By Chris Fox

For The Elmhurst Independent

The Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board held a regular meeting on Feb. 23 at the District 205 Center, 162 S. York St. All seven board members attended the meeting.

The nine speakers who spoke during the meeting’s public-participation segment included district parents who urged the board to offer full-time, in-person instruction in District 205 schools. On Feb. 16, the district began offering a full week of in-person instruction to kindergartners and first-graders. Second-graders were able to return to a full week of in-person instruction beginning the week of Feb. 22. On March 1, the district began offering a full-week of in-person learning to students in grades 3-5.

Current school schedules

The current school days for elementary students runs from 8:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The middle school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and continues until 1:30 p.m. Beginning with the week of March 15, York High School students will be able to return to in-person classes four days per week, from 7:40 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. York students will continue to take part in remote instruction each Wednesday from 7:40 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Some of the parents who spoke at the Feb. 23 meeting urged the district to return to a full day of in-person school at all levels. One parent asked why a five-hour school day was safe, but a seven-hour day would be a risk. Another parent stated that by March 15, a majority of the district’s teachers and staff will be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Another parent who spoke asked what it will take for the district to allow students to eat lunch inside school buildings.

Several of the parents who spoke at the meeting also noted that public and private schools in the area are offering five days per week of in-person instruction. Multiple speakers also told the board that the community needs to know the district’s plans for what amount of in-person instruction it will offer in the 2021-22 school year. That plan, they said, needs to be announced well before the start of the next school year.

Moyer responds, offers COVID-19 update

District 205 Superintendent David Moyer told the board during the Feb. 23 meeting that the area’s COVID-19 positivity rates are dropping. He also noted that at its Feb. 9 meeting, the board approved COVID-19 surveillance tests for district students in grades 6-12. Those saliva tests will begin during the week of

March 8. Moyer also said that many district staff members will receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during the week of March 15. According to the district administration, as of Feb. 23, approximately 60 to 80 percent of the district’s staff had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Board members weigh in

Board member Jim Collins said the district cannot spend the upcoming summer with parents speculating whether the district will be offering full days of in-person learning at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Collins added that no calamities have occurred in other districts that have been open for in-person instruction.

Board member Christopher Kocinski said that he would like the district’s schools to fully open after staff members are fully vaccinated. He said the district has many safety layers in place, and that parents would still have the choice to have their children receive fully remote instruction. Kocinski also said that it’s clear the community wants its children back in school buildings.

Board member Karen Stuefen noted that the district needs to have a clear plan for the 2021-22 school year to allow parents to make decisions about where they will send their children.

Board president Kara Caforio told Moyer that the board is expecting to hear a plan at its next meeting (on March 16) regarding how the district will be able to offer five days a week of in-person instruction at the middle school level. Caforio asked if the administration could present details about a plan for the 2021-22 school year ready at the March 16 meeting. Moyer said he could not guarantee a plan for the fall at the March 16 meeting. The board directed him to outline plans for the next school year during a meeting in April.

Moyer noted that the district’s administrators will consult with doctors in an upcoming March 8 meeting. He said that meeting will include conversations about the district’s protocols for COVID-19 related quarantines.

One day after its regular meeting, board members held a special meeting regarding the district’s search for Moyer’s replacement. Moyer, who became the district’s superintendent in 2015, has accepted another superintendent’s position in New York. He begins that position on July 1.

Firm performing superintendent search offers report

The board recently approved an agreement with the search firm School Exec Connect to help find the district’s next superintendent. Two School Exec Connect representatives—Dr. Linda Yonke and Dr. Timothy Shimp—spoke during the Feb. 24 special meeting.

Yonke, who was York High School’s principal from 1998 to 2003, told the Board that School Exec Connect had conducted several focus groups and interviews with a variety of stakeholders to hear input about what the community is looking for in District 205’s next superintendent. Additionally, Yonke spoke about a recent online survey that asked for community feedback. That online survey, which was open from Feb. 3-19, received more than 2,400 responses, including more than 1,300 responses from district parents and in excess of 800 responses from district students.

While discussing the surveys and the feedback from focus groups and interviews, Yonke mentioned the community’s priorities for a superintendent for District 205. According to Yonke, those qualities include someone who is focused on students and can communicate a clear vision for the future of the district. Additionally, the ideal candidates should demonstrate strong interpersonal skills and be an effective speaker and writer.

Yonke noted during the Feb. 24 meeting that applications for the position would close in the next few days, and that School Exec Connect would begin conducting interviews during the week of March 1. A slate of candidates will be presented to the board during the week of March 15. The board will interview those candidates on March 18 and March 20. The board will then narrow down its candidates, likely choosing three finalists. Those three finalists will return for interviews with district stakeholders, and with the board, from March 23-25.

Yonke said that after the board chooses the next superintendent, School Exec Connect would conduct its final reference checks and negotiate a contract. The board plans to announce the district’s next superintendent after the district returns from its spring break. The spring break begins the week of March 29.

Yonke and Shimp told the board during the Feb. 24 meeting that there were approximately 30 to 35 applicants for the position. Yonke said she expected another dozen or so applications to come in during the rest of the week.

 

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