Superintendent's Corner

How School Closing Decisions are Made

(Posted on January 23rd)

I thought I would share with you some of the factors and guidelines that we must consider when it comes to making a decision to keep the buildings open or closed during severe weather conditions. The past two winters we have experienced some unusually cold temperatures resulting in the District schools needing to be closed. When we look over a longer period of years, we have actually used few emergency closing days. That is a positive as we all want the students to be in school.

Let me start by saying that the decision regarding the opening or closing of school is a collaborative one with our Northfield Township Superintendents. All of our superintendents discuss the conditions and the multiple factors that we must consider.

I also want to clarify that severe cold temperatures require a little different consideration than snow storms. Essentially with severely cold temperatures we can rely with confidence on the forecasts for predicted temperatures and wind chills.  With snow there is always the “predictability of precipitation” factor that creates greater uncertainty. Many times, predicted snow fall accumulation doesn’t materialize by the morning, the busses can run and travel conditions are acceptable. Other times, the snow fall is as predicted. With this variability, we often are better off making the final call early in the morning. That is why we typically will make a decision early in the morning for snow-related closings and the decision on temperature related closings the night before.

With this context in mind, we consider several key factors to determine school closings. They include the following:

  • Bus Transportation Factors
  1. Shared routes among the Townships Schools– As you may know all of the Northfield Township school districts, with the exception of Glenview District 34, share the same bus company. Many of our routes are paired together in the sense that the bus route may start with a high school run then go directly to an elementary or middle school route. This is a standard structure in all the schools in our Township. Obviously if a bus route for the high school runs late, that will affect the “on-time pick up” of our students in the morning or after school. The safety of our students is critical, particularly with extreme temperatures
  2. Availability of drivers– Many of the drivers come from Chicago and on these days their ability to come in to work is diminished.
  3. Operation of the busses– On very cold days, fully operational buses is a challenge.
  4. Driving conditions for bus drivers- Street and visibility conditions must be acceptable to ensure safety of students and promptness of routes.  People do convey to us that the buses are heated and students aren’t out in the cold that long.  We would concur. However, our greater concern is that buses can be late to pick up children or break down, and there is a greater likelihood for occurrences to happen on cold and snowy days.
  • Wind Chill Factors– Typically if the wind chill is -30 or more we find this too cold for young children to be out in the elements. For example, the temperature could be -8 and with little to no wind, and the wind chill could only be -15. We would typically hold school with those conditions. If the temperature is -8 with -35 degree wind chills, we typically would not hold school.
  • Conditions of the Building and Parking Lots– With bad storms there is always the possibility of power outages (as we experienced on Thursday – January 8th with Shabonee), water main breaks, and potential failure of equipment in extreme conditions. We seek to ensure our buildings and parking lots are functioning well.
  • Village of Northbrook Plowing of Roads– The Village does a wonderful job of clearing the main roads first and then the side streets and cul-de-sacs. The amount of snow, progress of the plowing, and conditions during plowing are large factors related to the safety for driving. We are in constant contact with the Village on the road conditions during storms and particularly during the hours students would be coming to school.
  • Availability of Staff Members to Come to Work– As we all know in this world of two-parent working families and single-parent families, child care is a significant issue. What we are experiencing is that when many school districts, preschools, and private schools are closed, teachers have a difficult time making child care arrangements. Couple this factor with road conditions, temperatures, car difficulties, and more it becomes a question of  “Can we offer a valuable school day of instruction?”  If we cannot get the majority of our staff in school, then students will not have a productive learning experience for that day.
  • Changing Forecasts– As I mentioned above, oftentimes the forecasts change, and we must be sensitive to those changes. This more often than not, will affect the time in which we make a final decision.

Of utmost importance is the students’ safety during times of coming to school and returning home. We will always make a decision that will keep our children safe and provide a productive learning environment for them.

I recognize that everyone has their own expectation level for the conditions that school should be open. I want to mention again that our decision on schools is made within the context of our Townships leaders and the network of districts in our region. We simply ask parents for a measure of patience and tolerance as we balance a number of factors in making the decision. We will always make the decision as soon as we can. As a matter of practice, most decisions due to extreme temperatures will be made by the evening before school, while snow decisions will be decided, most often, by early morning the day of school.

Thank you for your understanding.

Enhancing our Communication

(Posted on September18th)

As you know on Friday, September 5th, we had a severe weather incident at the end of the school day and needed to delay the release of students for safety reasons.

We sent out notices to parents through SchoolMessenger, our emergency notification system. Unfortunately, many parents returned the phone call instead of listening to the voice message. Receiving such a large number of phone calls is disruptive to to the efficient management of the situation.

Please listen to the entire emergency phone message before attempting to return a missed call. This message will provide you with all the vital information. The priority for all members of our staff during these emergencies is the safety of your children.

Future use of our emergency notification system will include text messaging. We hope this will help provide another layer of assurance if you miss the initial phone call.

Thank you for your cooperation.

 

School Board Information Night

(Posted on September 18th)

As you may know, the April 2015 election ballot will include candidates for the District 27 Board of Education. You may have never thought about serving as a Board Member, but it is a rewarding and important role in our school community. 

Would you like to learn more about the responsibilities of serving on the Board?  The District will be holding a Board Candidate Interest Night on September 29, 2014 at 7:00 PM in the Wood Oaks Library.

Click here for more information. All interested community members are welcome.

 

Info about EV-D68 virus

(Posted September 11th)

 

We are writing to keep you informed about the enterovirus EV-D68, the latest illness affecting school children around the state.

First of all, we want you to know there are no reported cases of EV-D68 from among our students in District 27. Second, we continue to be pro-active in reducing the risk of all types of infections in our schools. We follow a thorough cleaning procedure to prevent the spread of illness every day. Members of the facilities staff disinfect door handles, desks, bathrooms and stair rails each night.

Cases of the EV-D68 virus have been found in Missouri and Illinois. The virus causes a range of respiratory problems, ranging from mild (fever, runny nose, cough, and body aches,) to more severe (wheezing and difficulty breathing.) Children and adults with asthma may be at higher risk for severe respiratory illness.

Like other viruses, EV-D68 is transmitted through close contact with those who are sick. The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends the following precautions to prevent the spread of viruses:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with those who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Stay home if you are sick and contact a doctor.

For additional information about EV-D68, please click here.

Welcome Back

(Posted on August 21st)

On behalf of the Board of Education, our Administrative Team, and our staff I want to welcome you back to school for the 2014-15 school year. I hope you had a wonderful, fun-packed summer with lots of activities. It’s hard to believe the summer is over and school is here. We have been working hard over the summer to prepare for the start of school and we are excited about all the great learning opportunities the students will experience this year.

September will be full of activities as you begin the year with Curriculum Nights, PTA activities, and much more. We hope you have a great start to the school year. Welcome back!

Our Home-School Partnership

I just wanted to highlight how much we value our District’s strong home-school partnership. Next to high-quality instruction in the classroom, our partnership stands as one of the most significant factors in a child’s education. We want to ensure that we have an open and highly collaborative relationship with all our parents and that we can address any concerns you may have over the course of the year in a positive, constructive, and reasoned manner.

Our Commitment- If you ever have a concern, the best path to a resolution is through a discussion. You can expect us to:

  • Understand your concern.
  • Gather the facts.
  • Develop a plan to resolve the issue.

The Teacher’s Daily Reality

Teachers are committed to responding to parents every day. At the same time, their daily schedules are extremely busy, and it may typically take a full business day to respond. The following are three realities of their school day:

1.     The teacher’s top priority during the school hours is working directly with the children.  As such the classroom environment does not allow a teacher to check emails regularly. In most cases, teachers check and respond to emails before and after school.

2.     In addition to checking emails before and after school, teachers devote this time to developing lesson plans, preparing the room for the daily activities, grading students’ work, and reviewing the curriculum, standards and assessments that must be taught.

3.     Finally, teachers are sometimes unavailable because of meetings, illness, conferences or training sessions. 

We follow a four step Concern Management Process below

Concern Management Process

Four Steps

Step 1

Contact the teacher via email, phone or a message at the office.  The teacher will typically respond within one business day.

Step 2

If you send an email to the teacher, please state the general concern. If the concern can be resolved through email, the teacher will address it through email. However, if the concern is more involved, please state it without detailing all the specifics. We have found that that best way to resolve concerns is to discuss them, and not try to resolve them through email. Email is not an adequate collaboration tool to address concerns but it does serve to express the need to work on the issue.

Step 3

The teacher will connect with you to understand and resolve the concern. This could be an email or phone call.  If necessary, the teacher would offer a time for a face-to-face meeting.

Step 4

If you and the teacher cannot resolve the concern, please ask that the principal participate in the problem-solving process. The principal will be the final arbiter on all matters relating to student concerns. In a rare case, the matter may be referred to the Superintendent or Central Office Administrator.

We thank you, in advance, for following this process. We can best meet your needs by working together, face-to-face or on the phone as appropriate. We want to ensure that our decisions for your children are thoughtful, measured, and within our capacity to reasonably deliver. Our experience tells us that students benefit most when we work together to meet their needs in a culture of respect and collaboration.

Roadwork in Northbrook

You have probably already seen that Sanders Road and Moon Hill Drive are under construction. Sanders Road from Techny Road to Lake Cook Road is being resurfaced by Cook County. In addition, several neighborhood streets immediately west of Shabonee School including Moon Hill Drive, are having a new water main service installed under the direction of the Village of Northbrook. While we do not control the construction schedule, we have done our best to work with Village and County officials to gather the best information possible, to reduce the construction impact on our student transportation operation.

From the start of the school year, travel on these roads through early October is going to be challenging, particularly on Sanders Road. The Village of Northbrook water main project adjacent to Shabonee School is nearing completion, short of concrete road repairs and landscape restoration work. Intermittent traffic delays are inevitable at both construction locations, therefore your patience and understanding as you move through these work areas is greatly appreciated.

We are also working with our bus company, First Student Transportation, to minimize as much as is reasonably possible, the construction related travel impact on our students using bus transportation. You will receive more information about these construction projects when we send out our beginning of the year bus information and also through future school updates.

We ask for your patience and we hope the County and State are finished by the end of September.

Thank you, and have a wonderful start to the school year!