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Lab teaches about real world

Tonya Dieken gives a tour of the new career lab at Prairie Central High School / EOCI photo.

A career lab at Prairie Central High School is making students more aware of future options as they move through school.

Members of the Prairie Central Board of Education toured the lab at the conclusion of Thursday’s regular monthly meeting in Fairbury. The room is the result of legislation passed by the state regarding career preparation.

“We started out with a career grant from the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council,” explained P.C. director of curriculum Tonya Dieken. “They gave us the seed money to get things started.”

The school also had a STEAM grant which helped put four programs in the lab, giving students more exposure to technology, engineering, math and science. Eleven different stations feed into many local employers.

“We want to make sure we have lots of opportunities for everybody,” Dieken said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board discussed options for new communication systems in the various school buildings as current intercoms are outdated and some are not operational. Choices include digital or analog type systems.

“It can count down for when the bell is going to ring,” noted Superintendent Paula Crane. “These have emergency panic buttons.”

If the district chose a more advanced system, much of the current wiring would need to be replaced. An analog system at only the high school would run $50,000-$55,000 while one with LED lighting capability would be $80,000-$85,000. The more state-of-the-art system is estimated to cost $250,000 for the entire district.

“We’ve got to do it pretty quickly no matter what,” Crane added.

“We had this on our board goals,” said board president Mark Slagel.

A project such as this would entail extra summer work. The district will research the matter further and get more answers before making a decision.

Under old business, the board talked about the student information system and the fact that additional questions have surfaced. Crane said they wanted to be sure the contract was properly negotiated before approval. Board members decided to table the matter.

Dieken previewed the Feb. 15 teacher’s institute which will consist of air brake training for bus drivers, a motivational speaker and eye therapy training for some teachers. Emergency training drills, known as ALICE training, will take place in Chenoa and Chatsworth with various police officers.

Crane gave a brief state update during her superintendent report. Newly-elected Governor J.B. Pritzker wants to lower property taxes, especially for lower income households. He also opposes a private school tax credit program and wants to get more kids in preschool.

“The cost shift for pensions will probably come back,” Crane explained.

Many, including Crane, are sad to see the state superintendent go. She said he took what educators said and “put it into practice.”

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