Volume 24, No. 3 |Friday September 25, 2020
News from the September 22, 2020 meeting
Band/Orchestra/Choir Rehearsals Underway
The elementary and junior high bands and orchestras, along with the junior high chorus, started large group rehearsals the week of Sept. 7. This was accomplished outdoors with special masks, bell covers for instruments and socially distant seating. Both Remote Learning Academy students and in-person students have the option to participate. The music department is also continuing small group lessons for in-person and remote learning students.
 
A total of 168 students in grades 4 - 8 are participating in band, 198 in orchestra covering grades 3 - 8, and 57 in the choir representing grades 6-8. The elementary children’s choir is being held remotely and has 70 students in grades 3-5.
Township Elementary Districts Monitor COVID-19

The Northfield Township elementary district superintendents have developed draft metrics by which to monitor community health conditions. The dashboard is intended to help guide discussions with the Cook County Department of Public health to determine if there are deteriorating community health conditions that would warrant the proactive closure of schools as a mitigation strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19.
 
The dashboard includes four metrics of COVID-19 cases based on three different regions, Region 10 Suburban Cook County, Northfield Township, Northbrook Township plus adjacent ZIP codes. Data will be tracked for each region on the following metrics:
  • Weekly Cases per 100,000
  • Weekly Positivity Rate
  • Weekly Overall Case Number Increase
  • Weekly Youth Case Number Increase
 
“There is not a formula associated with this table. Rather it provides information which we will use in discussions with the Cook County Department of Public Health to help determine if schools should close proactively to address deteriorating community health conditions that might occur at some point in the future,” said Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt.
 
Additionally, District 28 is monitoring absences in the following categories:
  • Experiencing COVID-like symptoms
  • Quarantine due to close contact with a COVID-19 case
  • Quarantine due to travel to high-incidence states
  • Positive COVID-19 case

This data will be used to supplement the wider-area dashboard data to monitor health conditions within the schools.
 
District Wrestles with a Handful of Large Classes

Administrators continue to search for solutions to alleviating a few large class sizes that resulted from the complexities of scheduling in-person and remote learning along with accommodating students who moved into the district at the beginning of the school year.

At the junior high, Principal Dr. Scott Meek has been working to identify ways to redistribute some students to reduce the class size for world language, language arts and social studies classes.

“This problem has been frustrating for all of us. As we try one solution, we either end up moving the problem to another department or creating a new problem,” Dr. Hewitt said. 

Dr. Meek is continuing to look for solutions within the schedule but is also seeking part-time teachers to help alleviate the overflow. 

“We will cast as wide a net as we can. However, we want to ensure that our students receive the best instruction possible. While not ideal, students may be better off in a larger class with a District 28 teacher who knows our curriculum. If we can find qualified candidates, we will hire them,” Dr. Hewitt said. 
Work Continues on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan
How do we define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)? What are our values regarding DEI as a district? What do we commit to? And, how do we bring this to life? These are the essential questions that will be tackled this year with the support of a nationally recognized consultant who has facilitated diversity work in both public and private school districts across the country.

This work was scheduled to begin last spring as part of the district’s Navigate 28 strategic plan but was halted during due to the pandemic.

The Board approved a revised contract with Alison Park of BLINK consulting to resume the effort this fall. A smaller ‘workgroup’ will tackle the guiding questions and draft language that captures their intent. A second larger group of staff, parents, and students will provide feedback to refine and focus the language. Once the DEI statement is defined, an implementation plan will be developed.

The DEI workgroup is expected to meet up to eight times over the next few months on this initiative. Alison also conducted a virtual professional development workshop for staff over the summer on antiracism that had over 120 participants
2020-21 Budget
District Reserves Dip
Due to Pandemic Expenses
 
Family savings accounts are sometimes referred to as ‘rainy day’ funds. They are insurance against unexpected expenses, used for a big purchase or home improvements.
 
This year, the District 28’s savings account its fund balance – is being tapped for a deluge of expenses related to opening school in a pandemic.
 
The district has spent more than $1 million to reopen, including PPE and cleaning supplies, outdoor wifi enhancement and tents, health certification software, offsite storage, additional teachers, health aides, custodians and teacher stipends for extra duties. Capital projects of $400,000 were also completed this summer, including a new STEM lab at the junior high and updated HVAC system controls at Meadowbrook. The pandemic expenses, capital projects and contingency funds result in a $2 million deficit in the $45 million spending budget. If contingency funds are not used, then the projected deficit stands at $1.2 million.
 
In presenting the 2020-21 budget report, Chief School Business Official Jessica Donato, said while the fund balances declined, the district’s finances remain sufficient to support the necessary, temporary deficit spending.
 
Board policy requires the district to maintain fund balances of 50% to 75% of the annual budget. This year’s spending will draw the balance below the 50% threshold. The board approved the 2020-21 budget and agreed to have the board finance committee provide projections on how to rebuild the fund balance.
 
Other economic factors that may impact future budgets include changes to the state funding formula, a possible shift of teacher pension liabilities from the state to the district, low-interest earnings on investments, uncertain federal funding and potential development of the former Green Acres golf course.
In Brief
e-Learning Plan to be Updated for Snow Days
While the district is authorized to operate remote learning under the governor’s disaster proclamation, the district needs to update its plan to utilize e-learning in the case if a snow day or other intermittent situation.

Previously, if school closed for an emergency, those days were made up at the end of the year. The district will hold a public hearing at the October 27 board meeting to review the revised plan to utilize e-learning in lieu of a future emergency day.

District Receives State Recognition for Communications

District 28 communications were recognized with two awards in the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association’s annual Communications Contest. A virtual recognition ceremony was held on September 11. 

Dr. Larry Hewitt, Superintendent; Dr. Kris Raitzer, Assistant Superintendent; Michelle Jackson, Director of Learning; and Terry Ryan, APR, Communications Director were recognized with the Golden Achievement Award of Merit, for the yearlong effort, “Parent Understanding and Support for Educational Programs-#28Empowers.”  

An Award of Excellence was awarded for a special purpose publication, the Curriculum Guide. The Curriculum Guide was redesigned in 2019 by Terry Ryan to provide parents with a user-friendly comprehensive review of learning standards and curriculum by grade. Specific content for each grade was developed by Kris Raitzer and Michelle Jackson and reviewed by each grade-level teaching team.
 
Professional Development Expanded to Meet Demand
Many teachers used the summer to expand their knowledge, enhance their instructional practice, or work on refining the curriculum.
 
Due to the demand for increased preparation for the unique school year ahead, eight additional professional development sessions were added this past summer for a total of 48, with 238 registrations. In addition, teacher teams initiated 23 curriculum projects to support enhancements and adaptations for the coming year.
 
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 October 27
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: The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. October 27.