ROCHELLE — At Tuesday’s Rochelle Township High School Board meeting, Superintendent Jason Harper said COVID-19 cases have increased at the school recently as the rest of the community has seen a surge.
Harper said the number of COVID-19 positive students is in “the low 40s,” accounting for below five percent of RTHS students.
“Coming off a long weekend, it's hard to get an exact number,” Harper said. “We have several who are waiting on test results and those types of things. Our numbers are up. We're sending out notices every Friday about where our numbers are. One of the silver linings is that there continues to be little to no evidence that the spread is occurring at school.”
Numbers were also up after the school returned from winter break earlier this month, and were after Thanksgiving break as well, Harper said. The superintendent said the school district remains “100 percent” committed to continuing full-day, in-person learning for as long as it can be done safely.
Harper also told the board that the district has fully adopted recent guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education that includes shortening isolation/quarantine time for students and staff with COVID-19 to five days.
That guidance was received Jan. 11 and adopted immediately. Harper said the past week has been spent adapting to the guidance and changing procedures.
“There's been a lot of times where guidance has been tweaked or changed in minor ways,” Harper said. “This guidance was more of an overhaul. This was one of the 3-5 times where we've had a larger overhaul. We continue to work through that. Of course the Ogle County Health Department is now playing a much smaller, to almost no role in contact tracing. So, the guidance is that we have to do that going forward.”
The board also unanimously approved the hiring and employment of Robin Blunt as school nurse.
Board President Tom Huddleston and Board Member Jacky Aguilera were absent from the meeting. In Huddleston’s absence, Board Member Jeff Tilton led the meeting.
The board unanimously approved board policy updates provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards, Press Plus that are based on legislative changes that happened last spring.
Harper said there were “100-something” bills that impacted schools that have now found their way to local board policy changes.
The update to board policy included no recommendation to change the school’s health class title, standards or curriculum and new mandated graduation requirements that include modifying the science requirement to a lab science requirement in 2024-2025 and a two-year foreign language requirement in 2028-2029.
“I'm personally not in favor of adding more requirements,” Harper said. “It may seem counterintuitive, but things like Kishwaukee Education Consortium and real world opportunities for students have a tendency to get bumped when more requirements come on. That being said, for our diplomas to be accredited and for our students to walk away with a high school diploma from RTHS when we get to those years, those will be the requirements. But it's still a ways off in the future.”
District Business Manager Kevin Dale presented a budget update to the board at the meeting with the school year halfway over.
Dale said the district has collected 54.7 percent of its total revenue so far, as the district gets the rest of its revenue in early June for this fiscal year and rolls it over to the next. For expenditures, the district has spent 45.7 percent of its total budget across all funds so far for the year.
“Everything is looking like we're right on track where we should be to hopefully come in with good numbers and a balanced budget,” Dale said.
RTHS Principal Chris Lewis said during the meeting that the school had 18 students graduate in December. Last year, the school had 23 December graduates and had nine the year before. Usually it’s between 20 and 30, Lewis said.
“There's a lot of reasons why kids might graduate early,” Lewis said. “Some might take summer school to get ahead. They can put themselves in that situation when it comes to that second semester and they say they're ready for Kishwaukee College or the military or a two or four-year school. Some kids might just need the extra time and they're in their fifth year."