DANVILLE – The Danville District 118 school board Wednesday night heard about the district’s massive needs — should schools reopen in the fall — that could be covered by coronavirus-related funding.
The district learned it will receive $3.5 million in ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) Grant funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, but some of that money will be shared with non-public schools within District 118’s boundaries based on the number of students who come from homes with lower incomes.
District 118 still has to apply for the CARES money and indicate how the funds will be used.
Last month, the board considered using a portion of the coronavirus-related funding to improve access to technology within the district.
The One to One Institute conducted a readiness assessment of the district more than a year ago to assist the district in developing a plan to issue a laptop computer to every student in the district.
When remote learning was launched in District 118 after schools were shut down statewide in mid-March, only a few hundred Chromebooks were available to distribute to seventh through 12th graders in late April.
Board members voted 6-0 last month to use only a portion of the district’s allotment of the $3.5 million to fund technology needs using data from the one-to-one audit as a guideline.
Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education John Hart told the board Wednesday night that there are many more needs in the district in addition to laptops.
He listed off new whiteboards for classrooms as well as many coronavirus-related needs if schools reopen, such as portable coolers, dishes and utensils for delivered meals to be eaten in classrooms; 15 additional atomizers that spray hospital-strength disinfectant in high-use areas of schools; 400 thermometers to take students’ temperatures; masks for schoolchildren and adults that would cost in excess of $1.2 million a year; and sneeze guards for every secretary’s work space in the district.
“We also would be running bus routes nonstop with cleaning in between,” Hart said. “The $3.5 million is not nearly enough.”
Also Wednesday, the board:
• Approved the return of Kelly Truex to her former position as director of education support. Truex left in February for a job in the Urbana School District. Narcissus Rankin, who has been the district’s assistant business director, also was named director of business and finance. She replaces Business Director Heather Smith who left in March to take a job in the Mahomet-Seymour School District.
• Reviewed a first reading of the 2020-2021 Ownership in Education handbook. One of the updates entails the district’s time-out and physical restraint policy so that the district maintains compliance with all rules and regulations from ISBE regarding seclusion and physical restraint.
• Discussed the calendar for Northeast Elementary Magnet School. Northeast students follow a year-round balanced calendar and would normally start their school year in July, but the district is considering having the school follow a traditional calendar for the 2020-2021 school year only. The first day of school for the traditional-calendar schools is Aug. 13.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis said she met virtually with Northeast’s staff to explain the challenges and conditions that would have to be met in order to start the new school year.
“Once we explained the guidance to them, they said, ‘How are we going to do this?’” she said.
Hart said, “We’re not in Stage 4 (of the state’s reopening plan), so we can’t plan for that.
“Right now, students aren’t allowed to touch one another’s items, so they can’t share supplies or stuffed animals,” he said. “We can’t have volunteers in the building.
“It’s just for 2020-2021,” Hart said of the possible calendar change. “We would never change it if it weren’t for a pandemic.”
Geddis said she plans to have a Zoom meeting with Northeast parents to explain to them the challenges of reopening the school before she asks the board to decide whether to switch Northeast to a traditional calendar for one year.
• Heard information about the Restore Illinois recommendations and guidance for home visiting, doula and intake programs. Until the state reaches Phase 5, no home visits will be conducted in person.
• Heard a presentation from representatives from PMA Securities and Stifel, which provide financial services to the district, about refinancing the district’s debt.
Because of the current low interest rates, the district could realize a cost savings of $2.4 million over the remaining 10 years of a 2011 bond it sold to fund the renovations of North Ridge Middle, South View Upper Elementary and Mark Denman Elementary schools.
• Approved a treasurer bond for Whitney Sokola who will become District 118’s treasurer for one year, effective July 1. Sokola will replace Teri Atwood who is retiring.
• Entered into a Mutual Agreement of Understanding with the Danville Education Association for a salary incentive for social workers.
Due to an acute shortage of social workers, all newly hired social workers will receive a one-time stipend of $5,000. The stipend will be contingent upon the social worker working in the district for three years in a position assigned to them by the administration.
Failure to fulfill this three-year commitment will require the social worker to pay back the district the full stipend.
• Entered into an agreement with the Danville Education Association regarding incentives for new and current employees:
• Current staff members who recruit applicants holding a professional educator’s license issued by the State of Illinois to apply and interview for District 118 vacancies will receive $250. If the applicant is hired, the current staff member will receive $500.
• New teaching staff hired for the 2020-2021 school year will be able to requisition up to $1,000 for supplies or expenses related to classroom startup, such as dry erase markers, flexible seating and classroom rugs. The district would retain the authority to disapprove of any supply or expense. Teachers must adhere to district procedures to take advantage of this source of funding. All funding must be spent by the close of the 2020-2021 school year.
• Current staff that voluntarily transfer to hard-to-fill classroom positions during the 2020-2021 school year will be able to requisition up to $1,000 for classroom supplies, such as dry erase markers, flexible seating and classroom rugs. The district retains the authority to disapprove of any supply or expense. Teachers must adhere to district procedures to take advantage of this source of funding.
• Approved a suspension of the first-day exclusion so that students in preschool, kindergarten, sixth, ninth and 12th grades have until Oct. 15 to be up-to-date on immunizations and physicals.
The state amended its 2020-2021 guidelines for health examinations and immunizations for school-aged children due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Heard about receiving a $98,000 after-school programs grant that will allow District 118 to partner with the Boys and Girls Club for a summer camp for 70 District 118 sixth-graders, starting June 29.
“It’s a camp, not a school, so they can have 10 kids in seven different spaces,” Hart said, referring to social distancing.
• Entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Crosspoint Human Services to provide mental health services on the second floor of the Jackson Building to students at Danville High School, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, North Ridge Middle School, South View Upper Elementary School, Mark Denman Elementary School, and district students who have been suspended or expelled.
• Entered into an agreement with Rosecrance to provide substance abuse services for the 2020-2021 school year to students enrolled in the Second Chance Program. The primary focus this school year is supporting students at DHS and North Ridge and successfully transitioning Second Chance students back to those schools.
Rosecrance will continue to support students through substance abuse group counseling and individual counseling. Rosecrance will provide additional counseling and support for students and their families on the second floor of the Jackson Building.
• Entered into an agreement with child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Angela Mahome to continue providing psychiatric services twice a month to district students for the 2020-2021 school year. Her rate is $350 an hour. She also will provide professional development to District 118 staff on various topics such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression, anxiety and trauma.
• Accepted a bid of $23,802 from Specialty Commercial Flooring LLC of Fithian to replace the cafeteria and gymnasium flooring at Meade Park Elementary School.