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New Trier High School District 203 convened a special Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to discuss expanding the in-person instruction currently provided to students.

Wednesday District 220 emailed the following notice to the community:

“Over the past couple of weeks, the district has been looking at the possibility of using COVID-19 testing as one additional component of several virus mitigation efforts. At the Dec. 1 Board meeting, the Board decided it would not consider using COVID-19 testing at this time due to high costs and the fact that it would not be a full proof [sic] measure in preventing the spread of the virus.  Click here to watch the Board’s full discussion about COVID-19 testing.

New Trier Township High School District 203 did not hesitate at all when in October they announced, “…they will pay up to $1.3 million to conduct COVID-19 saliva screenings for students and staff.” As a result of their proactive measures, some students are back in classroom today, December 4.

Further, Tuesday night when the 220 Board of Education was meeting via Zoom, New Trier had a special meeting at their “grown-ups tables (seen above),” including 24 people in attendance for public comment, for the purpose of considering expanding their in-person instruction plans (seeCiting confidence in saliva-based COVID-19 screening protocol, New Trier to consider expansion of in-person instruction”).

Clearly there is a difference in philosophy and perhaps abilities when considering the superintendents of the two Districts.

Dr. Paul Sally, Superintendent Northfield Campus of District 203, holds a B.S. from Yale University, an M.S. from Northwestern University, and an Ed.D. from National Louis University. His qualifications and responsibilities can be found here.

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools, Barrington 220 Community Unit School District, holds, “his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and his master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.” Harris has more of a resume than a list of qualifications, and it can be viewed here.

We have had concerns about Harris, especially when things hit the corona fan at the beginning of this year. He seems to take too much guidance from Springfield and way too little if any from the Board, parents, students and taxpayers.

Now that the Board of Education is interviewing candidates to fill Harris’ shoes, we have some simple advice: aim higher when considering a replacement for Harris. Much higher.

Related: New Trier expected to expand in-person instruction in January 2021

A recording of the New Trier Board of Education meeting Tuesday night can be viewed here.

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In all, there were 16 schools statewide in the past month that were identified as having experienced an outbreak of the coronavirus, according to state records. “It’s safe to keep schools open,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson of University of Chicago Medical Center.

Even as the region enters its worst period of the pandemic thus far, the vast majority of public and private schools in the Chicago area that have reopened in some capacity this fall have had little confirmed exposure to the coronavirus in the past month, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state data.

A small fraction of schools have had outbreaks where virus transmission has been traced to school buildings, while high schools have shown to be more likely to experience COVID-19 scares than elementary schools, records show.

Those findings match nationwide figures showing relatively low instances of significant spread in educational settings, especially among younger students, and provide some insight into why health officials nationally and in Chicago have expressed strong confidence that schools are safer to reopen than first thought, even as the pandemic rages on.

The difference between elementary and high school infections also partially explains why Chicago Public Schools has prioritized the return of its youngest students as the district makes its third attempt in January to open its classrooms for the first time since March.

“It’s safe to keep schools open,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Johnson said evidence has shown minimal spread of the virus in school buildings even as transmission rises in the surrounding community.

The data reviewed by the Sun-Times, first released early last month by the Illinois Department of Public Health and most recently updated through the end of November, for the first time included contact-traced infections in schools. The department had previously only released school-aged cases that were not tied to specific facilities.

Read more here.

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District 220 released the following via email this morning:

“Over the past several weeks district leaders have been meeting regularly to identify ways to adjust Hybrid plans so improvements can be implemented when the metrics improve and the district can return to the Hybrid mode. Both staff and parent representatives from each school also participated in many of these conversations. At the Dec. 1 Board meeting, principals presented the updated Hybrid plans to Board members, as well as estimated additional costs associated with implementing these plans. The Board will continue the discussion at their Dec. 15 meeting. Please note that a target date to return to Hybrid has not been determined at this time.

The proposed Hybrid changes for each level are as follows:

Elementary Hybrid updates

In the elementary Hybrid plan students would attend school in-person five days a week, for 2.5 hours each day. Those 2.5 hours would focus on literacy, math and social emotional learning. Students would still be divided into two groups, “Group A” and Group B”. Group A would attend in-person instruction in the mornings and Group B would attend in-person instruction in the afternoons. Families who wish to continue with Distance Learning would follow their current learning schedule.

Tentative elementary timeline

  • Dec 15: Board discusses costs associated with updated Hybrid plans
  • Dec 16: Elementary principals hold virtual parent meetings to explain updated Hybrid plans
  • Dec 16-22: District sends out parent questionnaire to elementary parents on model preference
  • Jan 8 -15: Elementary principals finalize any classroom assignment changes
  • TBD: One week operational transition for students, parents and staff
  • TBD: Two transition days prior to implementing Hybrid mode

Middle and high school Hybrid updates

In the middle and high school Hybrid plansstudents would remain in two groups, “Group A” and “Group B”. However, it would include Wednesdays as an additional in-person instruction day. For example, one week Group A would be in person all day Monday-Wednesday, while Group B would be in person all day Thursday-Friday. The following week Group A would be in person Monday-Tuesday and Group B would be in person Wednesday-Friday. Students who choose to continue Distance Learning would continue to follow the schedule they are currently following.”

220 also released a “School Year Update” video summary that can be viewed here.

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We received an email notice that the Riding Center Advisory Committee will be meeting tonight at 7:00 PM. Ordinarily, we don’t post such notices, but since someone saw fit to notify residents, we thought we should pass it along since it may be a special meeting. Click here to view the notice.

There is no agenda in the posting, so anyone interested should Zoom (or phone) in to see what’s up and say hey.

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Encouraged by the early success of a new $1.3 million COVID-19 saliva screening program, officials at New Trier High School are considering an expansion of their in-person student instruction plan.

The school board on Tuesday will vote on the timeline for an expanded reopening plan that would increase from the current model of one “track” of students attending classes in-person each day, to two tracks, New Trier spokeswoman Niki Dizon said Monday.

While each track is divided into roughly a quarter of the students who opted into hybrid learning, the actual attendance numbers have fallen below 25%, and officials estimate the same will hold true with two tracks being less than 50%, Dizon said. .

The proposal to expand the amount of in-person student instruction at the high school’s campuses in Winnetka and Northfield has been embraced by some parents, who have been pushing for more classroom learning since the start of the school year, with some suggesting that all students should attend a half day of school each day.

New Trier, which reopened for one week in October, was briefly shuttered again, then resumed its in-person hybrid plan in November. The school recently launched a voluntary COVID-19 saliva screening program, with around 88% of the high school’s roughly 4,000 students participating, officials said.

Read more here, and notice nowhere in the article is the word “metrics” mentioned.  

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“The next regularly scheduled Board meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 PM. Due to new restrictions that limit gatherings to 10 people, the meeting will be held virtually. School Board members and district leaders will be discussing how to proceed with the 20-21 school year beyond winter break, however there will be no formal vote taken at this meeting. 

The meeting will be live streamed on the Board’s YouTube channel. If you wish to make public comment it can be made in one of two ways:

  • Submit your comments via email by sending them to Recording Secretary Jeanine Stark at jstark@barrington220.org. Please use the subject line “Public Comment.”
  • Between now and 4:00 PM on Tuesday, Dec. 1 you can leave a voicemail at 847-842-3576. This will be played during the public comment portion of the Dec. 1 Board meeting.”

A copy of the agenda can be viewed here. The Board’s web page can be found here.

Please note District 220 is proposing a 4.4% increase to its property tax levy for 2020 (SeeDistrict 220 expects (4.4%) hike in property tax levy), and we strongly encourage taxpayers to voice their opinions.

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Donlea Road runs from Old Sutton to County Line Roads in Cook County (Please click on image to enlarge)

The Cook County Board has approved funding for projects led by the Department of Transportation and Highways for the final design and right of way land acquisition for the Northfield Happ Road Corridor Improvement and for a Barrington Hills drainage investigation.

The Village of Northfield is planning a traffic circle on Happ Road between Willow and Winnetka roads to promote a safe, walkable environment around the downtown area.

In Barrington Hills, record rainfall three years in a row and drainage challenges forced the closure of Donlea Road from Butternut Road to County Line Road to close for more than a month. The village and the county will work with homeowners to address the water displacement issue.

Source

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The recordings have been released from last week’s Board of Trustee’s meeting (11.17.20), and the Village Attorney’s report contained the following update:

“The only thing I can report is that the ongoing litigation relative to the horse boarding text amendment we’re zeroing in on the close of discovery. We’ve been taking depositions almost every day, and discovery closes next week and thereafter I’m sure you’ll start seeing a flurry of motions. As a matter of fact, Miss Paul becomes a deponent tomorrow.”

To listen to the recording of the November 17th BOT meeting, click here.

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Barrington School District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris told school board members Tuesday that with continuing increases in positive COVID-19 cases, the district will continue with most students in remote learning mode.

“We will continue to follow our five metrics,” Harris said, “which means most students will continue to learn at home. I recommend we continue to follow our distance learning mode.”

Board Secretary Angela Wilcox said she understood parents who are upset that their children aren’t in school. According to Wilcox, data shows that schools and elementary school children are not major sources of virus spread. She said she would continue to push for a return to in-person learning.

Board member Barry Altshuler also acknowledged the concerns of parents.

“Our community is split,” he said, but insisted, “our decisions are not financial, not political, not union-based.”

Wilcox concluded the discussion by urging all in the district to focus on making distance learning the best possible and continue to focus on the social emotional learning of students.

Read the Barrington Courier-Review side of Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting here.

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People who gave input in the search for a new Barrington Area Unit District 220 superintendent want someone who can tackle the aftermath of COVID-19 as well as equity, diversity and inclusion.

Those were major themes from 14 focus groups attended by 89 stakeholders — school board members, staff members, students, parents, and community and business leaders — and an online questionnaire answered by 838 people, consultants from School Exec Connect told the school board Tuesday night.

School Exec Connect was hired to search for a replacement for Superintendent Brian Harris, who’s “retiring” June 30. The board will have a first round of interviews with candidates in closed session Dec. 1, followed by second-round interviews later in December.

The next superintendent will have to deal with how to move forward from COVID-19, Shimp said. “Every focus group talked about it. What does post-COVID look like in Barrington? What is the learning loss? What’s the morale? What’s the climate?”

The district this year hired Nate Rouse as its first director of equity, race and cultural diversity initiatives. The school board on Tuesday approved an equity statement that will support its plans to create a more equitable and inclusive school system.

According to the feedback, the district’s top educational challenge is understanding and support of diversity, followed by having instructional methods that engage all students and closing the achievement gap among subgroups of students.

Read more here.

Editorial note: We’d have thought “the district’s top educational challenge” would be getting all 220 students back to the educational levels they would have been at were it not for current circumstances, but that’s just us.

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