You’re Invited!

IMG-middle-school-The district is in the process of exploring options and obtaining feedback for expanding classroom space at the elementary schools by moving 6th grade to Palombi Middle School. Such a move would open up 4 classrooms at Martin, 4 at Hooper, and 3 at Thompson.  Each elementary school would be serving 85 to 94 fewer students. The district would then be in a position to use the space to do one or more of the following:

  • Lower class size at the primary level grade levels (K – 3).  A number of parents have expressed concern regarding the high enrollment numbers at the elementary buildings, particularly Hooper. Currently, the district maintains an average class size of 23.1 at the K-3 level.
  •  Add a preschool program to each elementary so kindergarteners would be better prepared entering school.
  • Take back two SEDOL special education classes resulting in tuition savings for the district of over $500,000.

 All three of these initiatives have tremendous value for the district whether it be allowing staff to better meet the needs of our students and families or saving taxpayer dollars. However, the hard question that must be answered first is, “Should 6th graders attend middle school?”  Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer.  

imagesShould 6th grade be moved to Palombi?  I would like nothing better than to point to clear-cut definitive research on middle school configuration, but there is none.  There are just as many studies pointing in either direction. This has been a decades-long debate. Basically, what it comes down to are personal choice and personal perception.  One interesting statistic that I did discover is that 75% of school districts across the country place 6th grade in middle school.

 Yes, it is true that some 6th graders are more emotionally immature or introverted than their peers and would be better suited to the elementary structure. However, others feel that 6th graders belong with other levels of children who are going through puberty just as they are.  Sixth graders are much more like 7th and 8th graders than they are kindergarteners through fifth graders. Children go through more changes in their bodies and brains between 10 and 14 years old than at any other time in their lives with the exception of their first 18 months of life. Some people feel that middle school exposes 6th graders to the potentially negative behavior of older students.  Others believe that middle schools should have more than two grade levels so that students create a longer-lasting sense of belongingness and break down the competition that exists when there are only two grade levels.  Middle school staff would have three years to build relationships with students.

 One concern about transitioning 6th grade to Palombi is space.  Is there enough? Yes. There are a number of rooms not currently being utilized to their capacity.  Palombi would have six 20-minute grade level lunch shifts instead of the current four. The cafeteria would be no more crowded during the six shifts than it is already for the four.  Is it ideal? No. Is it any different than what is currently being done? No. (What really is a challenge at Palombi is the configuration, age, and size of the kitchen, but that is a whole other topic!) The 6th grade would primarily be housed in the blue wing. Due to teacher certification, 6th grade would operate much the same as it does now with one main teacher.   During the school day, 6th grade students would have limited ability to interact with 7th  and 8th  graders. All middle school students would ride on the bus together.  Sixth graders would have access to middle school activities, enrichment, and athletics.

 What’s Next?   District administrators will be hosting two Information Nights next week to explain the possible programs and to solicit stakeholder feedback.  The meetings will be held in the Palombi Auditorium on September 4th and 5th from 6:00 – 7:00 p.mThe presentation will be videotaped for those who cannot attend.  There will also be a survey going out on September 6th.  Survey results and input will be presented to the Board of Education on September 23rd at 7:00 p.m. during the regular board meeting. 

 What is the hurry?  Discussion about moving 6th grade to Palombi began early in the Fall last year.  This Spring, we met with staff at each building and visited the topic intermittently throughout the year with the board of education.  We collected input from our staff that has also been shared with the board. 

 If the district moves ahead with moving 6th grade to Palombi next fall (2020/21 school year), it is imperative that we set this year’s 5th grade students up for success by giving them as much time as possible to transition and giving our staff time to plan. By making this decision earlier rather than later in the year, we will have much more time to prepare.    

Hope to see you at the Information Nights on September 4th and 5th!

 

New Start Times Next Year for Hooper and Palombi

downloadBeginning this fall, students at Palombi Middle School will start and end their day 10 minutes earlier.  Students at Hooper Elementary will start and end their day 15 minutes later.  This is due to significant and on-going delays with transporting students.

Numerous factors went into this decision.  We received 500 survey responses and over 100 comments. Many valid points were raised for us to consider including the possibility of finding a way to offer childcare.  At this point in time, the tier structure will remain the same, but we will add time to each tier.  Palombi will remain on the last tier.  Not only was this the most popular choice on the survey, but we believe it would be disruptive for our 7th and 8th graders to be on a later schedule then have to adjust in 9th grade given the reality that all three of our high school districts also start early.  This can always be revisited if the high schools change.

Student Start Times for 2019/20

Palombi7:32 AM – 2:17 PM

Martin/Thompson 8:15 AM – 2:55 PM (no change)

Hooper9:00 AM – 3:40 PM

We sincerely appreciate the tremendous response to our district survey.   79% of our respondents were parents.  43% of all respondents agreed with changing start times.  37.5% did not want to see any change and 19.5% had no opinion.

50% of all respondents wanted Palombi to remain as is on the early delivery tier.  24% of all respondents wanted Palombi moved to the middle tier and 29.4% of all respondents wanted Palombi moved to the last tier.

In addition, 67% of the Palombi parents and staff wanted Palombi to stay in the early tier. Results from Hooper were much more even.  31% of Hooper parents and staff wanted Hooper to move to the early tier and another 31% preferred Hooper be moved to the middle tier.  38% of Hooper parents and staff wanted Hooper to remain as is on the last tier.

Starting Time Survey Results

Start Time FAQ for blog (1)                         (Background information on the bussing issues)

Today is Election Day!

downloadLake Villa School District 41 has two referenda questions on the ballot. 

Based on community input, these two referenda are designed to address the immediate needs of our aging infrastructure AND sustainably maintain our schools into the future while at the same time decreasing taxes.  This is because the bonds used to construct Martin and Thompson Schools will be paid off in full. 

Should both questions pass, an owner of a $250,000 home will realize a decrease of approximately $212 per year while also maintaining the investment in our schools

Should both questions fail, an owner of a $250,000 home will realize a decrease of approximately $813, but our schools will continue to deteriorate and the cost of repair will continue to escalate.

There are only two more elections (March and November) before we would have to ask voters to fix our schools by raising taxes

 

 

Hooper’s Needs

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Hooper’s Staff Lounge with the only staff washroom behind the refrigerator. So much for privacy!

Thanks to the district’s financial diligence, our bond debt is scheduled to be paid in full in 2019.  Retiring this debt affords us an opportunity to look towards the future of our school district.

If both referenda pass on April 2nd, the district will be able to address the immediate needs of our aging infrastructure and sustainably maintain our schools into the future while decreasing taxes.

Did you know that Hooper is over 60 years old?  Not surprisingly, Hooper needs major repair work and renovation. Passing both referenda will provide Hooper with the funding necessary to address capacity issues as well as aging infrastructure.  

A new building for Hooper was considered, but the cost was found to be too prohibitive to pursue at this time.  With the district’s pledge to be as fiscally responsible as possible, this project would crowd out funding needed for investments in other schools.  Having to choose between making those necessary improvements to all schools or building a new Hooper, the community (including Hooper residents) chose to invest in all schools at this time.

REMINDER – Tuesday, April 2nd is ELECTION DAY

You can see a complete list of Hooper projects identified by our architects here as well as on the district website.

hooper long-term capital improvement projects –

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Odd placement for electrical outlets

 

IMG_0610

Not nearly enough storage space

We have small group classes doubling up in the cafeteria when lunch is not being served.  This environment is definitely not conducive to learning.

Hooper-18.04.18-4.03PM-Hooper Photo markup_1

The stage – complete with teacher work desk, band equipment and physical therapy equipment

Palombi’s Needs

IMG_0648If both referenda pass on April 2nd, the district will be able to address the immediate needs of our aging infrastructure and sustainably maintain our schools into the future while decreasing taxes.  This is an opportunity for residents to invest in our schools. 

Did you know that Palombi Middle School is over 50 years old?  Even our newest schools, Martin and Thompson are approximately 20 years old. Not surprisingly, Palombi has a number of much-needed repairs including replacing worn-out HVAC equipment which is continually struggling to keep up with the demands of heating and cooling multiple wings.  You can view the complete list with cost estimates here and also on our district website:

palombi long-term capital improvement projects

REMINDER!  Election Day is Tuesday, April 2nd.

Early voting has already started.  It runs thru April 1st at the Antioch Township Building and Round Lake Village Hall.

Early Voting Now thru April 1st

Lake Villa School District 41 has two questions on the April 2nd ballot.  Based on community input, these two referenda are designed to address the immediate needs of our aging infrastructure AND sustainably maintain our schools into the future while at the same time decreasing taxes.  This is because the bonds used to construct Martin and Thompson Schools will be paid off in full. 

Should both questions pass, an owner of a $250,000 home will realize a decrease of approximately $212 per year while also maintaining the investment in our schools

Should both questions fail, an owner of a $250,000 home will realize a decrease of approximately $813, but our schools will continue to deteriorate. 

There are only two more elections (March and November) before we would have to ask voters to fix our schools by raising taxes

Election Day is Tuesday, April 2nd

Early Voting is now thru April 1st at the Antioch Township Building and Round Lake Village Hall.

The Real Story Behind $4.4M for Pleviak

Buch-colouredThe district recently completed a required Life Safety Audit of all district properties.  This audit provides the district the costs of upgrading/maintaining all our buildings to current safety and education standards.  

Pleviak School is 100 years old and was included in the audit.   Not surprisingly, the audit identified that Pleviak and our other schools need significant improvements.  It is estimated that Pleviak would require $4,413,676 of repairs including a roof replacement, cracked load bearing walls in the gym and a new parking lot.  None of these repairs are currently scheduled, approved or even being considered by the board of education.  All we know today is how much it might cost in the future to upgrade the building.

District enrollment has declined by 926 students, or 29% in the past 10 years.  As hard as it was on our community, it was a financially wise decision to close Pleviak School in 2014. 

We are currently in year five of a ten-year lease with Round Lake School District which uses the building for its kindergarten center.  Our district has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by not having to staff the school for the past five years or into the future.  This lease generates $189,426 annually in rent and Round Lake School District is responsible for most of the operating & maintenance expenses during the term of the agreement. 

Situated on a busy corner of Grand Avenue, it seems that Pleviak would be prime real estate for commercial development.  For this reason, the district worked with the Village to include Pleviak as part of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District established in 2016.  This makes the property appealing to a developer.  Sadly, there has been limited interest and no offers to date.

If a decision is made to improve Pleviak School, there are a series of checks yuyiouyand balances to make sure the money if spent, is wisely spent.  All expenditures must be recommended by administration and have board approval to even go out to bid.  Once bids are gathered, the district must accept the bid from the lowest, most responsible bidder.  All expenditures over $10K must be pre-approved in open session at regular board meetings ensuring full public disclosure.

If a decision is made in the future regarding the Pleviak School property, it will be made upon the recommendation of the administration, with a board of education discussion and vote in a public meeting.

Reminder! Referendum Informational Session Tomorrow 10 AM

imagesWould you like to better understand the district’s need for two referendum questions on the  April 2nd ballot? Be sure to attend one of our Informational Sessions at Palombi Middle School in the board room on Friday, February 22nd at 10 AM or on Monday, March 18th at 5:30 PM.

Working with feedback from our community and using our most recent facilities assessment, we identified a list of potential improvements for our schools, including urgent life safety needs, necessary improvements, and investments into 21st-century learning. These projects, totaling $50 million, will be funded at a rate lower than our current bond rate, meaning that property taxpayers will see a tax decrease of approximately $212 per year, based on the value of a $250,000 home.

downloadFor more information, please visit: https://www.district41.org/referendum-2019/

(This first meeting will be video recorded and posted to the district’s referendum link above.)

Seeking Feedback about Proposed Start Times for 2019/20

yuHeads up! A survey will be released early next week to obtain feedback on the proposed school start times for next year.  The survey will remain open for four weeks.  The link to the survey will be sent in an email and also will be posted on our website.

I encourage you to take the opportunity to read the attached FAQ to better understand our district’s transportation challenges.  Each day we have hundreds of Hooper students waiting in the gym, cafeteria, and hallways to board late arriving buses.  Students are waiting past the time when our staff’s contractual day ends.

Over the past four years, we have tried to address this problem a number of ways including reworking the entire dismissal process at Hooper and hiring extra staff to provide supervision.  We explored adding additional routes to Hooper, but there is only physical room for 15 buses and we are at capacity.

When we researched how other districts operate on a tiered bussing system we learned that all other districts have 40 minutes or more per tier.  We only have 30 minutes.  We need the gift of time.  This is our biggest challenge.

Again, please read the FAQ and help us by providing your input and insight on this complex issue.  Please look for an email link to the survey on Tuesday.  In the end, we do recognize that changing start times is never easy on families or staff and whatever decision is finally made, it will not be popular with everyone.  This is why we want to hear your thoughts and especially your ideas.

We appreciate your feedback!

Please see:

Start Time FAQ for blog (1)

 

PROPOSED NEW START TIMES for 2019/20

Tier 1:  Palombi 7:32 AM – 2:17 PM (start and end 10 minutes earlier than now)

Tier 2:  Martin/Thompson 8:15 AM – 2:55 PM (no change)

Tier 3:  Hooper9:00AM – 3:40 PM (start and end 15 minutes later than now)

 

Two Ballot Questions in April

imagesDid you know that district 41 is one of the most fiscally-conservative districts in the region? We spend less per student than all but one of the surrounding nine elementary school districts, and over the past ten years, our operating expenditure per pupil has been an average of $3,000 less than the state average.

Thanks to the district’s financial diligence, our bond debt is scheduled to be paid in full in 2019. These bonds were approved by taxpayers many years ago to fund the construction of Martin and Thompson schools. Retiring this debt affords us an opportunity to improve our aging facilities. You might not realize it, but Hooper is 61 years old.  Palombi is 51 years old.  Even our two newest schools, Martin and Thompson are 17 and 20 years old respectively.

With this opportunity in mind, District 41 spent much of 2018 actively engaging the community to determine a vision for our schools over the next decade. We received feedback from over 1,500 members of the public on what improvements they would like to see to our schools and how they would like to fund these improvements.

The community made it clear they wanted to see three things accomplished in this process:

  • Invest in Our Infrastructure and Fulfill All Facility Needs
  •  Sustainably Maintain Our Schools Moving Forward
  • Provide Overburdened Property Taxpayers Tax Relief

Working together, and using our most recent facilities assessment, we identified a list of potential improvements for our schools, including urgent life safety needs, necessary improvements, and investments in 21st-century learning. These projects, totaling $50 million, will be funded at a rate lower than our current bond rate, meaning that property taxpayers will see a tax decrease of approximately $212 per year, based on the value of a $250,000 home.

You can see a list of long-term capital improvement projects by school here.  Throughout the district, there are over 250 projects in various degrees of complexity requiring attention, not including investments in 21st-century learning.  Please keep in mind the project costs are estimates.  All major projects would have to be approved by the board and go through a structured bidding process.

hooper long-term capital improvement projects –

palombi long-term capital improvement projects

martin long-term capital improvement projects

thompson long-term capital improvement projects

pleviak long-term capital improvement projects

You may be wondering, why is Pleviak included if we don’t have district students attending there? We are in year five of a ten-year lease with Round Lake School District.  The good news is that this lease generates almost $200,000 annually.  Because Pleviak is a district-owned property it is important that the taxpayers are aware of its needs.  Most of the money allocated for Pleviak for projects such as roof replacement, play equipment and parking lot replacement would wait to be spent only if Round Lake decides to renew the lease.  If the building is not leased or it is bought by a developer it would simply not make sense for the district to spend money on it.

school-finance-appleLast week, our board of education voted to approve two referenda questions on the April 2nd ballot. There will be a bond question funding $34.2 million in necessary infrastructure improvements and a Debt Service Extension Base (DSEB) question providing an additional $790,000 in annual funding for the ongoing maintenance of our schools.

Together, these two referendums meet the needs and desires of our community. They will provide our schools $50 million in funding over the next 20 years to fulfill urgent life safety needs, necessary improvements, and investments in 21st-century learning. They will provide for ongoing and sustainable maintenance of our schools. And they will result in tax savings of approximately $212 per year for the average taxpayer.