Board Briefs: July 2020

Dear District 58 Community:

While this edition of Board Briefs summarizes the July 13 regular Board meeting, please note that the Board of Education is scheduled to meet again in special session on July 30 at 5 p.m. to further consider the specifics of a fall learning plan. The agenda for the special meeting will be posted at least 48 hours before the meeting.

The District 58 Board of Education held a regular business meeting on Monday, July 13, 2020 at the Downers Grove Village Hall and via YouTube livestream. View the agenda and presentation links. Click here to access the meeting video. Highlights from the meeting include:

Spotlight on our Schools: Update from the Remote Learning Task Force

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Justin Sisul provided an update on the most current guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) and the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD), as well as the culmination of the work of the District 58 Remote Learning Task Force, a group comprised of 80 teachers, staff, parents, community members and administrators. The task force was charged with reviewing feedback from the spring remote learning surveys, as well as current guidance, to determine the questions and areas of consideration for each potential return-to-school scenario.

Beginning on June 9, the task force met for a series of meetings, both as a whole and split into four working groups (Remote Learning; Blended Learning; Onsite Learning; and Health, Safety and Well-being). Considerations discussed by the working groups included communication; instructional practices; social-emotional learning and needs; logistics; guidance from ISBE/IDPH (released on June 23); personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings; protocols for sick staff members or students; transportation; cleaning protocols; instructional safety. The task force recognized the importance of onsite instruction with the acknowledgement of safety needs during this time, and understood the difficult nature of decision making.

Dr. Russell summarized the most current guidance available from ISBE, IDPH and DCHD. In-person, blended, or remote instruction are all permissible if they can be accomplished safely within the guidelines. In-person learning is strongly encouraged for children under 13, but districts must be prepared to shift to remote learning should circumstances warrant. Under any of the three models, the instructional day must be five clock hours and students are expected to attend daily. Social distancing of six feet and the use of appropriate PPE, including masks, is required, as well as symptom screenings, temperature checks, or self-certification. An increase in school-wide cleaning and disinfection is also required.

The District’s decision-making priorities include student and staff safety, instructional needs, equity, students with special needs, adherence to guidelines, and impact on District families and staff. Any onsite instruction will need to include six-foot distancing; wearing of masks; temperature checks; eliminating small groups at tables; minimizing student movement throughout the building; consideration of the physical proximity of teacher to students during instruction; and scheduling considerations such as outdoor mask breaks, staggering recesses, and middle school class schedules. Planning at this time is for the first trimester, and includes a continuum of possibilities, from fully remote to blended learning (partially onsite, partially remote) to modified onsite instruction.

The administration recommended that a modified onsite model be pursued, where all students and staff are onsite five days a week. Some features of this model:

  • Nearly all spaces would be utilized to accomplish smaller class sizes and six-foot spacing of student desks 
  • Outdoor spaces would be used as much as possible
  • Students would remain in a cohort and not move throughout the building unless absolutely necessary
  • Certified staff may teach in different roles to accommodate additional grade-level sections
  • Some grade levels or sections may need to be moved to other school buildings with more space
  • Middle school teachers would move classrooms more often than students

Further planning with District staff is necessary to determine the specific details of this plan and its feasibility at each school. Concurrently, details of a blended learning plan and fully remote plan must also be developed as the District must be prepared to shift its model of instruction in response to changing circumstances. 

View the presentation.

After significant discussion and extensive public comment, the Board voted to approve the recommendation for modified onsite instruction, which will allow the administration to take the following next steps:

  • Form working groups with staff to plan for all scenarios (including blended and remote)
  • Survey staff and families on components of the plan
  • Develop forms for staff and families to submit questions that will be answered via FAQ, livestream and recorded sessions
  • Schedule a special Board meeting to finalize big details (feasibility of all plans, school hours, start date, shifting grade levels between schools)
  • Share a final plan at the regular August meeting

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell provided the Board with information and updates, including:

  • COVID-19 and Current Events: On behalf of District 58, Dr. Russell thanked the students, staff, and community for their patience, guidance, and flexibility as the District reconfigures plans for fall while prioritizing the safety and well-being of our students and staff. The District will strictly follow the guidance provided by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the DuPage County Health Department as it makes decisions. 
  • Finance: The District is busy preparing the budget for FY 21, which will be affected by COVID-19. The District will present the tentative budget in August and then seek final approval from the Board in September. The budget may require amendment during the course of the year depending on the District’s needs due to the pandemic.
  • Facilities: Summer projects are progressing in a normal fashion. Bigger projects like the gym floor at Highland and playgrounds at Lester and Henry Puffer are on schedule. This week, Henry Puffer School is completing the community build project thanks to its hardworking volunteers.
  • Personnel: At the June Board meeting, the administration engaged in significant conversations regarding enrollment and class size. Given the shifting guidance on reopening schools, Dr. Russell requested that the conversation be tabled until August to allow the administration to work with staff on the plan for next school year. It would be premature to finalize class sizes at this point when the final model for school has yet to be determined.

Business Report

Assistant Superintendent for Business Todd Drafall reported that a balanced budget is unlikely for the upcoming year. The District will begin budget planning for the following year in October to help mitigate resource limitations in the future. The Medical Reserve Fund is in a more positive position than in previous years, due in part to the active work to reduce costs by the Health and Wellness Committee, as well as the reduction in normal medical expenses in the last few months. A health insurance premium rate increase is expected in January. 

Committee Reports

Dr. Russell reported that although the Policy Committee did not meet in June, a single policy is recommended to the Board for first reading. This policy, 5:222, Tutoring/Professional Service Providers, was inadvertently omitted from the Pending Adoption Board Policy Manual, which the Board approved later in the meeting.

President Darren Hughes reported on the June 12 Financial Advisory Committee meeting. The current state of the District’s finances is beginning to look different due to the pandemic than was previously forecast. Health care costs have been down due to fewer health care visits. The HSA plan now has enough members to provide sufficient data for future forecasting. Revenue from property taxes and other state funding is expected to decrease in the next couple of years. Although the District will soon receive funds from the expiring Downtown Downers Grove tax increment financing district (TIF), there are also urgent facility needs expected to arise. 

President Hughes also reported on the July 8 District Leadership Team meeting. Although this committee is typically charged with reviewing progress toward the District’s strategic goals, the team of administrators, bargaining association leaders, staff and parents held a summer meeting to review the ISBE and IDPH guidance and the work of the Remote Learning Task Force. 

The Legislative Committee and Health and Wellness Committee have not met since the last Board meeting.

During the Meeting, the Board Also:

  • Approved minutes from the June 8 Regular Meeting and June 22 Special Meeting.
  • Approved all items presented in the consent agenda.
  • Approved the revised Board Policy Manual.
  • Approved the renewal of the agreement for before and after school care with Champions for the coming year. View memo.
  • Approved the contract extension of 4.3% with Sunrise Transportation for special education transportation. View memo.
  • Set the cost for a reimbursable paid lunch at $3.00 for the 2020-21 school year. View memo.
  • Designated as surplus equipment seven kilns, a snowblower, a tractor, two compressors and a table saw. View memo. Kilns remain at both middle schools, but due to several factors, including costs to repair and properly vent, as well as work toward a more consistent elementary art curriculum across the District, kilns are being removed from elementary buildings.
  • Approved the District 58 Consolidated District Plan, which is the application for all state and federal grants including Title I, Title II, Title III, Title IV and IDEA. View memo.
  • Approved the purchase of 170 iPads and cases. View memoView quote.

Upcoming Events

  • Thursday, July 30, 5 p.m.: Special Board Meeting at the Downers Grove Village Hall
  • Friday, August 7 at 7 a.m.: Financial Advisory Committee Meeting at the ASC
  • Monday, August 10 at 7 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting at the Downers Grove Village Hall

District 58 Board of Education members are: Darren Hughes, president; Gregory Harris, vice president; Kirat Doshi, Emily Hanus, Steven Olczyk, Jill Samonte and Tracy Weiner, with Dr. Kevin Russell, superintendent; and Melissa Jerves, board secretary.