MENDOTA – The State of Illinois has released basic requirements for the opening of schools in August, but a myriad of details surrounding how the new school year will be handled has been left to each individual district. Those decisions will not be easy.
Reporting at the June 25 Mendota Elementary District 289 Board of Education meeting, via Zoom and in-person, Superintendent Dr. Kristen School said the district has been working to prepare for the opening of school. They have also formed a Transition Committee, which includes teacher representatives from each grade level, administrators and parents. The Transition Committee will meet on July 6 to begin preparing the transition plan. Any recommendations made by the committee will have to be approved by the board and School said this information will be communicated with parents and the community.
At this time, the state’s main requirements for returning to face-to-face learning (Phase 4) include:
School noted that the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) wants everyone to have in-person learning. “We all know it is important to have students in the classroom with teachers,” she said. “It’s different to start remote learning in March when teachers and students know each other and have been together all that time than it would be at the start of a new school year with a new teacher.”
The district has received feedback from parents and teachers regarding the re-opening of school. While there is some flexibility in making decisions locally, School emphasized that all districts have to follow the rules from ISBE and IDPH (listed above).
Money received by school districts from the CARES Act was intended to help implement those rules. In District 289, School said this will include more support for remote learning with some type of hybrid instruction a possibility, part time in class and part time remote learning. “Much of our curriculum is already online but we need more training,” she said.
The district has also ordered masks, visors and hand sanitizer, and is looking to lease a temperature scanner. They are also considering a HaloMist machine that would disinfect classrooms without having to wipe everything down and could be moved from room to room.
“We want to be as safe as possible,” School said. “We have been working diligently on this since March and we have looked at everything possible. We’re trying to keep everybody safe and do what will work best for our community.”
School reminded everyone that each family situation is different. The district will have to consider the needs of special education students and of all students during different times of year. “At the start of the year, we need a more ‘hands on’ type of learning,” she said. “There are so many things to juggle. We had to hit the ground running in March and there were struggles.”
With limits on the number of students that can be in the building at the same time, the district now has to figure out a way to balance face-to-face learning with remote learning to create some type of a hybrid. They also have to consider the changes that will mean for transportation.
“We are looking at every aspect of this, but we are not saying this to alarm you,” School emphasized. “We have not set anything in place yet. This is a huge task but we are going to do it.”
In closing, School had one important message for parents. “We need your support!” she said. “There are requirements that we have to have in place, such as wearing masks. As soon as we know more, we will let you know.”
The board approved a one-year suspension of registration fees due to COVID-19. This includes fees for technology and extracurriculars (band, sports). All pre-paid registrations and lunches will be refunded. They also approved support staff handbook changes.
Dr. School shared an overview of the fiscal end-of-year, which showed a deficit of $102,471. This was much less than anticipated due to the impact of COVID-19 and the switch to remote learning.
A presentation was given on the superintendent search, which included survey results for “ideal candidate” qualifications/requirements. Following the presentation, the board voted on final wording for three areas in which there was no strong majority opinion. The board’s decisions included: experience (required), reside in district (strongly preferred), and compensation (regionally competitive).
Following closed session, the board hired Jodi Peterson as director of student services with a three-year contract and beginning salary of $82,500.
Other new hires include: Northbrook – Angela Nondorf, 7th grade reading; Missy Krull, bilingual Pre-K, sub; Shannon Baker, 5th grade paraprofessional; Taylor Schneider, bilingual Pre-K paraprofessional; Christy Galati, 8th grade, special education; Lincoln – Paige Hamill, special education teacher.
Resignations were accepted from Kristian Barajas, Northbrook, special education resource; Wilson Wright, Northbrook, 8th grade math; Selena Kweder, Lincoln, interventionist; and Shannon Baker, district cafeteria.
A leave of absence was approved for Sara Schaefer, Northbrook, 7th grade, special education.
The next regular board meeting, if needed, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 in the District 289 Education Center.