Operations & Business Services Newsletter November 18,, 2020

Vol. 15                                                          Issue 14                                 November 18, 2020

Twenty-Two Contractors Interested In Submitting Bids To Replace Boilers At Stella May Swartz School

We had a good turnout of HVAC contractors who attended a pre-bid meeting last Thursday. Twenty-two companies came to the pre-bid meeting, toured the Swartz boiler room and expressed interest to submit a bid this Thursday to replace the two boilers, piping, controls, and pumps at Stella May Swartz School. The new condensing boilers specified by the architect and engineer are from the same manufacturer that as those installed at AMS and Salt Creek Primary School. They are the most efficient boilers available to provide hot water for the heating system.

All of our schools use hot water running through the pipes to each unit ventilator or air handler to heat schools. The boilers at Stella May Swartz are at end of life and need to be replaced. Funds for this work are coming from the district’s Operations & Maintenance Fund since money from the 2016 repair bond referendum has been fully spent. A contractor will be recommended to the Board of Education at their regular December 16, 2020 Board meeting.

While the work is expected to be done as part of Summer 2021 construction, if we have a boiler failure of either boiler, the work may have to be completed sooner. While we have maintained the two Swartz boilers, they are at end of life and need to be replaced according to FGM architects and engineers.

Consumer Price Index Low And Could Drop Below 1% By December 2020 That Sets The PTELL Cap On The Levy For the 2022-23 School Year

Our Illinois Association of School Business Officials CPI-U tracker reports the monthly CPI-U appears to be plodding along at a little over 1%.  The current pandemic upsurge could negatively impact the economy for a second time in 2020.  If a second pandemic shutdown causes a drop in values in November or December of 2020, similar to the drop we had when the first round of economic shut down occurred, most of the 2020 CPI-U growth could be wiped out and Tax Caps could be 0.3% or 0.4%, and possibly even less, if this occurs.  

Operations & Business Services Newsletter Now On The District Website & Individual School Websites

In an attempt to keep your email boxes less full the weekly Operations & Business Services Newsletter will continue to be available each week on the district and building websites but will discontinue being sent weekly by email to employees beginning after the annual Thanksgiving Week break. If we have an emergency notification we will email that to all employees.

ISBE Proposed Rule to Require Teachers in Illinois to Promote 'Progressive Views'

The Center Square reports the rule from the Illinois State Board of Education published in the Illinois Register on Sept. 11 lays out “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards for all Illinois Educators” on page 176. The standards are set to begin October 1, 2021, and say program and course content “shall be based on” the standards in the rule.

“Culturally responsive teachers and leaders are reflective and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and how they impact others, leading to more cohesive and productive student development as it relates to academic and social-emotional development for all students,” the rule states. “The culturally responsive teacher and leader will,” among other things “Critically think about the institutions in which they find themselves, working to reform these institutions whenever and wherever necessary,” and “Assess how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”

It further states to address “systems of oppression” a “culturally responsive teacher and leader” will “Be aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities.”

Other instructions for educators include: "create a risk-taking space that promotes student activism and advocacy,” “Embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints and perspectives,” and “Implement and integrate the wide spectrum and fluidity of identities in the curriculum.”

The Illinois State Board of Education said the rule will help students. "The Illinois State Board of Education stands by the proposed Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards, which were developed by educators for educators," said Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson Jackie Matthews. "Every student deserves to feel welcome, included, and accepted at school and to see their cultural identity affirmed and represented in the curriculum. This feeling of belonging is critical to improving academic and behavioral outcomes for Illinois’ students." 

Ralph Rivera and Molly Malone Rumley from the group Pro-Family Alliance said the rule should be scrapped. “Pro-Family Alliance and the families it represents believe that all persons, including students and teachers, should be treated with honor, dignity, and respect, which means that the truth must be spoken in love,” Rivera and Rumley wrote. “Racism should be condemned, and the value of cultural and ethnic diversity affirmed as central elements in effective teaching.”

However, they said the rule is vague and unconditionally compels speech. “These elements of the proposed rule require teachers to enunciate a government-sourced ‘progressive’ and activist viewpoint in their educational work with students,” they said. “As a consequence, certain narratives will be required, and counter-narratives excluded and proscribed. This is a form of compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination which is likely to be found unconstitutional.”

They also said the rule threatens teachers’ rights to free exercise of religion and conscience. “Pro-Family Alliance recommends that the proposed rule be dropped entirely because of its constitutional infirmities of vagueness, viewpoint discrimination, and interference with free exercise of religion and conscience,” the group wrote to the Illinois State Board of Education late last month.

The rule urges reflection on things like diversity, which Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Thomas Olp said the group supported. “We do condemn racism or discrimination due to ethnicity,” Olp said. “We respect diversity within the culture. However, mandating acceptance and endorsement of values that may be inconsistent with one’s own deeply held religious beliefs is unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

“Additionally, the rule tries to dictate what teachers think – and to form them in an activist mindset,” Olp said. The groups say they’re working with attorneys to address the potentially unlawful mandate.

The Illinois State Board of Education said teachers need to be able to connect with students. "Culturally responsive practices are especially important in better supporting Illinois’ LGBTQ+ youth, who disproportionately experience bullying and are more likely to attempt suicide," Matthews wrote. "The reality is that Illinois’ students are increasingly diverse – with more than 52 percent identifying as students of color, and English Learners making up the fastest growing student population – while our teachers remain overwhelmingly white and female. The ability to reach students from different cultural backgrounds is an essential skill to succeed as a teacher in Illinois today."

According to the Pro-Family Alliance and the Thomas More Society this proposed rule is “unconstitutional and discriminatory.”

States Seeing Sizeable Drops In Enrollment

Chalkbeat reports a number of states and school districts have reported significant declines in enrollment this school year, with families opting out of the public school system to educate their children at home or send them to private schools. In New York City, school rosters have already lost about 31,000 students compared with 2019, with its enrollment down 3.4% to just over 901,000. Elementary and middle schools saw bigger declines, while high school enrollment essentially remained flat; losses were also more concentrated among schools serving a higher portion of upper-income communities. A similar picture can be seen in Tennessee, where enrollment is down nearly 3.5% and only 15 of the state’s 147 school systems had more students than last year, as well as in Missouri and Portland. The declines could hurt schools’ bottom lines as soon as this winter, when principals are typically required to forfeit some of their budget if their enrollment is lower than projected. “Unstable staffing patterns, unstable dollars, often lead to worse outcomes for kids,” said Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Especially during a pandemic when principals have already had to scramble to deploy staff in this complex mix of online and face-to-face instruction.”

Schools Districts Revert To Online Learning As Coronavirus Cases Spike Nationwide

NBC reports, “Schools around the country are returning to virtual learning or delaying in-person classroom plans as coronavirus cases continue to soar nationwide in record-breaking numbers.” Maryland’s Hartford County Public Schools announced Monday that it was transitioning from hybrid learning to remote learning Friday due to the new cases. Des Moines Public Schools “will also return to total virtual learning for all grades beginning next week” after the Iowa Department of Education granted the district a waiver to return to remote learning until the end of November. Additionally, Philadelphia Chief of Schools Evelyn Nunez “sent a letter alerting schools of plans to delay in-person plans until at least the end of November.”

Biden Education Department Expected To Help Schools Operate Through The Pandemic

NPR piece provides further coverage of what a Biden presidency could mean for education. Biden this week “named a COVID-19 task force, composed of doctors and public health experts. Some members have spoken cautiously in favor of reopening schools, but only with proper safety measures in place – and the resources to do it right.” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the co-chair of the new task force, wrote on Twitter in September: “3 keys to open schools: low community prevalence of virus (critical), safety precautions (eg: reduced class sizes, universal masking), and resources for implementation.” Experts told NPR “they expect a Biden Department of Education to do more to help schools operate through the pandemic.” NPR discusses Biden’s other policy priorities, such as free public colleges, loan forgiveness, expanding “high-quality, universal” prekindergarten, and rolling back Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ policies.

State School Officers Hopeful Of K-12 Relief Bill

Education Drive reports educators are anticipating that with the presidential elections over, pending legal appeals from the Trump administration, Congress will shift its attention to a COVID-19 stimulus package that will include billions of dollars in aid for K-12 school systems. Addressing attendees of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)’s virtual Annual Policy Forum on Monday, Peter Zamora, director of federal relations, said the most pressing issue is for Congress to address a December 11 deadline for a Continuing Resolution on the FY 2021 budget plan. “We are going to be coordinating around looking to get something across the finish line during lame duck,” he said. CCSSO has said districts will need an additional $158.1 billion to $244.6 billion to reopen school buildings safely and serve all students this year.

Betsy Devos’ Legacy Explored

Chalkbeat reports with the Trump administration set to make way for president-elect Joe Biden over the next couple of months, even with legal challenges to the election result pending, Chalkbeat examines Betsy DeVos’ legacy at the Department of Education.

Since Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote in 2017 to appoint her as education secretary, she has argued for a more limited role for the federal government, overseen a re-write of the procedures for handling sexual harassment in K-12 schools, and reversed policies on how schools should protect transgender students, as well as on school discipline, and how schools use race in admissions and enrollment decisions to integrate their schools. “Most of her action, and most of the action of her department, has been in trying to reduce the effect of the Department of Education,” said Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. But, he noted, “The legacy of an administration that’s largely devoted to undoing a legacy can be undone very quickly itself.” Recently, as the federal government reacted to the coronavirus pandemic, her department interpreted the CARES Act in a way that would have effectively shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to private schools. Three federal judges ultimately ruled that her approach violated the clear dictates of the law, and DeVos eventually dropped the legal fight.

Telepresence” Robots Gaining Popularity In K-12 Classrooms Amid Pandemic

The Washington Post reports that telepresence robots or smart videoconferencing computers have “become increasingly popular in K-12 classrooms during the pandemic thanks to hybrid or blended learning models, where some students are in the classroom while others watch from home.” The big difference “between a robot and a conventional camera is that the robot follows action and sound – spinning as much as 360 degrees, so students at home can see more than a static shot of the classroom.” Said Joe Peacock, director of technology at Burgundy Farm, “We have found that it is much more engaging than a standard camera. It feels more natural. It’s like you are sitting in the classroom and turning your head to hear who is talking.”

CDC Researchers Say One In Five Children In The US Had A “Vaccine Hesitant” Parent Last Year

CNN reports researchers at the CDC found that one in five children in the US had a “vaccine hesitant” parent last year. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics. There is growing concern about vaccine hesitancy as health officials prepare for a massive coronavirus vaccination campaign.

Antibodies To Other Coronaviruses May Explain Why Children Are Less Likely To Become Infected With SARS-CoV-2, Scientists Say

The York Times) reports children may be less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, or to develop COVID-19 if infected, because they “already have antibodies to other coronaviruses.” Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute found that around 43% of children had antibodies to other coronaviruses, while only 5% of adults did. The findings were published in Science.

Chicago Reports 495 COVID Cases In Day Cares, Private Schools Through Mid-October

ChalkBeat reports new Chicago Department of Public Health data through Oct. 17 show the city has tracked 267 coronavirus “cases in Chicago care centers, 207 in private and charter schools that offer some in-person instruction, and 21 at in-person park district camps. Most of those cases, though, involved adults — 90 cases in day cares, 145 cases in schools, and five at camps involved students.” The data appears “to back up public health officials’ assurances that these settings have not been the site of major transmission – but the numbers don’t factor in a recent sharp increase in infections citywide.” In addition, there is “still no one-stop source for state, city, and Chicago Public Schools numbers, which are tracked separately.” Parents and experts continue to call “for more publicly available, real-time data about school- and childcare-based cases and outbreaks,” which they say would “help inform crucial decisions about when and how to reopen school buildings – and help families decide whether they are comfortable sending their children back.”

Propane School Bus Numbers Increasing Rapidly

School Bus Fleet reports the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has asserted that more than 20,000 propane buses are now in operation at schools nationwide, up from around 15,000 in 2018. Since 2012, there has been a 960% growth in the number of propane school buses on the road in the U.S. The buses transport more than 1.23 million students in 48 states. Fourteen states now have more than 500 propane buses within their borders.

Quote Of The Week

“It is not a matter of how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” - Confucius