been moved back to the spring for 2020-21. It will instead be dedicated during the basketball season, which starts practices in November.

In a construction project update, board members were also told that all of the new spaces (high school science wing, gymnasium, Washington Elementary classrooms and mechanical room) will be ready for use by the time school starts.

Work continues on the formation of an Equity and Diversity Work Group. Zimmerman said it will likely have two facilitators, up to two school board members, 10 school staff members, 10 parents and five students. The group will meet about six times and issue a non-binding report to the school board in December.

A tentative budget approved for 2020-21 shows an overall budget deficit of $1.4 million in the district's four main operating funds. Zimmerman said it is due to an anticipated 25 percent drop in Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax, which is based on corporate profits. The district received about $7.1 million in CPPRT dollars during 2019-20, but only has $5.5 million plugged into the tentative budget for 2020-21.

The district has plenty of fund reserves to get through, including $4.7 million in its education fund, $1.5 million in operations and maintenance and $3 million in its working cash account.

Get more detail in next week's Journal-Republican print edition!