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Highlights of the September 24 Board of Education Meeting

Board of Education President Robin Cleek recognized staff, administrators and parents for helping to keep the remote learning momentum going and finding ways to continuously improve the process. She felt that overall, the effort was going smoothly. 

District Superintendent Dr. Hannigan also thanked Hawthorn community members for their support, patience and cooperation as he provided an update on the District’s remote learning plan. He said the District was following specific Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines when considering when to reopen buildings, including the 6-foot social distancing requirement. This requirement presents a challenge as it means that each classroom can only accommodate from 9 to 15 students and each bus (that can normally accommodate 75 students) can only accommodate about 20 students. 

The District is using metrics provided by IDPH and the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium that will help school districts determine when it is safe to reopen schools. These metrics identify mild, moderate, and substantial community spread parameters, and are aligned with instructional model recommendations for schools. 

At present, the metrics correspond to a hybrid model. While this is subject to change based on infection rates and other factors, the District has developed a preliminary plan to gradually transition groups of students to in-person instruction, starting with the District’s youngest learners. The District will continue to offer an option for students to remain fully remote. A tentative timeline for phasing in students to in-person learning is below. 

  • Oct. 26: Early Childhood Students Return to Learning (Hybrid Model) 
  • Nov. 9: Pre-K Students and K-2 Students in Self-Contained Special Education Return to Learning (Hybrid Model)
  •  Nov. 30: All K-2 Students and 3-8 Students in Self-Contained Special Education Return to Learning (Hybrid Model) 
  • Jan. 4: All 3-8 Grade Students Return to Learning (Hybrid Model) 

Outlines of each phase will be presented for review at Board meetings on October 15, November 12, and December 10. The process will be accelerated or slowed down depending on metrics and guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Ms. Cleek reminded the community that social workers are available for any child who may be experiencing emotional difficulties or challenges during the current remote learning plan. 

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Adam Palmer provided the Annual Tenth Day Enrollment Report. He said that the District has hired 31 new certified staff, including 22 elementary and nine middle school teachers. The six-year ten-day enrollment trend is as follows: 2015: 4,212; 2016: 4,207; 2017: 4,256; 2018: 4,065; 2019: 3,955; and 2020: 3,748. Mr. Palmer said the decrease in attendance in 2020 may possibly be due to parents’ decisions related to COVID-19. He also gave an update on class size averages. The general class size average of grades K-5 is 22.5 students per classroom, while the average class size of core middle school classrooms is 24.5 students. The District will continue to monitor numbers for the remainder of the school year to ensure appropriate staffing levels.

Director of Instructional Technology John Reid provided a presentation on amendments to the Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA). SOPPA protects the privacy and security of student data when collected by companies operating websites, online services or online/mobile applications primarily used for K-12 school purposes. Effective July 1, 2021, districts will be required, among other things, to post a list of operators with which the District has written agreements, copies of these agreements, and other information about such operators on the school’s website; as well as to notify students and parents of any breach of student data. 

Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business Operations LeeAnn Taylor provided an update on amendments to the custodial contract with GSF. The District is in its second year of a contract with GSF. Several changes have been discussed, including:

  •  Increasing the minimum wage.
  • Adding 5 hours to the current 35-hour work week for evening staff.
  •  Purchasing industry standard equipment.
  • Coordinating with GSF leadership to have staff onsite during winter and spring break as needed. 

The amended contract will be presented to the Board of Education for formal action at the October 15 meeting. 

In his Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Hannigan spoke about the Hawthorn Key to 73 Foundation’s current fundraising efforts. He said the Foundation played a key role in providing the funding to help students access technology during remote learning in the spring. It is now working to raise $30,000 to continue to help students secure Wi-Fi capabilities. For more information, visit: http://keyto73foundation.org.