Decatur school board discusses why in-person learning keeps getting pushed back

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Decatur, Ill. (WCIA) —

“There’s so little respect for that. It’s disheartening to me. It’s just very, very disheartening,” School Board member Kendall Briscoe said.

Tensions were high at the Decatur School Board meeting tonight. The Decatur Public School District met to talk about why they keep pushing back in-person learning.

The discussion centered around bus transportation. This is a messy situation and some say it could have been fixed earlier.

School Board members are angry that they were not told about negotiations happening with Alltown Bus Service until it was too late. Now the district is being forced to push back in-person learning until after spring break.

“We knew nothing about this,” Briscoe said.

Negotiations began in October with Alltown Bus Service and the Decatur School District, specifically Superintendent Paul Fregeau, Chief Operational Officer Todd Covalt, and Director of Operations Henry Walker.

“The negotiation emails go back and forth with a vendor, negotiating a price,” Covalt said.

By January 12th, the school board learned there wouldn’t be enough drivers to start in-person learning January 19th. Now the date has now been pushed back even further – until March 22nd.

“We knew we were going to do something with them, and we had a lot of conversation around it. This never came to us. I’m still not understanding why it didn’t come to us,” Briscoe said.

Alltown had requested more money to support staff in October and again in early January, speaking with the superintendent, who apparently did not share this information with the board. This left members unaware of the shortage of drivers until it was too late.

“What we were talking about is that we had to route for what we had,” Fregeau said.

“Understood, yeah that’s complicated,” School Board President Beth Nolan said.

“And so we don’t want to – there were several things going on at the same time is all I was saying,” Fregeau said.

The board was angry this happened.

“Are you okay, Paul, are you okay to say to our community. That that’s the way that went down. Because you’re going to own it,” Briscoe said.

Even issuing apologizes to parents and students and saying the kids are the ones being hurt by this.

“There’s probably four people in a school day that really make a difference with the kid, right? Their teacher, their principal, their bus driver, these are major players in what we’re trying to do for kids,” Briscoe said.

The board discussed how to pay drivers to get them working as soon as possible. They will regroup at a later date to discuss specifics on how to pay Alltown. The public portion of the next regular meeting of the board of education will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

We reported on this last week. Through a Freedom of Information Request we learned Alltown said it did have enough drivers to run the school routes. A district official said they were told there wasn’t going to be enough drivers.

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