QPS pushes back start of school year

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 21, 2020 12:01 am Updated: May. 21, 2020 12:16 am

QUINCY — A revised Quincy Public Schools calendar pushes back the first day of classes to allow for better preparation at the start of the 2020-21 year.

The revision, approved by the School Board on Wednesday, calls for teacher institute days on Tuesday, Aug. 18, and Wednesday, Aug. 19, with the first day of classes on Thursday, Aug. 20.

The original calendar, adopted in January, called for a teacher institute day on Friday, Aug. 14, and the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 17.

"Starting the year with two teacher institute days allows us to get ready for kids re-entry in the school," Superintendent Roy Webb said. "It also allows us to give teachers time to review possibly a revamped curriculum, especially at the lower grades in reading and math as we look at how to catch kids up."

The revised calendar also adds a teacher institute day on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, as a way to help staff readjust halfway through the school year.

Other features of the calendar remain the same including two full weeks off for winter break, with classes ending Dec. 18 and resuming Jan. 4, and a weeklong spring break, March 29 through April 2.

The last day of classes, if no snow days are used, will be Thursday, May 27, 2021.

"I'm not going to promise this will be the calendar we go with. Things may change," Webb said. "The state will allow us to make changes if they do something radical at the beginning of the year."

The calendar changes come after Quincy Conference 2020, slated for Oct. 7 and 8, was suspended in the wake of COVID-19 and uncertain limitations on large group gatherings that could continue in the fall. QPS had planned to use the two days of the conference as teacher institute days.

State guidelines allow school districts to have four teacher institute days.

"In the past we've done one at the beginning (of the year), one at the end and two at Quincy Conference," Webb said. "Next year, it will be two at the beginning, one in January and one at the end of the year."

In other action, the Quincy School Board:

Approved an $850 increase for non-union and administrative salaries for the 2020-21 year. The increase, which mirrors provisions of the union contract, covers just over 80 employees and is expected to cost the district $142,000.

Opted against filling the district's part-time PIO position and three full-time positions that opened up at Quincy High School -- one secretary, one paraeducator and the assistant principal for school management. Chief of Business Operations Ryan Whicker said the cost-cutting move is expected to save the district around $136,000.

"We know it's going to be a difficult fiscal year," Webb said. "We'll continue to look at any position that comes open to see if it can be reduced through attrition."

Set public hearings for June 24 on the 2019-20 amended Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center, West Central Region, Special Education Association and QPS budgets.

Chief of Business Operations Ryan Whicker said the biggest changes in the school district's budget reflect additional Title 1 funding of $720,000, carryover funds of $308,000 in special education and an additional $845,000 in expenses for residential placements of students.

"The combination of additional students being placed in residential facilities as well as rate increases" led to the additional expense, Whicker said.

QPS is reimbursed by the state, on a prorated basis, for the cost.

"We'll be using our reserves to pay for that, then be reimbursed the following fiscal year for those services," Whicker said. "Typically we haven't had that big a discrepancy with the number of students being placed residentially."

Heard an update on the district's ongoing health life safety projects. Plumbing and electrical work at Quincy Junior High School is "in good shape and on schedule," Webb said. Bleachers in the high school gym have been removed with the new bleachers expected in early June. Concrete work is progressing at Flinn Stadium, and tuckpointing work also is ongoing at the junior high.

Adopted a resolution authorizing the district's intervention in an assessment appeal filed by Cedarhurst of Quincy before the state's Property Tax appeal Board.

Accepted the escalating bid, at an estimated cost of $145,321.50, from Energy Petroleum Company for fuel.

Approved a $37,200 bid from Triple A Asbestos Services Inc. for asbestos abatement tied to the plumbing project at the junior high.