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District 186 Holds Final “Our Schools, Our Future” Community Engagement Session

Thomas Clatterbuck



District 186 held its ninth and final community engagement session at SSHS last night. The goal of the “Our Schools, Our Future” meetings was to help the district develop its long-range facilities improvement plan. At this stage of the project, the district is just looking to find the general direction it should take in improving its facilities, not make specific design choices.

This session focused specifically on finalizing the general parameters of the high school and athletic facilities segments of the plan. Building on the previous meeting, two directions for the high schools were put forward, and three more for the athletic facilities. After a presentation describing the plans, each table had time to discuss which plans they felt were best. To help gauge the room more accurately, everyone was given a vote for which plans they wanted to support.

For the high schools, proposal option 4 was most popular. Each of the three high schools will be substantially improved, but will remain on their current sites. Proposal 5 for the athletic facilities was most popular, which called for three new field houses among other improvements. You can read more about the specifics of the plans on the “Our Schools, Our Future” website. The final votes were still relatively close, showing the need for this final round of engagement.


The final meeting may have been the best attended meeting of the series. Estimates put the size of the crowd at nearly 300, a significant improvement from the 70 or 80 community members who attended earlier meetings. All parts of the Springfield community were represented, and no school or neighborhood had an oversized voice in the process.

Among the notable community leaders were State Representative Tim Butler (R-87), Springfield alderman Joe McMenamin (Ward 7), and Republican candidate for the 99th house district Mike Murphy.

Final Thoughts from Superintendent Gill

This meeting marked the end of an important planning phase for the district. Gill was excited to have a plan she can present to the community. With such strong community engagement up this point, the implementation and funding of the plan should be easier. At the same time, the reality of having to start the next phase of community buy-in and implementation is still daunting. These proposals will span decades and hundreds of millions of dollars.  Nevertheless, she feels confident that Springfield can rise to the challenge, and that it is possible to make these improvements.  “It can be done.”

The full report of the “Our Schools, Our Future” sessions will be presented at the December 4 school board meeting.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


New Illinois law requires high school students to apply for college aid before graduation




In addition to math, science, reading, and gym class, Illinois high school students will soon have a financial aid requirement to graduate high school.

Every high school senior in the state of Illinois will have to apply for federal student aid before they can graduate.

Lawmakers approved the new law last week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign it.

Under the plan, high schools in the state will be required to have seniors fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if eligible a state student aid application as well.

State Rep. Katie Stuart says it will be easy for schools and kids, and could help some students get into college.

“This initiative will connect more students to the resources that are already available to help them get education or training after high school,” Stuart said. “But it’s flexible enough that we are not putting up any new barriers to graduation.”

Not all lawmakers are happy about the idea.

Opponents say there’s always a cost when the state requires local schools to do anything. And there’s a question about why all high school seniors need to fill out a FAFSA application.

But state Rep. Mary Flowers, who voted for the plan, said the requirement is aimed at the students who need extra help.

“You assume that all schools have the necessary counselors to take the time to educate the students, as well as the parents, about college and/or other programs,” Flowers told opponents of the plan.

Pritzker says the idea is critical for the state’s schools. He says he looks forward to signing the new law.

Once he does, the requirement will start in the 2020-2021 school year.


Article by Benjamin Yount with The Center Square. For more TCS visit

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LIVE | District 186 school board meeting January 22nd

Staff Contributor



Follow along live with District 186’s school board meeting for January 22nd.

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Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school




image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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