Urbana schools to begin strategic planning

URBANA – The Urbana school district will begin strategic planning in early spring, with the help of a consulting firm and a new part-time community-engagement position.

The Urbana school board approved hiring Cambridge Strategic Services of Huntley for $38,500 at its Tuesday meeting. A representative of the company, Howard Feddema, gave a presentation to the board in November on its strategic planning process. It calls for assembling a group of about 30 people who represent a microcosm of the district to make decisions about the district's objectives and strategies for achieving them.

Demolition begins on 84-year-old ex-Tilton School

TILTON – For more than 80 years, Tilton School has stood at the center of town, but now section by section, the long-vacant brick building is coming down.

Earlier this week, Tilton public works employees and crews with Thomas Excavating started tearing down the old school on West Fifth Street that opened in 1925 after the previous Tilton school was destroyed by fire.

Leal kids comparing their caterpillars to those in space

URBANA – The caterpillars arrived at Leal Elementary School in mid-November as tiny creatures, less than an inch long.

Now they measure several inches, and some are hanging from the top of their containers, in chrysalises they've built around themselves, on their way in their journey to become monarch butterflies.

"It's fun to see how fast they've been growing," said Sarah Stelzer, a third-grader at Leal.

She's been watching the three caterpillars housed in a plastic tub on her classroom's windowsill, and wondering when they'll start making chrysalises. Stelzer's classroom is one of six at Leal that has monarch caterpillars.

Firefighters at blaze in Jamaica

JAMAICA — Firefighters are at the scene of a house fire in Jamaica.

UI to phase out art program in Washington

URBANA — Citing its high cost in a time of severe budget constraints, the University of Illinois will phase out an art history program headquartered in the nation’s capital.

Those with Washington ties celebrate school's history

CHAMPAIGN – With 13 school days left in the existing Washington Elementary School building, students, parents and teachers – past and present – celebrated the school's 50-plus years of history.

The school hosted a "Night to Remember" on Tuesday. The school will be vacated after the end of the semester. Students and teachers will move into the old Columbia building at Neil and Bradley, and Washington school will be demolished, making way for a new, two-story magnet school on the same site.

Exchange students add spice to Schlarman High School

DANVILLE – It's not uncommon to hear Schlarman High School students speaking French and Spanish, the foreign languages taught there.

Food for Fines drive gets under way today

HOOPESTON – Hoopeston Area residents can pay off their fines at the Hoopeston Public Library and help a good cause through the annual Food for Fines drive beginning today.

During December, the library will accept canned goods, nonperishable food items and household paper products. Each package is equivalent to $1 toward the fines.

Board delays Garden Hills vote after hearing new costs

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school board postponed approving plans for a remodeled and expanded Garden Hills Elementary School after hearing that the price for the original design had increased by 25 percent.

The board was presented with two design options at its meeting Monday night. The original schematic design would cost more than $15 million, while a scaled-back design would cost $12 million – the original price tag for the project.

Champaign schools pilot new teacher-evaluation system

CHAMPAIGN – Angela Shargo went through her first evaluations as a new teacher last year, in which her principal watched her teach several times during the course of the school year.

This year, before her principal ever visited her classroom, they talked about her goals for the year, how she evaluates if her students are learning, and her classroom management plan, among other things.