With construction all around, opening Orion schools this year was no easy task

Mindy Carls
For the Geneseo Republic

With major construction at all three schools, this summer was one of the hardest ever for custodial and maintenance staff, Orion superintendent Joe Blessman told the Orion school board on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

To get teachers into their rooms on Thursday, Aug. 11, the custodians waxed floors until 3 a.m. that day.

The schools were able to open on time Tuesday, Aug. 16, Blessman said. He and board president Peter Nedved signed documents and sent them to the regional superintendent by 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, and received clearance for building occupancy by 9 p.m.

At C.R. Hanna Elementary School, Principal R.C. Lowe said kindergarten rooms had to be ready by noon Monday for classroom visits by students and parents.

Lowe said when students came into the building, there were a lot of "wow" moments, followed by "Which way do I go?"

At Orion Middle School, the new rooftop units had not been tested, Principal Chad Bahnks said. Six pumps leaked, and saturated ceiling tiles fell in classrooms. All of the district's custodians came in to help with cleanup.

Orion High School Principal Nathan DeBaillie said his office was still in the library. He spent the weekend putting in shelves, and secretary Anita Jackson stocked supplies on Sunday for teachers coming in Monday.

Receptionist Sheri Schulenberg and district accounting manager Denise Jacobsen kept the district office functioning while registration was going on there, the superintendent was checking construction in the schools and teachers were coming in to find a place to work, Blessman said.

Blessman and the board would like to have a town hall and open house at the new early learning center in C.R. Hanna when it is complete in December.

Personnel changes

The board accepted the resignation of Kaitlyn Hutchcroft, OHS Spanish teacher. Because of the shortage of Spanish teachers, the district could not replace her. Instead, the high school arranged for the Illinois Virtual School to provide classes over the internet.

Jennifer Maertens resigned as the sixth grade English and language arts teacher at OMS. Robin Tuttle, a fifth-grade teacher at C.R. Hanna, moved to the middle school to take over Maertens' classrooms.

Amanda Mrazek and Jamee Sovey resigned as paraprofessionals and Jenna Zurcher as an ESP childcare provider.The board hired Mary VanIseghem as a classroom teacher at C.R. Hanna; Debra Lawyer as a paraprofessional at OMS; Claudia Lawrence as a paraprofessional at OMS and C.R. Hanna, and Natalie Sottos as a paraprofessional at C.R. Hanna.Pamela Jackson was hired for a morning and afternoon bus route, and Shannon Merrill as the Area Career Center bus driver.

OMS volunteer coaches were approved, including Bruce Laleman and Brandy Taets, football; Chuck Dhabalt, girls basketball, and Jeff Wiedenmann, cross country.

Coni Pronschinske received approval as a volunteer coach with the high school's fall spirit squad.

In other business:

  • The board learned Tara Miller and Andrew Lister will serve as co-presidents of the Orion Education Association.
  • Prospective candidates for Orion school board will be able to pick up nominating information and forms in September, Blessman said. The election is Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Board members whose four-year terms are expiring are Nedved, Karl Kane, Kim Nightingale and Julie Abbott. Amy Blommer's two-year term is expiring.
  • Orion's Homecoming football game was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16, with Riverdale as the opponent. With only seven players, the Rams cannot field a varsity team. DeBaillie said OHS is trying to find a replacement team. If necessary, Homecoming and senior night will be the same night, Friday, Oct. 14, when Sherrard is coming to Charger Field.
  • Dawn Coe, an aide who is retiring at the end of 2022-23, was the honorary bellringer at C.R. Hanna's first day of school.
  • The board approved $22.86 per hour for all current full-time custodians, and $17.50 per hour ($2 increase) for new full-time second shift custodians.
  • Board members voted not to create a full-time position for an athletics, activities and social media director at OHS.
  • The board also voted not to limit the amount OHS teams could spend from their activity accounts to give an honorarium to a volunteer coach.
  • The 2022-23 budget was placed on display for 30 days. A hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the next school board meeting.
  • Basketball officials at OMS games will be paid $80 per night, an increase of $10.
  • The board scheduled a board retreat for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.