Chester Police Officer James Brockmeyer is escorted to a waiting hearse after the funeral service at Chester High School. Credit: Derik Holtmann / Belleville News-Democrat
April 04–CHESTER — A local school district faces a $20,000 loss because it dismissed students from class early for the funeral of James Brockmeyer, a police officer and firefighter who died Oct. 28, 2016 in a crash during a police pursuit.
The Illinois State Board of Education denied a day of attendance to Chester School District for the early dismissal, according to a press release from the district, costing the district more than $20,000.
Superintendent Rick Goodman said students attended for three hours in the morning and were dismissed early so the community could make preparations at the school, where the wake and funeral were held.
James Brockmeyer, a police officer and firefighter, died Oct. 28, 2016 in a crash during a police pursuit. Credit: Belleville News-Democrat
“Many students voluntarily participated after being dismissed from school to help with the preparation of the parade route and use of the school’s facilities,” Goodman said.
The district did not know the three hours of student attendance would cost the district more than $19,000 in general state aid payments and possibly thousands in transportation reimbursements. Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis informed the district there could be a problem when the district contacted him for help with modifying the school calendar.
Illinois law allows schools to claim a day of attendance for less than five hours of attendance under special circumstances, but the state denied the school’s claim for an interrupted school day.
The superintendent says there was no other local location for the services.
The regional superintendent has worked with attorneys at the Illinois State Board of Education to address the issue, the press release from the district said. In a December letter to the State Superintendent of Schools, Davis outlined his argument on behalf of the school. Recently, he turned to local legislators for help, contacting state Sen. Paul Schimpf and state Rep. Jerry Costello II.
Schimpf managed to negotiate a potential solution for the district to apply for a waiver in the fall, but a state budget impasse would delay the waiver until 2018.
In an effort to help the district, Schimpf and Costello drafted a bill to address interrupted attendance days for the community’s use of school property in emergencies. The bill is HB1254. The legislation would ensure schools can claim partial days of attendance for instances like the funeral for Brockmeyer.
If the bill passes, the district should receive the revenue in the current school year.
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