Volume 23, No. 10 | Friday, May 1, 2020
News from the April 28, 2020 meeting
Remote Learning a Journey for All
At the Board of Education’s second audio-only virtual meeting since the outbreak of COVID-19, Superintendent Larry Hewitt opened the meeting with an update on Remote Learning and plans to close out the school year.

“This has been an incredible experience for all of us – educators, students, and families,” said Dr. Hewitt. “Teachers continue to put in hours and hours to take the curriculum they used to have and transform it into new assignments and learning experiences for their kids at home. I am personally thankful for this ongoing effort. It’s not perfect, but with everything, we try to make sure it's sound, and we make adjustments along the way.”

Dr. Hewitt noted that the school district, along with others in the township, will follow the governor’s orders and guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding summer school and opening for the next school year.
Updates include:
School Calendar The ISBE has granted school districts five non-instructional planning days that can be used between March 31 and the end of the school year. These are considered the same as Teacher Institute Days. District 28 will use only three of the five days. The most productive days for students will be earlier in the trimester, so these institute days will be placed at the very end of the year – June 1, 2, and 3. The last remote learning day will be May 29.  
During these institute days, our teachers and administration will have many important training sessions and tasks to complete, including:
  • Initial training for elementary/NBJH math teachers on new curricular materials
  • NBJH language arts department curriculum work
  • Report cards
  • Reporting progress on IEP goals
  • Special education department planning for Extended School Year
  • Preparation for the 2020-21 school year

Summer School Unfortunately, another casualty of the pandemic is summer school.  Parents who signed up for summer school classes will receive a refund. There is not enough time to develop remote learning summer school classes, and most importantly, there are very pressing matters related to starting up school again on August 19th that demand full attention.  All of the district’s time and resources this summer are going toward the following:  1) teacher training in curriculum areas, most notably for the new math program, and instructional practices; 2) improving various aspects of remote learning; and 3) building contingency plans to address different scenarios for next year’s school term.
Different for Everyone – We remain mindful that this is a challenging time for our teachers who are trying to completely revamp how they teach and for our families, who have different environments at home, given the age and number of their children and whether or not one or both parents are working. We are supporting our teachers and our families through this challenging new landscape.
Preparing for an Uncertain Future – Our hope is that school will resume as normal in August. In the meantime, the district will be assessing the remote learning experience in order to plan for next year and the possibility schools do not open or are forced to close later in the year if there is another wave of illness. Summer curriculum work will include an evaluation of remote learning with feedback from teachers and families, as well as looking to experts in the field of remote learning to help prepare for the next school year.
Math Program Review
New Textbooks and Resources Coming Next Year
New math textbooks and resources will be implemented across all grades, the result of this year’s in-depth review of math curriculum by more than 50 teachers, including representation from early childhood through high school, and administrators who participated on the Math Committee.
When researching curriculum resources, the committee split into elementary and junior high subcommittees and used specific parameters to evaluate the various publishers, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kris Raitzer. In addition, members of the committee visited schools where curriculum programs were already implemented. Parent meetings were held at the elementary level before schools were closed due to the pandemic, which provided valuable feedback on the home-school connection aspects of the two finalists, Dr. Raitzer said.

Junior High Adds Math Minutes to School Day
When in-person learning returns next school year, Northbrook Junior High students will be following a schedule that increases math instruction minutes.

The change is one of the outcomes of the Math Program Review. The Math Committee determined that the rigor of math learning standards, three levels of classes, and the student-centered learning model require more time than the current 40-minute per day the junior high math schedule allows. A survey of 21 area junior highs showed that over 60% of  the schools have at least 60 minutes of math instruction per day.

Changing a master schedule is very complex and complicated due to the interconnectedness of so many components. After comparing the schedules of 21 local junior highs, consulting with a national expert in master scheduling, and surveying staff, the administration presented four scheduling scenarios with variations at the February Board meeting. All options had pros and cons. However, three of the four schedules would have significant, negative ramifications for students and teachers in several areas.  They would have reduced time for science, social studies, and world language; eliminated teachers’ ability to jointly plan instruction; eliminated x-block; eliminated interventions for math and language arts; and/or eliminated the ability of core teachers to focus their time and energy on one grade level curriculum and set of students. 
There was only one master schedule model that kept all of these important and beneficial components of our current schedule intact. It requires that math and language arts be blocked on alternate days – 40 minutes one day and 80 minutes the next, thereby providing an average of 60 minutes per day for each subject over the course of the school year.  An additional benefit is the double block of instructional time for both content areas. 
However, this model had one major drawback:  language arts would lose 20 minutes of time per day.  This was deemed not acceptable, so the administration began exploring ways to reduce this impact. The best way to do this for the entirety of the NBJH instructional program is to make two changes.  One is to shift some language arts classroom time spent on independent reading to homework, and the second is to replace cooking and sewing classes with language arts-focused exploratory classes. 
A survey of Northfield Township school districts shows that none of the middle schools offer sewing classes, while Districts 30 and 31 offer cooking classes, but Districts 27 and 34 do not.  The decision to select cooking and sewing was made, in part, because it would be the easiest of the exploratory classes to replicate in summer school, which will be explored as an option for the future. Dr. Hewitt reviewed the possibility of eliminating the cooking and sewing classes at the March 19 board meeting, including providing notice to the affected teacher of the possible schedule change.
The new English language arts courses will be aligned to learning standards and developed over the summer. Some initial ideas that were shared as examples include debate, journalism, speech, poetry, and creative writing. 

Dr. Hewitt said these changes were deemed to be the most effective ways to increase math an average of 20 minutes per day; maintain almost everything that is advantageous about the current master schedule; and reduce the instructional impact on language arts.

The board agreed it is unfortunate to lose the cooking and sewing classes but this was the best overall solution given the need to increase math instructional time, while also limiting the impact on language arts time. The sewing classroom space will be renovated over the summer to expand the STEM lab, while the cooking space will be converted into a regular classroom.
In Brief
New Staff Hired for 2020-21
The Board of Education approved hiring seven teachers for the 2020-21 school year.

New hires include Samuel Fishman, Northbrook Junior High Special Education; Jamie Flood, 3rd grade Meadowbrook; Lauren Israel, 1st grade Meadowbrook; Molly Montes, 1st grade Greenbriar; Killeen Nass, 5th grade Meadowbrook; Diane Stein, art at Meadowbrook; and Collin Sylvano, 4th grade Westmoor. See the teachers bios.

HVAC System Upgrade Approved for Meadowbrook
A total of four contractors submitted bids for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning control system upgrade for Meadowbrook School.
Interactive Building Solutions was awarded the contract with lowest bid. Work will begin this summer and is being monitored by Wight & Company architects.
Parent Communications System Upgrade Approved
The board approved a plan to update the district website, develop a mobile app and integrate the notification system. The plan was developed by Communications Director Terry Ryan after a parent communication survey last fall indicated a high desire for a mobile app among parents. Members of the Communications Advisory Committee (CAC) and a small group of staff members participated in the selection process by reviewing existing mobile apps and websites operated by three vendor finalists. The CAC and staff members will provide additional input on design and navigation of the website and mobile app as it is developed. The new system is expected to launch by the end of August. 
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 May 19
Attention: The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 19. It is expected to be an audio-only virtual meeting, which will be streamed live on the district's YouTube Channel.
#28Empowers #Innovate28
District 28’s official hashtags! You can search the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to monitor posts from teachers, administrators and the district accounts. These hashtags help us tell the story of Teaching, Learning and Caring in District 28 and the innovative teaching and learning around Learning First.