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District U-46 school year off to solid beginning

By Seth Hancock
  The start of the 2018-19 school year was a success according to School District U-46 officials.
  The Board of Education was given an update on school readiness at its Aug. 6 meeting, prior to the first day of classes on Wednesday, Aug. 15 (preschool starts this week on Wednesday, Aug.22), and again updated on Monday, Aug. 20 after classes began.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said “overall, it was a great first day back” and the midweek start to classes provided an easier transition and it “works a lot better than starting on a Monday.”
  Melanie Meidel, assistant superintendent of human resources, said that classes were fully staffed for the first week which she called a “miraculous event.” She said there’s still ongoing hiring but with some long-term substitutes classes are staffed.
  There is still a need for 14 classroom teachers and 7.5 related service personnel (social workers, guidance councilors, etc.) according to Meidel and retirees have been called to try and help fill some of the open positions. She said that numbers are continually monitored, and “we want to make sure that students are in the seat before we commit to adding or decreasing in a classroom.”
  There’s also some open paraprofessional positions needing to be filled as well as some bus drivers according to Meidel. Sanders said regarding bus drivers that they’re “getting harder and harder to fill as the economy’s turned around. It’s harder to compete for people.”
  Board member John Deveroux asked how the district stood in terms of hiring compared to prior years to which Meidel said the district had been behind a week prior to the Aug. 6 meeting, but over that week they wound up ahead compared to previous years.
  Josh Carpenter, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said there were four days of professional development, two for elementary teachers and two for secondary, held at Elgin Community College leading up to the first day of class. He said there was also a new teacher orientation held for “focusing on professional relationships, planning and preparation, professional responsibilities in the classroom environment.”
  “The intention was to provide an introduction to U-46 to individual buildings, to departments and programs and to our staff,” Carpenter said. “Our staff and new teachers will be in contact throughout the year.”
  Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction, said that over 200 students received free health exams through free clinics. She said by the end of the first week of classes there were fewer than 230 students excluded across the district for not having the proper medical and immunization paperwork.
  Last year, the district following a first day exclusion for students not immunized was a hot topic with both board members Veronica Noland and Jeanette Ward leading the way against the first day exclusion. Noland asked how many students were excluded this year from the first day, but Johnson said she would have to get back to the board on that number.
  Johnson added that Chromebook computers have been fully distributed at two high schools while distribution is still ongoing at the remaining three high schools, and the former technology at U-46 high schools is being redistributed to elementary and middle schools. She also said the district has increased the number of assistant principals at elementary and middle schools.
  Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said that summer construction was complete by the first day of class when asked by board member Sue Kerr.
  “We only have a 10-week window during the summer and there’s a lot of things that get done in that 10 weeks,” King said of the operations and maintenance work.
  King said that 145 lunch tables had been distributed and over 5,000 desks and chairs delivered. He said a new food center will allow for increased options and higher quality food, and a call center has been added to the transportation department to handle the added call load for the start of the year.
  The district has also stopped sending cards with bus routes to parents but instead provide the routes on Infinite Campus this year King said.
  The start of school also comes with some sad kids as their summer vacation ends. Ward said she volunteered at Bartlett’s Hawk Hollow Elementary School on the first day and Kerr did the same at Carol Stream’s Spring Trail Elementary School, both saying there were some tears from students but overall it was a good experience.
  Kerr said that she visited a few more schools on the first day along with Deveroux and Sanders.





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