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The Yorkville School District 115 school board approved sports and activity stipends for staff for the current school year – on the condition that coaches and sponsors submit their plans on what activity structure may look like if COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions are still in effect and competition isn't happening.
The school district's Board of Education voted, 6-0, during their Monday, Aug. 24 meeting to approve athletic and extra-curricular stipends for the 2020-2021 school year, pending the review of an eventual full sports and activity engagement plan set to come before the board for their Sept. 14 committee of the whole meeting.
Board secretary Ashley Shields attended remotely and board member Jason Senffner came to the meeting later but was not present for the vote regarding the stipends.
Troy Courtney, director of human resources for the school district, said district administration is recommending that they move forward with offering opportunities for district students, regardless of the mode of teaching the district is in. Essentially, the plans are meant to address what coaches and sponsors will do with students to keep them engaged if they are unable to compete.
"What we're looking for is to continue providing students some form of engagement in the areas that they have interest in," Courtney said.
Courtney said the recommendation also is out of concern about maintaining the continuity of those activites and sports, of which there are about 100 in the district. He said he previously has witnessed some programs in surrounding schools end up having to shelve programs for a year until they figure out what to do with them.
"And four years later, they're still struggling to be able to have those programs functioning," Courtney said.
According to district school board documents, programs that have been pushed out of season by the Illinois High School Association to next spring or summer will receive their stipend in three installments over the course of the entire school year, like year long activities or clubs, rather than during there normal competition season. All athletics coaches and club sponsors will need to work with building administration to develop those plans and they must have a developed and approved plan of engagement for students in order to receive their stipend for the 2020-2021 school year, per the documents.
The example that Courtney used in school board discussions was math club. If official competition can't happen in person, he said, a remote competition could possibly be held via Zoom.
"And that's what we're really looking for from the staff," Courtney said.
District officials said in the documents there may be cases where an activity or club may not be able to run, given the current conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under those circumstances and with the agreement of the building administration, the sponsor would be able to opt out of offering a program for the 2020-2021 school year and maintain their position for the subsequent year.
However, in such cases, the sponsor will not receive a year of credit toward advancement on the schedule, according to district documents.
Courtney said postponing the vote for the stipends until there was a formal plan to present to school board members would have affected the stipends for coaches and sponsors. He said the initial thought was to just work out plans among staff to make sure those contingency plans meet the appropriate requirements.
School board vice president Bob Brenart said board members would know what coaches and sponsors do on a more normal basis. He said he agreed with wanting to see the stipends approved but on a more contingent basis in the event that activity structure might have to change in light of the pandemic – and it's not because board members think things would be done.
"This is just a little different," Brenart said.