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Summer break is time for schools to prepare

A common misconception is that schools “close” for the summer. Our children and staff are able to enjoy time away from the school building, but the district continues to prepare for the upcoming school year. At Morris Grade School, many exciting activities take place during the summer months.

First, our summer school students had the opportunity to pilot the first hybrid, virtual learning programs at Morris 54. We partnered with Proximity Learning, a digital learning company, to host a virtual learning environment for students in grades 6-8 for credit recovery. This program, formally summer school, gives our students an opportunity to recover any credits and advance to the next grade level. Summer school lasted three weeks, and students worked with a virtual teacher, with the support of a District 54 teacher, completing credits in English/Language Arts, Math and Science. The level of engagement and achievement were impressive, and we are researching other opportunities through Proximity Learning.

Morris Grade School administrators and instructional coaches are preparing for an incredible school year. Our new instructional coaches, Ashlee Geiss and Molly Kaminski, have attended several professional development activities and we are excited for them to share their knowledge. Our instructional coaches are going to support teachers, students and administrators to foster a successful learning environment. We expect to continue offering new and exciting opportunities for our students to continue to grow and achieve.

We are very excited for next school year, and we know it is going to be an incredible year. Due to state legislators finalizing the state’s budget, school personnel can accurately plan knowing the state’s financial commitment is in place.

Specifically, the following additional revenue for schools include:

• $350 million increase in new tier funding for K-12 education, ensuring every school district in Illinois will see an increase. $50 million of this total, as mandated by law, automatically will be set aside for the property tax relief fund;

• $50 million increase for early childhood programs;

• The budget deal does not include shifting millions in state pension costs onto local school districts;

• State support for the retired teacher health insurance program (TRIP) is maintained;

• Regular/vocational transportation funding, transportation special education and special education-private tuition funding all remain flat;

• $15 million for after-school programs;

• Level funding for MAP grants, and allowing a new option for four-year grants.

Millions of dollars were added to the state’s fiscal 2019 budget, but I would like to break down what it means for Morris Elementary School District 54. First, we will receive approximately $350,000 new dollars due to the evidence-based funding formula. With the additional revenue, District 54 hired additional special education staff, instructional coaches and classroom teachers. Also, the cost shift of state pension commitments to local school districts saves District 54 roughly $880,000. However, if there is a change regarding the state-mandated pension commitments to our district, it could result in loss of teachers, larger class sizes and lost programming that our students desperately need. We are going to continue to communicate with our legislators so they understand what the impact shifting state pension commitments will have on local school districts.

We have several innovative programs and areas on of growth on the horizon.

These areas include partnering with the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department to continue to provide a safe learning environment, increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning activities for our students, increasing social/emotional learning, continued financial commitment to eliminate school district debt and taxpayer burden, and continuous school improvement to increase student achievement.

Please join us in celebrating and supporting our students, staff and community to help create the best possible learning environment. The future is bright at Morris Elementary School District 54.

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