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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

U-46 Board discusses school calendar, tax levy


By Seth Hancock
  A tentative 2018-19 school year calendar was presented to the Board of Education in School District U-46 on Monday, Nov. 20, and three separate tax levy pieces as well as an intergovernmental agreement to be voted on Dec. 4 were presented as well.
  Melanie Meidel, who heads human resources for the district, said the proposed calendar “is a draft” that will be going to a professional development committee.
  The proposed calendar aligns with this year’s calendar with the first day of classes set for Wednesday, Aug. 15, and a week later on Aug. 22 for preschool. There are 173 attendance days and 184 teachers attendance days.
  Thanksgiving break is set to start on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the last day of classes prior to winter break is Friday, Dec. 21 and that break will go through Friday, Jan. 4, the final week of March (25 through 29) is set for spring break, the final day of classes is set for Thursday, May 23 or Friday, May 31 if all five emergency days are used and high school graduation is set for Saturday, May 25.
  For the past five years, the district has started classes several weeks earlier in August starting under former Superintendent Jose Torres who said he wanted to look into yearlong schooling. The district has taken three surveys over that timeframe and every time a strong majority of respondents have opposed the earlier start date.
  This year, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I think we have done plenty of surveys over the years to know kind of what the community wants.”
  The first survey taken showed 90 percent of nearly 1,700 respondents opposed to the earlier date, the next had 73 percent of 935 respondents opposed and last year 73 percent of 4,715 respondents opposed. Last year, the administration for the first time intended to follow the survey results but the board’s majority overruled it asking for the earlier start date, board members Sue Kerr and Jeanette Ward the current members opposing the earlier start date.
  Ward has consistently opposed the earlier start date and asked: “I thought we had agreed last year as a board to take a survey?”
  Sanders said: “I don’t recall that. What I heard is that we should use the same guidelines in future years.”
  Two years ago, the administration suggested the board approve some guidelines regarding the calendar, but no guidelines have yet to be approved. At the same time, board member Traci Ellis was the only member to oppose continuing to seek public feedback through a survey.
  Board member Phil Costello, who supports the start date “for the sake of consistency,” said: “We should at least every two years survey the families to make sure we get the voice in there because it could change.”
  The reason given by board members last year to support the earlier start date was the ability for high school students to take finals before winter break.
  “The challenge that we have every year is trying to balance the needs of parents and community members considering a calendar that has to represent 180 different school days,” said Sanders who added that the public “wanted students to have finals before winter break.”
  However, there has not been a survey done regarding when the public wants finals to occur and last year Meidel said the finals date “was noted” on that survey meaning those who supported a later start date knew finals would occur after winter break. Last year Sanders said the district’s own data showed “it’s not made a significant impact over these past few years academically” whether finals are held before or after winter break, and “[students are] going to have that stress whether it’s before winter break or after winter break.”
  Another issue raised on the proposed calendar came from board member Melissa Owens who noted the Wednesday after spring break there is a scheduled professional development day meaning students will have a week off then have a day off right away the following week. Meidel said “April is a challenge month” with testing going on and trying to align to neighboring districts, but said some of the professional development days could change after going to committee.
  Regarding the 2017 tax levy, a Certificate of Tax Levy as well as a corresponding resolution will be voted on at the upcoming meeting. The determination of a tax levy increase of $8 million was approved by a 5-2 vote, Costello and Ward opposing the tax increase, earlier in November.
  Also a resolution on the intent to abate $9.7 million from the working cash fund will be voted upon.
  An intergovernmental agreement with the Village of South Elgin on a five-year contract renewal will also be put to a vote. The agreement allows South Elgin the use of athletic fields, gym and parks at Fox Meadow Elementary School.

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