December 2020

Board Meeting Highlights

December 14, 2020
Complete Meeting Packet

Board Reports

Facility Development Committee (FDC) - Mrs. Poehling - The committee met as part of Committee of the Whole on December 7th. Joe Papapnicholas of Nicholas and Associates reported on the Romona and McKenzie KEEP39 construction projects. STR Architects issued their 60% design review and an updated budget increase of 3.5% was reported. The current total for both schools is $7.9M with McKenzie’s budget at $4.4M and Romona’s budget at $3.5M. Nicholas is working with the STR design team to identify potential alternates to reduce costs. Mr. Papnicholas stated $244K (4%) of the total $7.9M is for contingency allowance. Both projects are scheduled to begin in spring and be completed by August.

Mr. Papanicholas also reported on the junior high second floor air conditioning project. 50% of the project design and construction documents will be completed in January with the final budget completed in February. Bids for the air conditioning project will be held in March. The Board supported moving forward with all three construction projects.

The Facility Development Committee also discussed KEEP39 options presented by administration. The administration has considered and review options for enrollment in KEEP39 if the Board were to determine that the immediate pursuit of the two necessary construction projects was not possible. Administration believes the District can financially support these projects and are in a sound fiscal position to be able to do so this summer. Proceeding toward accomplishment of these projects was recommended. Nonetheless, the administration developed a contingency plan for KEEP39 enrollment in the event that construction was not possible.

To ensure all kindergarten students have an equitable opportunity to enroll in KEEP39, the administrative team developed a variety of options. Each option was considered to evaluate feasibility, access, equitability and impact. The best option available, if the Board decides not to pursue construction, was presented and discussed. However, there are identified risks and disappointments that will be realized as well. If the team were to assume typical enrollment and sectioning for fall, no construction at Romona or McKenzie, approximately 80-96 students enrolling in kindergarten at each school, and 4 classrooms available for kindergarten programming at Central and Harper while 2 are available at McKenzie and Romona, the District could pursue allocating 2 classrooms for each school’s kindergarten with KEEP39 enrollment and 1 classroom for two half-day sections of academic kindergarten only. These spots would be allocated by lottery if interest exceeded space available, and some students who wish to enroll in KEEP39 may need to attend a school other than their home school. The detailed proposal would make KEEP39 available equitably to all students across the District, but there would not be sufficient spots for all students to enroll. A lottery would be conducted to allocate the KEEP39 spots. Other options presented included offering KEEP39 at each school as space allows or not offering KEEP39 programming in the upcoming school year due to space constraints and the ongoing needs associated with the pandemic.

School Finance Committee (SFC) - Mr. Cesaretti - Mr. Bultemeier provided a report at the Committee of the Whole meeting on the five-year financial projections covering fiscal years 2022-2026. The projections show the Operating Funds ending above the 40% threshold established by the Board of Education for each year. The three construction projects under consideration are included within this projection. With the end of additional COVID-19 expenditures being uncertain, FY 2022 projection also provided for an ability to absorb COVID-19 expenditures for another year, if needed, and/or to support additional intervention support for students who may need it within the post-COVID environment. Major assumptions were included in the financial information. Mr. Bultemeier noted the majority of revenues are accrued through property taxes and current fee structures with expenditures largely spent on salaries, benefits, and health care costs. The projection spreadsheet for 2022-2025 is a fluid document that continues to be reviewed to decide where the largest needs lie.

Mr. Bultemeier reported in light of the financial projections and District priorities for student learning and programming, the administration recommended proceeding with the three construction projects presented.

Strategy - Mr. Steen - Dr. Campbell of Safeguard Surveillance, LLC presented an overview of the recommended surveillance screening program. This saliva-based screening program is being implemented at New Trier. The test is not diagnostic, but rather intended to serve as a rapid test that can provide screening and add an additional mitigation strategy to identify and isolate asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. The Metrics Advisory Team suggested consideration of screening testing programs within District 39 due to concerns about high levels of external community spread that may increase the risk of positive cases within schools. The District will initiate this program on a trial basis this week with plans to launch the program District-wide in early January to support a safe transition back to school following winter break.

Miss Lee provided a follow-up report on the In-Person Learning Program review presented at the November Board of Education Meeting. This follow up report shared the committee’s recommendations and action plan. The four recommendations included ongoing efforts toward health and safety protocols such as social distancing and mask wearing and to provide ongoing guidance on quarantine guidelines for students, families, and staff; continuing to address the social emotional needs of students; addressing the needs of 5-8 students who require additional support academically during the remote learning day within the hybrid model; increasing the positive impact of in-person/hybrid learning on staff’s personal well-being.

The Board spent a substantial amount of time discussing opportunities for in-person instruction for the weeks of December 14 and January 4th. The Board reviewed metrics and carefully considered operational challenges. After much deliberation at the Committee of the Whole Meeting, the Board decided to direct schools to offer in-person instruction for all grades the week of December 14th and a planned adaptive pause to in-person instruction the week of January 4th to ensure a safe transition from winter break.

Liaison Reports

Community Review Committee (CRC) - Mr. Steen - The CRC reviewed the Consortium for Educational Change (CEC) recommendations for developing a multi-year strategic plan. The committee discussed the best recommendations to emphasize and how the CRC might best support those needs. The CRC has a number of talented members whose expertise can promote the CEC recommendations. The group assigned specific committee work for the next meeting to be held January 5th.

Educational Foundation - President Fabes - The Educational Foundation hosted guest speaker, Linda Diekman, of Central School who thanked the Foundation for funding the Sora Program, a digital media platform used in schools. The Foundation’s Annual Appeal is underway. The Annual Appeal is crucial to obtain funding as normal fundraisers cannot be held due to the pandemic. The Foundation is looking into hosting its famous Bingo and Trivia nights via video platform. A Gripp Grant was given to the Romona Mud Cafe, a year-round nature rich kitchen-like space to use for curriculum lessons and collaboration space. The Village of Wilmette partnered with local business to support local charities in an event called “The 12 Days of Giving”. Portions of purchases made on December 3rd, 4th, and 5th went to D39 Educational Foundation. The Foundation Fine Arts committee is looking to highlight students positive experiences that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legislative Update - Ms. Stone - Bills reported at the federal level: a bill called “Keeping All Students Safe Act” was first introduced in 2009 under the title “Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act” which never passed. This retitled bill would enact a national ban on restraints that restrict breathing and require other restraints only be used where there is an immediate risk of extreme physical harm. A one week stopgap funding measure passed in the House last week extending government funding until Friday, December 18th to avert a government shutdown. Reports indicate bipartisan support for an additional stimulus package are pending.

Information Items

Written Communication

Announcements from the Superintendent

Second Semester Enrollment Update - Dr. Glowacki - Families were asked to send in their requests for second semester placements by November 30th. Principals are reviewing requests and making preliminary adjustments to student/teacher placement. Most families have elected for their students to stay in their first semester placement; 3,232 students are remaining in their current placement. This is approximately 96% of total enrollment of students. 90 students (2.7%) across all grade levels have requested a change from remote learning to in-person learning. 18 students (0.5%) across all grade levels have requested a change from in-person to remote learning for second semester. Principals believe all requests can be honored. At this time, there does not appear to be a need for additional staff. Most importantly, no teacher assignment changes are expected for students maintaining first semester enrollment. Principals are committed to creating the fewest disruptions for students as possible. To accomplish this, it is possible that classes within specific grade levels could have varying enrollment numbers per classroom. Keeping students with their first semester classmates and teacher is a greater priority than having the same number of students in each class. In fall concerns about class size for remote classes were reviewed in a few specific grade levels. For second semester, class size will range from 15-23 in grade 1 and from 16-23 in grade 3. These grades were experienced enrollment that was more significant in first semester. Placement is ongoing and numbers could shift, but currently the class sizes within these grade levels are within District’s guidelines. Families will be contacted by their principal to affirm second semester requests and by mid-January, families will be informed of teacher assignment.

COVID-19 Testing Update - Dr. Cremascoli - District 39 is preparing to launch a COVID-19 screening program in January through Safeguard Screening, the testing program implemented at New Trier High School. This program will provide free weekly saliva-based screening for COVID-19 and will be available to students and staff as an additional layer of mitigation protection. Participation in this program will be optional but strongly encouraged for all in-person students and staff.

Ambry PCR testing for COVID-19 continues to be available through the school nurse office to students and staff who are symptomatic or have known exposure to COVID-19. The district is also preparing to host another Ambry PCR bulk testing event on January 6, 2021 for students and staff who are concerned about exposure, experiencing symptoms, or have traveled. Registration for participation in this event will open on Monday.

Metrics Team Update - Dr. Cremascoli - the Metrics Reopening Advisory Team reviewed the most recent D39 Metrics Dashboard and full report. The Metrics Team discussed COVID-19 testing for students and staff, reviewed internal metrics for staffing and operations, considered metrics of COVID-19 community spread, and discussed future adjustments to ongoing review of metrics. Administration will enhance the District’s live data over the next few weeks and, after winter break, will be revising the information in the weekly metrics report to ensure that the most salient and useful metrics are the focus of the weekly report.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Annual Business

    Five-Year Financial Projections - Mr. Bultemeier - A presentation was provided for the five-year financial projections covering fiscal years 2022 to 2026. The presentation covered the underlying assumptions in the forecast as well as a summary of the Operating Funds for this period. An additional scenario showed how an additional year of COVID-19 expenditures may affect the District’s budget.

BOARD ACTION

The Consent Agenda was approved including the following:

The next Board of Education Meeting will be held on Monday, January 25, 2021 at 7:00 PM at the Mikaelian Education Center.

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