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Todd Marver, Freelance Reporter
8:27 am CDT March 17, 2020

Although school is closed in Wilmette School District 39 until further notice, the Board of Education held its meeting on Monday, March 16, with everyone at least six feet apart per the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. 

Remote e-learning for students began on March 16 and will continue for further notice with the exception of spring break week until school reopens. Remote e-learning will not take place the week of March 23, due to spring break. The board officially adopted the e-learning program at the meeting.

“This has been a huge commitment of time and effort,” Superintendent Kari Cremascoli said. “I am incredibly impressed by the work that has been accomplished in such a really short amount of time in unprecedented challenges.”

Board member Ellen Sternweiler too was impressed with the way the district put together the e-learning program in a small amount of time.

“I was blown away by the organization in such short time,” she said. “It’s incredible that you all were able to pull this together. I can’t wait to see how it jells over time. If you did this on the first day, I’m just amazed, so thank you so much.”

Board member Amy Poehling was happy with the level of work her children were being assigned to do on the first day of e-learning on March 16.

“The work that my kids were doing was really meaningful,” she said. “It was not busy work and it was relevant to what they had already been studying. It was totally appropriate to their grade level.”

Board president Lisa Schneider-Fabes also was pleased with the content in the e-learning.

“I did listen to the Pledge of Allegiance, which was touching, and also the introduction and explanation of the virus and why children were doing e-learning,” she said. “All of it is very well done.”

Board member Erin Stone was pleased with the positivity expressed by district staff during the start of e-learning amidst the coronavirus situation.

“My son and I queued up the video last night to see what he was supposed to do,” he said. “I think Mr. (Eric) Resis (eighth grade assistant principal) had a parting shot, ‘Have fun’ at the end. What a way to model what this is going to be. They were positive and upbeat. That’s exactly what the kids need.”

Board member Jon Cesaretti felt that D39 is ahead of the curve compared to other districts when it comes to e-learning.

“I have a lot of friends who have kids in other districts who aren’t nearly as fortunate as we are and our ability to launch that program in such short notice is very impressive.” Cesaretti

Board vice president Frank Panzicka piggybacked off Cesaretti’s point to say that he felt D39’s e-learning program is better than New Trier’s e-learning program.

“Anecdotally what we’re doing is significantly better than what I’ve seen from New Trier,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity somewhere down the line to help the rest of our community, I think there is room for that.”

Board member Mark Steen was impressed with how the district sent some of its youngest students home with technology on the last day of school on Thursday, March 12.

“I was amazed to learn that we sent all of the first through fourth graders with 1 to 1 devices,” he said. “How we pulled that off on a Thursday afternoon, I have no idea, but I’ve very impressed.”

 
A brief recap of School Board action from March 16 

· The board approved the employment of Kathryn Dominique as the Wilmette Junior High principal effective July 1.

· The board approved a resolution providing for the issue of not to exceed $11.6 million general obligation limited tax school bonds.

· The board approved a two-year extension of the student transportation contract with North Shore Transit. There will be a 4 percent price increase in fiscal year 2021 and 4.25 percent increase in 2022.

· The board approved the summer 2020 Highcrest and health/life safety construction project bids in the amount of $2,142,500.