Volume 24, No. 7 | Monday February 1, 2021
News from the January 26, 2021 meeting
Public Health Monitoring Continues
Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt shared the most recent update to the Northfield Township COVID-19 Elementary School Local Public Health Dashboard at the regular board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26., which showed "moderate" community transmission rate for Region 10 of suburban Cook County (7%) and Northfield Township plus adjacent ZIP codes (5.8%) and "minimal" transmission for Northfield Township (4.3%) for the week ending January 23.
When the school year started, the transmission rate for all regions hovered around 4%.
Adaptive Pause After Spring Break
Dr. Hewitt shared the decision to have an adaptive pause to in-person learning for two weeks following spring break with parents in a letter on Monday, Jan. 25.
The letter outlines four factors to the decision. “There was going to be an educational impact on all kids and teachers because of the travel quarantine,” Dr. Hewitt said.
This temporary pivot to remote will be canceled if Cook County’s travel quarantine is eliminated or if a significant number of states and/or countries are removed from the list.
School Fees Set for 2021-22
The district is increasing curriculum fees by $20 next year to help offset the rising costs of educational materials used each year by students. The fee for kindergarten through grade 5 will be $145 and for grades 6-8, it will be $150. District 28’s fees remain below neighboring districts.
The district is also in year two of the transportation fee phase-in. The bus fee for one rider will increase to $464 per year, $361 for a second rider and $258 for a third rider, with no fee for any additional riders per family. There is an additional $10 late registration fee if you sign up for bus services after the due date. Bus fees for Young Explorers will also increase to $747.
All other program fees, such as summer school, Young Explorers, and sixth-grade outdoor education will remain the same.
Strategic Plan Update
Strategic Plan Mid-Year Review
A mid-year review of the district’s strategic plan goals for the year itemizes work specifically targeted around the five goals of Student Growth & Achievement, Learning Environment, Work Environment, Family and Community Connections, and Resources.
Many objectives were modified this year to meet the challenge of providing education in a pandemic.
Goal 1: Student Growth and Achievement
Areas of focus include: enhance English language arts instruction; implement new math curriculum for all grades; revise social studies units; enhance use of technology in instruction and review the physical education curriculum.
Goal 2: Learning Environment
Areas of focus include: Redesign and enlarge the STEM lab at Northbrook Junior High; modify the educational program to support parent choice for in-person or remote learning; explore and update universal screening and progress monitoring tools in math and reading; enhance student system of supports; create a philosophy/vision statement to guide the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

Goal 3: Work Environment
Areas of focus include: Identify areas for professional development and design learning opportunities for staff; provide support for staff and create opportunities for feedback.

Goal 4: Family & Community Connections
Areas of focus include: Enhance communication and information sharing between community and district; and improve technology tools used for outreach to parents and the community.

Goal 5: Resources
Areas of focus include: Evaluate and improve the district’s health, safety, and security systems with specific focus on pandemic mitigation strategies; improve the district’s cybersecurity systems; and, identify short-term and long-term capital improvement projects.
The district will continue to plan for next year with pandemic and post-pandemic strategies. Review the report.
District Finances
Board Reviews ‘Savings’ Account Options
The Board Finance Committee reported on a meeting held this month to focus on rebuilding the district’s fund balance. 

The district’s fund balance, or savings account, has declined in four of the past five years. In three of those years, the spending was planned for improvements and maintenance to the school buildings. In addition, the district paid out a property tax appeal settlement reached with Northbrook Court totaling $3.2 million over three years. This year, the district has spent more than $1.2 million on pandemic-related expenses, including additional staff and mitigation measures to create a safe and healthy in-person learning environment. 

Board policy calls for the district to hold a minimum of 50 percent of the annual budget in reserves. The district ended last fiscal year below that benchmark at 48%, and the additional pandemic spending this year will deplete the balance further.
The district continues to receive the highest rating of Financial Recognition with a score of 3.55 out of a possible 4 by the Illinois State Board of Education based on annual audit reports.  

Chief School Business Official Jessica Donato said based on current assumptions, projections show the district may begin to grow reserves slightly next year. However, if additional staff are still needed due to the pandemic, the district could have another deficit year. The administration is beginning to compile a list of expenses by program.
District Happenings
Science Fair Projects Ignite Lifetime of Curiosity
The annual science fair at Northbrook Junior High was held as scheduled on Saturday, January 23. But instead of a gym filled with students and poster-board displays, the fair was held via Zoom breakout rooms.

For the 41 students who participated in the semester-long Independent Science Research class, this was their time to shine. Much like the in-person science fair, they each presented their projects to two judges and received scores for their knowledge on scientific method, and the quality of their research paper and presentation.

Students explored such topics as leaching of plastics, effects of music on plant growth, water purification, and behavioral studies such as the “effect of genders on lying” and “the effect of organization on mood.” A total of 26 students received a gold award, qualifying them for the Illinois Junior Academy of Science regional competition March 6.

“The science fair was truly the first place where I realized how interested I was in science and its potential for solving some of our world's biggest issues,” said Allison Lau, a junior at Glenbrook North High School who served as a judge this year.
Want to Know More?
Livestream/Archive Video
The Board of Education meetings are live-streamed on the District 28's YouTube Channel. The live streams are also archived for later viewing.

Next Meeting is on February 23
The Board of Education meetings will be held virtually until further notice in order to limit visitors within the school buildings and maintain cleaning protocols. The public is invited to listen to the audio stream of the meeting on the district's YouTube Channel. The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. on February 23.