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Unit 5 school board approves 5-year strategic plan

Seven people seated at table with microphones in front of them and a black backdrop behind them.
Colin Hardman
The Unit 5 school board adopted a five-year strategic plan for the district during its meeting Wednesday at Normal West high school.

The Unit 5 school board on Wednesday approved a strategic plan that outlines the district's goals for the next five years, with highlights on improving academic outcomes, maintaining strong staff, and connecting to the community.

In addition to a unanimously positive vote, the board praised the plan as a living document to account for unforeseen changes.

Board member Mark Adams suggested one such change could be offering more mental health personnel at each school, though he acknowledged it’s no easy task. Superintendent Kristen Weikle said availability may be the limiting factor.

Man seated at table in front of a laptop and a microphone with a black backdrop behind him
Colin Hardman
School board member Mark Adams.

“Finances are certainly one aspect, but the reality is there’s not enough of those individuals in communities. And that’s not unique to McLean County, that’s across the U.S.,” Weikle said of adding more counselors. She said the district has made some mental health resources available to students and staff.

Also approved during the board's monthly meeting at Normal West High School was a contract to purchase more than 6,000 Chromebook computers for the district’s elementary schools, for use by both students and paraprofessionals. The devices will cost $2.75 million and replace the current ones.

Security also will see an update before the next school year. A $750,000 project will outfit three of the district’s junior high schools with two-layered lobbies like those seen at the two high schools. There already is one at Evans Junior High.

Unit 5 also will continue its investment in portable classrooms as a method to accommodate a growing student population. By the start of next school year, a total of eight will be in use.

“They are meant to be short-term solutions,” said Weikle. “And short term could mean three to six years, unfortunately.”

The board will be presented with a capacity study at its April 17 meeting to better inform future decisions on facilities.

Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.