Volume 24, No. 4 | Friday October 30, 2020
News from the October 27, 2020 meeting
Holiday Survey to Help District Determine
Next Steps for In-Person Learning
With the increased number of positive COVID-19 cases regionally and locally, as well as the upcoming holiday seasons where families typically travel and gather in larger groups, the District is contemplating whether or not in-person instruction should temporarily transition to remote learning to allow for a natural quarantine period for our onsite students and staff.  

While the health metrics will play a large part in the decision, it is also important for the District to understand how many families of in-person learners are planning to gather for Thanksgiving and/or winter break with people other than their nuclear family, whether in-state or out-of-state. A survey of in-person families will be conducted next week to help inform the decision. The District must not only consider the potential spread of COVID-19 but must also weigh the impact on the daily operations of the schools if large numbers of students and staff are required to quarantine. 
Special Board Meeting
A special meeting of the Board of Education will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 to determine the best course of action.
Report Cards Change from Trimesters to Semesters
As the district prepares to ask parents to select either remote or in-person instruction for their children for the second half of the school year, administrators are preparing for changes to class rosters. Therefore, they are adjusting the timing of report cards. 

The district is moving to semester report cards for this year only - with one report card for the first semester, ending Jan. 15, and one at the end of the school year. This will align grading periods with any potential changes between remote and in-person learning. New class placements will go into effect at the start of the second semester, which is Jan. 19 following the Martin Luther King holiday.

Second Semester Learning Choice Survey Nov. 10-17
Parents will be asked to select in-person or fully remote learning for the second half of the school year in a survey conducted between Nov. 10 and Nov. 17.
2020-21 Finances
District Gets A+ on Financial Reporting
An independent auditor gave District 28’s financial reporting the highest level of assurance after the 2020 audit. This designation means there are no shortcomings in how the district processes finances and that all the proper checks and balances are in place.

Tim Gavin of Lauterbach & Amen LLP shared the firm’s findings with the Board of Education. The audit also provides an evaluation of the district’s financial position. While the district is in sound financial health, the district did experience a $2 million reduction in the fund reserves, with $16 million remaining ‘unrestricted’ – or available to use at the board’s discretion. Board policy requires the district to maintain reserves equal to 50-75% of the annual budget. The 20-21 budget results in reserves slightly lower than that benchmark due to increased spending on staffing and supplies related to the pandemic. Additionally, fund reserves were used to pay for building improvements made over the summer at Meadowbrook School and Northbrook Junior High. Improvements included a new HVAC control system for Meadowbrook and a classroom renovation at NBJH to create a larger STEM lab. 
Property Tax Levy Tied to Inflation
Each year, the district files a tax levy request with the Cook County Clerk for funds that will be applied to the following year’s budget. For 2020, the district is requesting $39,060,000 in property tax revenue. This represents a 4.99% increase over the previous year, according to Chief School Business Official Jessica Donato.
 
State law restricts school districts from requesting property taxes, known as the tax levy, to be no more than the CPI or 5%, whichever is less, plus new property growth in the district. The state law is commonly referred to as the tax cap law. The CPI, or inflation rate, is a measure of price changes in consumer goods and services set by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The December 2019 CPI of 2.3% is used for the 2020 levy calculation.
 
Mrs. Donato said the revenues from new developments are the only other source to increase the amount of property tax revenue that the district receives. The district must over-estimate the levy request in order to capture all potential new property growth, which is why the request is always higher than the CPI. The county assessor determines the actual amount paid to the district after all property is assessed. Property taxes provide about 86 percent of the district’s total revenues.
 
Last year, the tax levy request was $37.4 million but the district actually received $37.2 million because of the tax cap law.

The board will take a final vote of the levy at its Dec. 15 meeting.

Building Improvement Plan Targets Roofs

The Buildings and Grounds Committee presented a ten-year capital improvement plan with specific recommendations for the 2021-22 school year.

The district spent $334,020 in 2020-21, with most of the work completed this past summer, including tuck-pointing and HVAC controls at Meadowbrook, replacement of a walk-in cooler/freezer for the NBJH cafeteria, and a classroom renovation for a new STEM lab at NBJH.

Next year, Greenbriar will require roof repairs, HVAC control upgrades, and new carpeting in the media center. At NBJH, roof repairs and HVAC control upgrades are planned, and minor roof repairs are planned at Westmoor. The total estimated cost of improvements is $431,665. This type of expense is typically drawn from the district’s fund reserves.
In Brief
eLearning Plan Provides Snow Day Option

The Board of Education approved an eLearning Plan that will allow, but not require, the district to hold school remotely instead of canceling school for intermittent circumstances such as inclement weather. The Board conducted a public hearing on the plan during the regular meeting. The plan requires five hours of instruction or school work for each student. The district must ensure all students have access to electronic communication and other non-electronic materials required to participate. Dr. Hewitt said additional details will be worked out before an eLearning day would be put into practice. Canceling school is still an option, depending on circumstances, but would result in an instructional day being added to the school calendar in June.

Cooperative Offers Wrestling Program

District 28 will continue participation in a cooperative with Districts 27, 30, 31 and 34 in order to provide an opportunity for students to participate in a school wrestling program. The cooperative is valid for two years, though it is unlikely that there will be a wrestling season in 2020-21. Maple School will continue to host the sport.

State Grant to Fund Library Materials

Northbrook Junior High will purchase a combination of eBooks, digital audiobooks, and physical books with a $1,326 Illinois School Library Media Program grant. Demand for digital books has rapidly expanded among fully remote learners as well as in-person learners. Digital materials are significantly more expensive than physical books, which has put a strain on the library's materials budget. 

Last year's grant of $1,317.75 was awarded to the Westmoor library, which utilized the funds to purchase flexible seating furniture. The grant funds are rotated among the district’s four schools.
Want to Know More?
Livestream/Archive Video
The Board of Education meetings are live-steamed on the District 28's YouTube Channel. The live streams are also archived for later viewing.

Next Meeting is November 10
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. Attention: There is a special board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. November 10. The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. November 24.