By Kathy Turner
The Collinsville School Board on Monday, March 21, approved a new English and Language Arts curriculum for the 2022/23 school year. Several parents addressed the board prior to the decision to express their concerns about the literature included in the curriculum.
According to Dr. Brad Skertich, the curriculum recommendation came after extensive review and comparisons of options currently available for elementary students. “The work completed by the pilot teachers, instructional coaches and Ms. Berry-Coleman, Curriculum Director, over the past two years is evident,” said Skertich. “They have selected a curriculum resource, Wit and Wisdom, that will improve our student skills while integrating social studies, science, the arts, and literature from different perspectives and varied texts in grades 3 through 6, and Geodes in grades kindergarten through 2 focuses on foundations skills, fluency, writing development, speaking and diversity.”
Parents in attendance expressed concerns about some of the subject matter of short stories and books included in the curriculum. Specifically, they discussed graphic descriptives and language in some of the writings that, though probably representative of the history of our country, possibly beyond what young students could comprehend and, in fact, might instill strong feelings of concern in students.
Board members reviewed the items that were the topic of parental concern. They are assured that teachers and staff, as well as parents, will have appropriate input into portions of the curriculum that might be considered inappropriate and will have an opportunity to strike some items from the curriculum actually introduced into the classroom.
“While the resource looks different, the focus is still placed on developing and strengthening students’ reading, writing and grammar skills in a manner that allows teachers to meet students’ varied ability levels and expand critical thinking skills,” said Skertich. The curriculum will be incorporated with the start of the 2022 school year.
The Board also had an extended look at updated drawings and schematics for the new Caseyville Elementary School and the Dorris Elementary School addition. Dr. Skertich presented blueprints as well as artist renditions of the two projects. There was some discussion of the color pallet being used for the exterior of the Caseyville project. Dr. Skertich agreed to share those concerns with the architects to explore options.
In the end, the Board approved moving forward with the project with a goal of bid letting in April with final bids available in late May. This will allow for a June approval of a final bid on both projects. As such, both projects should be ready to start by early August in advance of the first day of school. This will allow for the areas of the school in construction to be appropriately prepped to minimize interruption during student attendance. Both are 18-month projects.
Revisions were approved for the district’s Return to Learn Plan based on recent reported statistics in the County relative to COVID. The changes being implemented are:
•Mask changes include a shift from strongly recommended to recommended per CDC guidelines;
•The travel field trip change includes requiring teachers, sponsors and coaches have a COVID plan in case an individual would become symptomatic while on the field trip to properly supervise and care for the individual;
•Water fountains in the district are now fully operational, which includes bottle fillers and drinking fountains. Additional cleaning will still occur throughout the day;
•There will be a rooftop air conditioning unit installed in the vocational welding shop to improve indoor air quality; and,
•The purchase of textbooks with a digital component to address learning loss and e-learning for vocational classes.
Reduced COVID numbers also are attributed to the announcement of public events for the end of the school year. The CHS graduation will be held on May 14 at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium, the first public graduation ceremony since 2019. And, the Dorris Elementary School has announced concert dates including April 28 at 7 p.m. for the 6th grade band and May 3 at 7 p.m. for the 5th grade band.
There are plans in place for the establishment of a Collinsville School District Hall of Fame. The hall will be used to recognize accomplishments of alumni, staff and community members. There is a planning group made up of administrators, staff, and community members. It is planned they will announce the inaugural group of honorees in 2023. As part of the recognition, the Board approved the purchase of two touch-screen televisions at a cost of $15,000 each. The systems will be used to ‘tell the story’of honorees in an interactive way for visitors. The ‘hall’ will be located in the Collinsville High School.
The Board also voted to approve the following:
•The purchase of a John Deere gator to replace one which is no longer working;
•A field trip for CHS students to Rome and Sorrento, Italy;
•An EPIC summer camp to be held in summer 2022;
•The addition of a new textbook for CHS U. S. History students; and,
•The 2022-23 IHSA membership renewal.
The next meeting of the Board will be held on Monday, April 18.