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Highlights of the May 21, 2020 Board of Education Meeting

On behalf of the Board of Education, Board President Robin Cleek thanked staff for organizing the curbside pick-up events. She also reminded the community about the wide variety of activities and accomplishments that took place this school year prior to the pandemic and the shift to remote learning. Her list of highlights included Dr. Hannigan’s arrival as the new superintendent and Elementary South’s designation as a National Blue Ribbon School. She thanked everyone for their hard work and dedication. 

Ted Haug with Legat Architects reviewed the schematic design for Elementary South. The Legat team met with building users to verify and reevaluate plans that were originally designed by DLR. While the original plan called for expansions in several different areas, Legat recommended locating all the additions in one area. He also discussed alternates, such as moving the main entrance of the building to the new addition, switching the Learning Resource Center with the administration area, new courtyard amenities and solar panels. The bids will determine whether some or all of the alternates are considered. The project is currently on budget and is approximately one month ahead of schedule. 

John Reid, Director of Instructional Technology, presented a proposal outlining device purchase recommendations for the 2020-2021 school year. Many of the District’s devices have reached the end of their life cycles. He proposed retiring some devices and purchasing a specific number of new devices for students and staff. For students, Chromebooks would be allocated to grades 4-8 at a 1:1 ratio. iPads would be allocated to grades K-3 at a 3:1 ratio. iPads would be allocated to Early Childhood and Pre-K. Older model Chromebooks would be allocated to maintain two carts at each elementary building and an inventory of approximately 300 devices for repair/replacement loaners across the district. 

Allison Stein, Director of Teaching and Learning, provided an update on the Guaranteed Viable Curriculum (GVC) Leadership Team. This initiative provides a system for teachers to collaborate and bring consistency and unity to the curriculum in our District. She reviewed the team’s progress over five sessions, in which the team members shared ideas and made decisions to benefit student learning and growth. For the 2020-21 school year, the team will be moved to maintenance mode with the goal to refine their work and support consistent implementation across the district. A second GVC Leadership Team will be launched with a focus on different content areas.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, reported on the results of the food service bid. The approval process is overseen and regulated by ISBE. The District received two bids. The lowest bidder was Arbor, which has been providing services to the District for the past five years. This will be an action item at the June board meeting. 

Adam Palmer, Director of Human Resources, provided an update on the staffing plan for the 2020-2021 school year. At this time, the District has had 14 resignations, one request for a leave of absence and seven retirees. Offers have been extended to five candidates. The School for Young Learners is fully staffed. The human resources team is working diligently to fill 13 teacher vacancies. The pandemic has not slowed down the hiring process. 

Mr. Singh provided an update on construction projects. The Hawthorn School for Young Learners is under budget and on schedule. The building recently qualified for the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program, which will lead to substantial savings. The District was unable to move forward with the solar panels, but will reapply next year. The building is at 95% completion. The COVID-19 situation caused some factory delays, including the delivery of partitions and kitchen equipment. Mr. Singh also provided an update on Middle School North, which is currently on schedule and under budget. 

Dr. Hannigan said staff members have been busily preparing a series of curbside pick-up and drop off events at each school. Staff is in the process of finalizing plans for a virtual promotion ceremony that will look like a traditional ceremony with speeches and student recognition. A video release party will take place later in June. The last day of school for eighth grade students is June 3. Staff is planning a lot of fun activities for eighth grade students during the last week. The District launched a Return to Learning Committee of 23 individuals. The committee includes district and building administration, teaching staff, building and grounds staff, transportation and food services. The group is exploring options for the continuation of school in the fall. The District has not yet received instructions from the state, but is looking at three different models for the fall: an in–person model with safeguards in place; a hybrid approach that would include both in-person and remote learning; and continuing with a more enhanced version of remote learning. 

In her President’s Report, Ms. Cleek mentioned that parents had been contacting her with their thoughts about how the District should move forward in the fall. She said that people should feel free to email the Board, but most of the plans and decisions for the fall will be driven by the state, not by the Board. In June, the District will distribute a survey to receive feedback from families.

The list of action items included a contribution of $80,000 to the Vernon Hills Park District to facilitate less impacted pick up and drop off staging at the park district parking lot. The Board unanimously approved the contribution.