MATTOON -- The Mattoon school district board had a few requests of the school administration and staff moving forward following the high school shooting in September as detailed in a statement at their meeting Tuesday.

This is the first board meeting that has taken place since the shooting, and Michelle Skinlo, board president, read a statement that included a list of four focuses for the board.

These include:

-- maintaining focus on healing students, staff and families

-- review and revise building safety plans with emergency personnel

-- review and enhance social, emotional and instructional growth

-- explore partnerships with health providers to offer support in meeting student’s health needs

“We will continue to heal and enhance opportunities for our students,” Skinlo read in the statement. “I encourage all of us to work together for students, staff and community to remain Mattoon Strong.”

Skinlo shied away from commenting further on the actual shooting event citing caution from the school district attorney and those from the Coles County State’s Attorney’s Office in efforts to avoid impeding the investigation.

The school district has been under fire by some locals claiming a lack of effort in stopping bullying, which they believe was the reason for the shooting.

As previously reported, some sources have indicated that bullying might have been the motivation for the Sept. 20 shooting in the school's cafeteria.

No one in an official capacity who is involved in the investigation has confirmed any motives or specific situations that led to the shooting.

There was no public comment at the meeting on the incident from anyone in the audience.

At the meeting, board members also made the final OK on the special education programs merger that has been discussed in past meetings.

The merger will consolidate the Neil Armstrong Special Education Program with the Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education Diagnostic and Developmental Center Program for the next school year.

This will, in essence, dissolve the Armstrong program based out of Hawthorne School into the EIASE program based out of Franklin School keeping the best of both programs with room to expand within EIASE, school officials have said.

Larry Lilly, Mattoon superintendent, said there are some minor cost savings but nothing substantial. He reiterated that the move to merge was because of the similarities between the two programs.

“(The Armstrong program) is just this unique program that started back in the 60’s that we just kept for all of these years,” Lilly said. “It is a program that is very much like DDC’s program.”

Lilly said that the four teachers in the program have been given the option to work within the merged program.

The new program would serve the 120 3- to 21-year-old students covered under these programs.

The district will still handle special education that is facilitated throughout the classrooms without the Armstrong program specifically.

Tied to the merger, the school board members approved having Franklin School operate as a pre-school in the next school year. The merged program will be housed in the Hawthorne building.

The board is also awarded the highest and only bid for the 2017-18 building trades house located at 2013 Evergreen Court to Linda Wells, the superintendent executive secretary, for $151,100.

During the meeting, Wells was given a standing ovation from people in the room for her service to the school district. Wells will be retiring effective Dec. 29 after a long career in the district.

Dave Skocy, assistant superintendent for human resources, said that Wells started working in the district in 1976 as a bus driver and has continued on ever since barring a couple years as part of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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