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Watch now: Student tells Decatur school board: 'With so many fights, it's chaotic at times'

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DECATUR – Student ambassadors to the Decatur school board on Tuesday again expressed their concerns about fights and violence in Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools.

Daniel Flores, who attends MacArthur, during the board meeting also mentioned problems at Stephen Decatur Middle School.

“There are still fights going on over there (at MacArthur),” Daniel said. “Students and teachers are concerned about violence over there. I asked them what they'd like to see changed, and they said more security and for you to do whatever you can to try to quell this disturbance.”

At Eisenhower, said student ambassador Sciler Treacy, students have difficulty moving through hallways and getting to class.

“With so many fights, it's chaotic at times,” Sciler said.

Students have to take responsibility for their contributions to the problems, Sciler said, but students who are grateful to be back at school after months of remote learning are “at the mercy” of students who do not want to be in school.

“In no way can we just take education away from anybody, that's not right, but those people have to be held responsible,” Sciler said. “Kids who want to be there should not be at the mercy of those who do not. Some students do not want to go to school because of fears for their safety. Teachers are honestly worried about their safety doing their job.”

Recent random security checks of bags, and using metal detecting wands on students entering the building are appreciated, added Elizabeth Palagi, who also attends Eisenhower. Clear communication from the board and administration on what plans are to address the violence is what students are asking for.

The district's legal counsel, Brian Braun, told the student ambassadors that there are legal barriers to telling them details, which the students said they understand. They're just asking for a central location to find general information.

Henry Walker, director of operations, said a committee is working on solutions and he hopes to have progress to report soon.

In other business, the board gave verbal consent for the Shield Program, COVID-19 testing done on saliva, to be implemented at MacArthur High School immediately, where a higher number of cases have occurred, prior to formal approval of the program that's expected to be voted on at the Oct. 26 meeting. Shield is a cooperative program with the University of Illinois, and is used at Millikin University and Richland Community College. It allows close contacts to be tested on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 after exposure and if the test is negative, to avoid quarantine and stay in class, said district health coordinator Angie Wetzel.

Walker also gave a report on transportation, which has been an issue since school started in August. Alltown Bus Service, which serves the district's transportation needs, has a shortage of drivers and multiple bus routes have been unavailable every week. Schools are on a three-tier staggered start and end time schedule to allow fewer buses to serve the district, and the board had discussed adding a fourth tier, but Walker said that would interfere with sports schedules. Instead, the plan is to move some of the elementary schools to different tiers after the winter break, which would increase the number of buses available to elementary buildings. The reason for waiting until then is to give Alltown drivers time to bid on the routes they want and to rearrange the schedules at those buildings, he said.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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