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District U-46 to vote on alternate education plan


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 is set to vote on a pair of contracts totaling $1.4 million at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Sept. 23.
  The items were presented on Sept. 9. Board member Eva Porter was absent.
  Included is a three-year contract costing $1 million, to be paid for by the education fund if approved, with Catapult Learning to provide an “interim alternative educational setting to address comprehensive services including core academic and social emotional instruction” for elementary and middle school students according to the proposal.
  The plan is to set up three classrooms at Elgin’s Kimball Middle School starting in the 2020-2021 school year according to Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction. One classroom would be fore kindergarten through second graders, one for third through fifth graders and one for sixth through eighth graders.
  Johnson said while there are alternative education options within the district for high school students, there’s a “gap in our practice” for elementary and middle school students who have behavioral issues. Currently, such students are sent to an outside facility in Streamwood.
  Board member John Devereux asked where the contract expenses will go to which Johnson said: “The bulk of the cost is essentially to have other providers through Catapult Learning come in to provide the instruction for our students.”
  Johnson added that “if we can provide some of those resources, we can certainly do that.” She said the contract would also include workshops and training for U-46 staff as well as outreach to families.
  Board member Melissa Owens asked about why Kimball has tentatively been chosen to house the program and Johnson said it is a more central location for transportation purposes. Owens asked if this will increase transportation costs for the district and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “I don’t know that you’re going to see a significant increase in the budget for transportation. I think if anything you might see a reduction in transportation costs because we’re centralizing.”
  Johnson said that no more than 30 students would be in the program at a time and they would be limited to 40 days. She said about 86 students were in a similar program in 2017-2018 which cost over $600,000.
  “It’s not a consistent or long-term placement,” Johnson said. “It’s really enough of an opportunity for us to assess the situation, provide opportunity for that acquisition of a strategy, a skill and resource or start to move towards a larger potential evaluation for appropriate placement for a student.”
  Sue Kerr, the board’s president, asked about the 40-day max which Johnson said the district is limited to 45 days under state law but U-46 has self-imposed a shorter term of 40 days. Johnson said students are evaluated “to determine if there is going to be a change of placement for the student or to have enough strategies and resources in place for the student to transition back to their site.”
  Board member Veronica Noland asked if there were concerns with having younger students in a middle school setting stating that it may not have appropriate playground or restroom equipment for smaller children. Johnson said the program will be housed in a “separate wing” of the school.
  Board member Kate Thommes asked if the board could see curriculum resources and lesson plans. Johnson said she could provide some resources and said they will align with Common Core Standards.
  The other contract to receive a vote is a renewal with One Hope United in Elgin to provide extended childcare to low-income families. The cost is $357,500, the same as last year, and will be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through Preschool For All grant funds.
  “U-46 subcontracts with One Hope United Elgin Child and Family Resource Center… to provide an additional 102 preschool slots within the childcare facility,” the proposal states. “The subcontract pays for the salary and benefits of three teachers, three teacher assistants, facility expenses and materials.”

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