D161 continues discussions on reopening, substitutes and construction

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D161 continues discussions on reopening, substitutes and construction

February 25, 2021 - 20:56

The Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education on Monday, Feb. 22, provided updates on a variety of topics discussed at meetings in recent months.

Among them was the anticipated return in the second week of March to in-person learning for families that have elected the hybrid model.

Superintendent Dana Smith said administration continues to hone its COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including social distancing procedures. Seating will be assigned on buses. Smith added they are also going over arrival and dismissal procedures, as well as balancing the focus of the hybrid and fully remote programming.

“We’re running two schools,” he said of the situation.

Smith added that the district’s leadership team has been meeting weekly rehashing everything needed to make sure they are ready to go.

“They’ve been showing up,” Smith said. “I’m so thankful for them.”

Board President Michelle Hoereth asked if the district also could develop a list of “dos and don’ts” for parents regarding the return to school, so everyone is on the same page about the schools’ procedures.

The board also voted unanimously as part of its consent agenda to formally approve an agreement discussed earlier in February to use guest teachers from Swing Education when its own pool of substitutes cannot fill open assignments. Use of those teachers will cost the district an additional 35% (or $38.50) on top of its existing guest teacher daily rate of $110.

As part of its consent agenda, the board also moved ahead with approving a 2021 Summer Academy assistant principal stipend of $2,500. The district is looking to add an administrative position for the summer academy because administrators are expecting an uptick in student attendance in two different learning models — hybrid and fully remote.

The board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding COVID-19 Absence Agreement, as discussed the meeting prior. The measure follows a recommendation from the Flossmoor Education Association and administration to provide employees infected with COVID-19 or seeking the vaccine paid administrative leave instead of using their personal paid time off. 

The agreement runs through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. It provides up to 10 working days of leave at base salary for those who have to remain home and are unable to telework after testing positive for COVID-19. It also provides up to two days leave with proof of the second dose of a vaccine.

To start the discussions portion of the meeting, the school board revisited a construction update from the early February meeting in which officials said they were still waiting for Trane to correct some problems with unit ventilators installed at Flossmoor Hills and Western Avenue, including cosmetic damage and parts that need replacements. On Feb. 12, the district had a meeting with Wold Architects, Henry Brothers, subcontractor Cryor & Olsen and their subcontractor, Trane, about the univents.

“It was a productive meeting,” Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella said. “It was hopeful.”

Matt Verdun, of Wold Architects, said Trane took responsibility. Replacements parts were expected to ship Feb. 23, he added.

“We’ll stay on top of them,” LaBella said, noting they have otherwise been pleased with their contractors. “Henry Brothers has been terrific. Wold has been terrific.”


More than 40 students from District 161 participated in online school and district spelling bees. Of those who participated in the school competitions, 23 advanced to the district spelling bee, which took place Feb. 5. Chase Steverson scored the highest on an online test and advanced to the South Cook ISC Scripps Spelling Bee, which is to take place March 9 at Southland Preparatory High School.

Students who took part in the district’s programs attended weekly spelling bee Zoom practice sessions, according to a board report. They studied 450 words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee to prepare for the online tests.

For February, teacher Staci Klein from Western Avenue was the district’s sole #AboveAndBeyond winner. She was recognized in a video for her hard work and dedication to District 161.