The Fieldcrest Board of Education listened to concerns about locating the proposed Fieldcrest high school building at the north edge of Minonk in close proximity to an agricultural chemical supply plant that stores anhydrous ammonia tanks. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death.
Daniel Laeifker, who is a distributor of anhydrous ammonia for Helena corporation, asked the board to consider moving the proposed school site further away from the ag chemical storage site. Mr. Laeifker said anhydrous ammonia is highly toxic and can be fatal if an explosion occurred. He said over 500,000 gallons of the chemical is transported each year on the road that goes by the proposed school site. He said any institutional building is required to be at least 1000 feet away from any site that has the chemical. Mr. Laeifker said the proposed school site is 1000 feet away from the chemical site but if there is an explosion and the wind is from the east, it would take only 20 seconds for the ammonia to reach the school, which is not enough time for evacuation.
After Mr. Laeifker's plea, Matthew Wendling, the school's Director of Technology,asked the board to consider upgrading the school's computer networking. He said there is a program called ERate which helps fund the upgrading of a school's network structure. The 5 year program is in its 5th year and action needed to be taken now before the program expires.
Mr. Wendling said his research indicates $125,000 would be needed to bring the networks up to date which will vastly improve the performance of the computers in the schools. He said the ERate program would provide $98,000 in funding the $125,000 project.
Board member Charles Lohr asked if the network upgrading to the existing buildings would be lost if the building referendum passes in November. Mr. Wendling said the loss would be limited to the copper wiring in the buildings which would be around $10,000 to $15,000 as the other equipment could be taken out and put into the new buildings. He said the plans are not complete yet and he can wait until after the referendum to come up with a program for either the new buildings or the existing buildings.
In other business the board approved a bid of $606 from Napa for the school's 2010 Dodge Caravan. Mr. Lohr objected to the offer saying that it was a junk price offer and wanted to rebid the car. He and board member Mykin Bernardi both voted against accepting the bid.
The board then listened to a presentation from, Patti Peterson, the school's guidance counselor, and also a presentation from students who provide tutoring for other students.
Fieldcrest Principal William Lapp announced that 10 Fieldcrest students were designated as Illinois State Scholars. The State Scholar formula calculation uses a combination of the ACT/SAT test scores, class rank (if the school ranks) or the unweighted GPA (if the school does not rank), and class size. Mr. Lapp said this was an amazing achievement for 10 students to be designated from a relatively small class size of 80.
At the end of the session the board discussed the summer downtime for students. Board member Tim McNamara said he was concerned about excessive sports practice during the summer. He said that there should be more downtime for family activities and jobs.
Mr. Lapp said he encourages family time during the summer and doesn't feel athletes should be penalized for taking a vacation instead of going to practice. However, he said coaches are under pressure to compete against other schools who make practices mandatory.
Mr. Lohr said the next step is to tell the coaches that kids should be allowed to take time off.
Mr. McNamara said he felt practices should not be mandatory.
Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley suggested that Mr. Lapp talk to the coaches about not penalizing an athlete for not attending practice.
Board member Elizabeth said athletes should not be held hostage to sports.
Mr. McNamara concluded the discussion saying practices should not be mandatory and an athlete should not be penalized for missing a practice. Mr. Lohr agreed saying kids need more time off in the summer.
At the end of the meeting Mr. Lohr asked Dr. Oakley to arrange a trip to the Toluca intermediate school so board members can observe what repairs have been done.