Spring 2021 UPDATE

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DAY TO DAY Operations in Pandemic

Celebrating 70 years of…

The Conference Date Has Moved!

Save the date for June 9-11, 2021 to join the celebration! Plan now to join your Illinois ASBO peers and take part in the best learning and networking school business has to offer.


Illinois Association of School Business Officials UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021 / v.29 / i.03



Now What? Implementing New Laws & Policies

The pandemic has challenged school leaders, partner firms and staff at all levels to think on their feet, collaborate and quickly respond to everchanging guidelines. Cover Story by Stuart Brodksy, Steven Kowalski, Ron Richardson, AIA, Eric Rogers, Dr. Lyndl Schuster and Dan Whisler



Visit ISSUU.com and search for Illinois ASBO.

Virtual Learning

Beyond Next Semester

Some form of virtual or remote learning is here to stay, and as a result, will have a lasting impact on education in many areas. By John Connolly, Todd Dugan, Scott Miller, Don Ringelestein and Craig Williams



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Your Shot to Shine. 07

Uncovering Universal Truths of Cleaning Schools Uncover four universal truths about cleaning that have always been constants but have come to the forefront during the pandemic. By Brian Rominski and Doug Renkosik



Making the Most of Your Time. 09


The New Normal: Transforming How We Communicate. 11

Transportation Issues & COVID-19 Read about solutions districts have found to some of the common COVID-19 related transportation issues. By Jan Bush



Pandemic Operational Funding Challenges and Solutions. 19


Tools to Lead an Operations Team in Pandemic. 40

How to Work with What You Have COVID-19 has presented the facility operations world with ample challenges, but also opportunities to take some time and ensure the most optimal performance of your existing systems. By Mandeep Singh, CCP, LEED-AP



How We Responded When Governor Pritzker ordered Illinois to close due to COVID-19 in March of 2020, school districts had to shift gears and figure out how to serve students. By Georgia Marshall



Creating a Safety Net Through Strategic Budgeting Budgeting strategies to help ensure that current and future resources will be sufficient to support and maintain the best possible educational programs for the students. By Mark Staehlin



Learn how to practice the art of Stoicism from Myron Spiwak of New Trier Twp. HSD 203. 46

The Final Word Scott Gaunky, CPMM

Dir./Facilities Lincolnshire Prairieview SD 103 Scott’s role is to provide a clean and safe learning environment. Well-maintained school buildings and grounds, with spaces that provide proper light, temperatures and furnishings help support an educational experience in which all students can excel.



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THE MAGA ZINE Illinois Association of School Business Officials


Northern Illinois University, IA-103 108 Carroll Avenue DeKalb, IL 60115-2829 P: (815) 753-1276 / F: (815) 516-0184 / www.iasbo.org


UPDATE Editorial Advisory Board

Check out www.iasbo.org or the latest Calendar of Events included in the UPDATE mailing to see full seminar listings including location, PDC sponsorship and registration information.

May 2021

April 2021

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M 29 5 12 19 26 3

T 30 6 13 20 27 4

W T F S 31 1 2 3 7 8 9 10 14 15 16 17 21 22 23 24 28 29 30 1 5 6 7 8

S 26 2 9 16 23 30

M 27 3 10 17 24 31

T 28 4 11 18 25 1

W 29 5 12 19 26 2

T 30 6 13 20 27 3

F S 31 1 7 8 14 15 21 22 28 29 4 5

June 2021

July 2021

S 30 6 13 20 27 4

S 27 4 11 18 25 1

M T W T F S 31 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 28 29 30 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10

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Delegate Advisory Assembly




Facilities Operations Program: Essentials of Custodial Operations




Opt. Transportation Ops, Claim Process & Transport of Students - AAC#1870




Lunch & Learn Webinar: Working Cash Funds from Start to Finish


5/6/21 to 5/7/21


Debt Issuance from A to Z: Important Topics Administrators Need to Know - AAC #821




Crisis Communication: Prepare, Respond, Reflect AAC #3008




What Connected Leaders Do Differently - AAC #1812




The Legal Rights of Students and Parents - AAC #1416




Disruptive Innovation: Unlock Your School’s Potential! - AAC #3728




From Words to Action: Your Response to Racism in Schools - AAC #1874



12:00pm Lunch & Learn Webinar: Dashboards & Financial Reports




School Approach to Mental Health & Wellness AAC #1560



Manage Your Time or Time Will Manage You AAC #1444




What Went Wrong: How to Avoid Special Ed Litigation - AAC #1886




Trauma Responsive Practices: Learning, Leading & Connecting - AAC #3015




Women in Leadership: Learning, Leading, Living! AAC #3665


6/9/21 to 6/11/21




Learning From Lincoln: Leadership Practices Webinar - AAC #3721




Presidents’ Cup Golf Tournament


Annual Conference



PDC MEMBERS Jacquelyn Bogan Special Education: Admininistration & Finance Amy Curtin Accounting Auditing & Financial Reporting Yasmine Dada Principles of School Finance Todd R. Drafall Public Policy, Advocacy & Intergovernmental Relations Todd Dugan Technology Timothy J. Gavin Budgeting & Financial Planning Raoul J. Gravel III, Ed.D. Communications Frances A. LaBella Legal Issues Daniel R. Mortensen, CPMM Planning & Construction Thomas M. Parrillo Purchasing Sherry L. Reynolds-Whitaker Ed.D. Human Resource Management Brian Rominski CPMM, CPS Maintenance & Operations Anthony Ruelli Leadership Development Lyndl A. Schuster Ed.D. Sustainability Mark E. Staehlin Cash Management, Investments & Debt Management Justin D. Veihman Risk Management Laura L. Vince Food Service BOARD & EXTERNAL RELATIONS MEMBERS Mark W. Altmayer President Lisa Yefsky SAAC Chair STAFF MEMBERS Michael Jacoby Executive Director / CEO (815) 753-9366, mjacoby@iasbo.org Susan P. Bertrand Deputy Executive Director / COO (815) 753-9368, sbertrand@iasbo.org Craig Collins Statewide Professional Development Coordinator, (630) 442-9203, ccollins@iasbo.org Rebekah L. Weidner Senior Copywriter / Content Strategist, (815) 753-9270, rweidner@iasbo.org Stacia Freeman Graphic Designer (815) 753-9393, sfreeman@iasbo.org Kevin Nelligan Graphic Designer (815) 753-7654, knelligan@iasbo.org Laura Rude Communications Coordinator (815) 753-4313, lrude@iasbo.org

Illinois ASBO Board of Directors

Mark W. Altmayer President Jan J. Bush President-Elect Eric DePorter Treasurer Dean T. Romano, Ed.D. Immediate Past President 2018–21 Board of Directors Seth Chapman, Ed.D., Angela M. Crotty, Ed.D., Adam P. Parisi 2019–22 Board of Directors Maureen A. Jones, Tamara L. Mitchell, Nicole Stuckert 2020-23 Board of Directors Anthony R. Arbogast, Edward J. Brophy, Patrick McDermott, Ed.D., SFO

Illinois ASBO Board Liaisons

Lisa Yefsky Service Associate Advisory Committee Chair Charles L. Czachor Service Associate Advisory Committee Vice Chair Deborah I. Vespa ISBE Board Liaison Perry Hill IASB Board Liaison David Wood Governmental Relations Specialist

Privacy Policy

All materials contained within this publication are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, displayed or published without the prior written permission of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. References, authorship or information provided by parties other than that which is owned by the Illinois Association of School Business Officials are offered as a service to readers. The editorial staff of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials was not involved in their production and is not responsible for their content.

For a Complete Listing of Upcoming Spring Events Visit: www.iasbo.org/events/calendar

PERSPECTIVE / Board President

FROM–THE–PODIUM Don't Throw Away Your "Shot!" Happy New Year! Here’s to hoping 2021 gifts us with joy as well as success in all of our new endeavors. My last articles have delved into making sure we understand our “Why” as I strongly believe that we have an obligation to continuously recommit to immersing ourselves within our districts. With this article I would like to briefly digress into a bit of my personal life, in an effort to address a bigger opportunity. My daughter runs cross country and track for a Division 1 university, and she will often ask my wife and I to bike her runs with her. More often than not we comply, keeping her company for upwards of ten miles at a time. During this time, she will also play music just to keep us all entertained, as these runs often turn into a monotonous grind. Her playlist of choice is always —without fail— the soundtrack from Hamilton.



While there is now an end in sight, we cannot forget all of the lessons we have learned throughout the pandemic. I have yet to see the musical in its entirety, but my daughter has played the soundtrack so many times on her runs that I feel as if I have. Not to mention she will also answer any questions I have regarding the plot while she runs at paces that are not conducive to communication. One of my daughter’s favorite songs from Hamilton is called “My Shot.” In the song, Alexander Hamilton strongly asserts that he will always fearlessly and unapologetically pursue every opportunity at hope and a new life. Hamilton, by being “scrappy” and determined, continuously pushes through pain and barriers in order to achieve the life he has always dreamed of. In doing this, Hamilton often will have to create hope and optimism in otherwise bleak situations — so my daughter tells me. I cannot help but draw a parallel to the newly available vaccines. These “shots” have quite literally sparked hope in a dismal and depressive situation that we have all endured for months on end. I have stressed that we must find the glimmers of hope and opportunity in this darkness, but now there is truly a light at the end of the tunnel.

We cannot throw away our shot at seeing the end of this pandemic and making a difference with what we do! While there is now an end in sight, one that we can all pursue with enough tenacity to match Alexander Hamilton’s, we cannot forget all of the lessons we have learned throughout the pandemic. As an organization we have learned how to better adapt technology to fit the needs of everyone, our students have become more responsible for their education and our teachers are learning new and innovative teaching strategies and methods. As a nation we are also growing stronger together toward a future that serves everyone. These are lessons that we need to carry forward both as a broad society and within our districts. We as a group need need to "rise up", take our "shot" rediscover our “Why” and forge our purpose in 2021 and beyond! Continue to stay #IASBOStrong!


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PERSPECTIVE / Executive Director

FROM–THE–OFFICE Making the Most of Your Time I love the theme of this issue of the UPDATE Magazine because one thing that school business officials do best is manage the day-to-day operations of a district. I hear from many of you that it is all-consuming, leaving little time for other strategic endeavors and often renders you exhausted at the end of the day. Then days become weeks and weeks become months and so on. The difference between a manager and a leader is that managers get lost in the day-to-day and leaders find time to rise above it. During this past year filled with a pandemic and shifting decisions regarding face-to-face, remote or hybrid learning, I imagine most of you have focused on management and not so much on leadership, because you simply did not have time!



The difference between a manager and a leader is that managers get lost in the day-to-day and leaders find time to rise above it. As a former trumpet player, I love this quote from Miles Davis: “Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.” Of course, in music “time” refers to meter and tempo, but in life, time is the one thing that we are forced to spend every day and can never get it back. I came across that quote in the latest book by Daniel Pink entitled When - The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. If you have not picked that up yet, I would really encourage you to do so. It is full of research-based ideas around how you can spend time wisely and when it is critical to take action. For all of us who spend many hours on the job, we should all want that time to be productive and adequate to tackle all the aspects of our work. Both the strategic and the day-to-day. Over the years, much research has been done around the patterns of daily human behavior. Whether it is mood swings, feelings of happiness, levels of feeling warm toward others, enjoying oneself or emotional balance, all of these variables peak in humans at around 11:30am and so does our ability to resist distractions and stay on task. Pink refers

to this as “vigilance.” The morning is a time to attack and solve analytic problems as our minds can more easily chase away distractions. Ask yourself, “What do I do in the morning vs. the afternoon?” If you are doing work that requires sharpness, vigilance and focus that should be done in the morning. Work that requires creativity, seeking connections or reaching resolve – that work should be done in the afternoon when the brain tends to let more inspirational ideas emerge. Now I know that most of you do not have the luxury of controlling your days, but if even a little juggling is done in order to not be out-of-balance, perhaps you can find the time you need to get beyond the rush of day-to-day needs. While this issue is about some of the large day-to-day lifts you have had to do this past year, it is also full of knowledge that can help you be more efficient and productive, leaving some crucial time for you to tackle real leader issues.


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The Illinois ASBO Golf Outing is

Teeing Off

on Tuesday, April 27, 2021!

Taking place at the Cantigny Golf Course, the outing will have something for everyone! Choose to play the 18-hole or 9-hole course, participate in contests to win prizes and enjoy networking with friends and colleagues.

See you on the course!


FROM–THE–FIELD The New Normal: Transforming How We Communicate Like you, I have added some new words to my vocabulary this past year such as “Covidiot,” Zoom-bombing and my favorite, “Blursday.” While we are hoping for a return to pre-COVID normal, we may need to face the reality that post-COVID life will not necessarily return exactly the way things were before, which may not be all bad. Our work is relationship-based and we are used to in-person meetings with our clients. During the pandemic, we needed to shift to virtual meetings, which will likely become more of our new normal as we transform how we provide service. Having the ability to meet virtually has allowed, in many instances, ease of scheduling and more participation as we can squeeze in more meetings without the need for travel time. In winter, if there is bad weather, you are not leaving the house anyway. Plus, who doesn’t love the bonus of being business on the top and pajamas on the bottom?

Lisa Yefsky



I think we long for more in-person connections and being able to stand in the warmth of the presence of other human beings. Virtual meetings, as we know, are not without their challenges, as we all have had our share of technical difficulties, barking dogs and those cute home learners’ interruptions. What is missing is the opportunity to make human connections, developing personal relationships and networking. While we learn to hone our skills navigating technology for our virtual meetups, we have had to learn to be better presenters as it is easy to lose your audience when they have the ability to read emails or work on their computer. When you only have half of their attention, only half of the message is likely getting across. In my work world as we present to employees about their benefit programs, we have struggled getting people to show up to presentations. With this new normal, we have begun recording the presentations so employees can watch them at their own convenience and even share the presentation with their spouse if desired. The new challenge becomes how to support members when they have questions and concerns.

Transforming how we communicate will be crucial. I think we long for more in-person connections and being able to stand in the warmth of the presence of other human beings. Our offices should be opening in June, and while I am not looking forward to wearing pants that are not elastic waist, I am excited to be surrounded by people. Certainly, schooling has been transformed significantly in the past year, but I hope schools will still manage a snow day here or there. We need to preserve some of the magic for the kids and the beauty of an expected day off. These are the little things that help us to battle the dreaded “Blursday” blues.


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Jan Bush

John Connolly

His 30+ year career has focused on the planning and design of K-12 school renovation and new construction across Illinois and nationally. He is skilled at leading the conceptualization and visioning process, co-creating schools that are resilient and adaptive to change.

Has served as Business Manager/ Treasurer/Transportation Director in Murphysboro for the past 19 years and is currently President-Elect of Illinois ASBO

Works with a team of experts to provide the best technology solutions for D230 staff, students, parents and the community. Prior to D230, Connolly was the Educational Technology Director for Chicago Public Schools. He has 17 years of experience with enterprise-wide technology solutions and programs.

Senior Vice President CannonDesign

sbrodsky@cannondesign.com Georgia Marshall

Business Manager Murphysboro CUSD #186

. jbush@mhs.org Doug Renkosik

Chief Technology Officer Cons. High Sch. Dist. 230

jconnolly@d230.org Don Ringelestein

Food Services Coordinator Murphysboro CUSD 186

Dir./Operations & Maintenance Huntley CSD 158

Chief Technology Officer Maine Twp. HSD 207

Has been employed by Murphysboro for 14 years, with 34 total years of food service management experience, including 20 years in long term care facility food services. Georgia believes in ensuring that good nutrition is available for all, no age restrictions, no income restrictions. Food is to be enjoyed!

Has a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois. He left the private sector to work in physical plant management for public institutions in 1989, then started public sector work as a Physical Plant Director of Illinois Valley Community College. He has been in his present position 19 years.Doug has been a member of IASBO for over 25 years.

Has been an educational technology leader for the past 12 years. Don served as the Director of Technology at West Aurora School District 129 from 2011 until just this year. He also serves as the Vice-Chair of both the Consortium for School Networking’s Exam, and the Certification Governance committee.




Dr. Lyndl Schuster

Mandeep Singh, CCP, LEED-AP

Mark Staehlin

Asst. Supt./Business Services, CSBO River Trails SD 26

Vice President E Cube, Inc.

Controller Comm. High Sch. Dist. 99

Is a strong advocate for technology in education. She previously served Illinois ASBO on the Board of Directors and as a member of the Sustainability Professional Development Committee.

Is a degreed mechanical engineer with over 25 years’ experience in mechanical systems design, MEP/FP systems commissioning and energy efficiency. Mandeep has assisted building owners successfully troubleshoot and optimize a wide variety of building types, with a special focus on health care, schools and higher education.

A 35-year member and Illinois ASBO Past President, Mark has shared his expertise on the Cash Management, Investments and Debt Management PDC, Editorial Advisory Board and Online PD Task Force, as well as through speaking at multiple conferences and events.




Todd Dugan

Susan Harkin

Steven Kowalski

Superintendent Bunker Hill CUSD 8

Chief Operating Officer Comm. Unit Sch. Dist. 300

Business Development Manager Performance Services, Inc.

Is the proud superintendent of a rural district in the midst of both a digital conversion to 1:1 devices environment while changing both the pedagogy and the learning environment. A 2017 Tech & Learning Leader of the Year and the 2018 Illinois State University EAF Superintendent of the Year, Todd is passionate about 21st century education.

Has been a business official for over 13 years and indirectly worked with her current district for over 25 years. She is the Vice Chair of the State Evidenced-Based Funding Professional Review Panel. Susan is a Past President of Illinois ASBO and is currently serving as an ASBO International Board of Director.

Has dedicated his career to developing facility improvements that reduce energy costs and enhance the learning and working environments for education and local governments in Illinois. Steve’s experience, expertise and passion for energy conservation enables him to find cost-effective solutions to complex customer needs.




Ron Richardson, AIA

Eric Rogers

Brian Rominski

Principal, Dir./PK-12 Education FGM Architects

Dir./Finance & Operations Diamond Lake SD 76

Dir./Buildings & Grounds Prospect Heights SD 23

Is a principal at FGM Architects, leads the Chicago Region PK12 educational practice and has 30+ years of experience in educational design. Ron serves on the IASA Service Associate Executive Committee and is an active participant in the IASBO Sustainability PDC.

Has served in his current role for the last six years. Mr. Rogers is passionate about creating sustainable practices within a school district on an affordable budget.

Has been working in the K-12 educational market for over 20 years in multiple capacities, providing services and leadership in school design, construction project management, facility condition assessments, asbestos management, IAQ issues, and all things environmental related to schools.




Dan Whisler, CPMM, CPS

Craig Williams

Scott Miller

Dir./Building & Grounds River Trails SD 26

Dir./Infrastructure Consulting Svs. ClientFirst Consulting Group

Math Department Chair Naperville CUSD 203

Has a strong facilities background with more than 20 years of facilities management experience.

Has advised and served in school districts for the last 22 years. As a former district tech director and CIO, he brings practical experience to addressing the issues that school IT departments face. His focus is on IT strategic planning, infrastructure and how IT can enhance both instruction and school operations.

Is committed to creating an engaging learning environment for students to reach their full potential. He is the 2019 recipient of the Lee Yunker Mathematics Leadership Award.



smiller@naperville203.org www.iasbo.org

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Virtual Learning


Next Semester

The extraordinary events of 2020 brought predictions about virtual learning (and working) to reality. Some form of virtual or remote learning is here to stay, and as a result, will have a lasting impact on education in many areas such as: > > > Security > > > Assessment and evaluations > > > Instruction > > > Paperless and virtual operations Each contributor to this article was a presenter in one of two professional development sessions about virtual learning through Illinois ASBO at the 2019 Annual Conference or the 2020 Virtual Conference in November. Read on to learn from each of their unique perspectives on the impact of virtual learning for current and future instruction and school operations.

By Don Ringelestein


School districts have had the luxury, to some extent, of not being as vigilant as other organizations from a cyber security standpoint. Most school districts do not have professionals in charge of security, in an environment where security professionals face zero percent unemployment. In other words, the demand for cybersecurity in the world at large is exponentiating, but school districts have not thus far acknowledged the centrality of cyber security in the face of our current pandemic. We have been forced, painfully, to acknowledge a fact that has long been lurking in our teaching and operations: cyber security is critically important for the operations of school districts, from our core mission of teaching and learning to our daily operations like paying staff, vendors and even taking attendance. Security implications for schools have become increasingly apparent as we have transitioned to remote learning this fall. “Zoom bombing” has become a part of our vocabulary, and we have had to implement security features in Zoom that we had not thought to use before. Remote learning has also revealed just how important our technology infrastructure is to student learning. Malware can, and has, crippled districts for days, something that we cannot afford when all of our students are remote, but also when they are in school. Technology has become an invisible part of what we do every day, and like electricity, we do not notice it until it is a problem. Finally, staff education is critical for cyber security. Most malware finds its way into our IT infrastructure through “social engineering” schemes like phishing. Staff must be educated on not falling for phishing emails, and a cottage industry has grown up providing not only training, but phishing simulations, to further this all-important goal. 14 |

UPDATE Magazine / Spring Winter 2021 2020


By Craig Williams, RCDD/NTS


By Todd Dugan


There were success stories and missteps, and also opportunities for silver linings, to take away from the pandemic in our largely working-class rural school district in south-central Illinois. A particular challenge early in the process was to stay connected when roughly 18 percent of the district lacked access to reliable broadband. One alternative used by districts in similar rural areas was to deploy packets of worksheets, instead of synchronous online learning. While some value can be obtained from basic skill reinforcement worksheets for younger students, this would place too much emphasis on getting work completed, which is not necessarily synonymous with learning experiences. Our district deployed cellular hotspots and installed outdoor wireless access points without password protection to create the only public drive up WIFI spots in Macoupin County. Fast forward to the fall of 2020, and the Bunker Hill community would expect far more support for remote learning. Right away, the district administrators conveyed their intent to forgo annual teacher evaluations during the 2020-21 school year. What was made abundantly clear to all teachers was to not stress about evaluations or standardized assessments. Focus on kids and good teaching! As with most crises, silver linings also present themselves from the challenges overcome. The district has made a commitment to avoid sending students out to alternative schools. At least for the foreseeable future, students from Bunker Hill will no longer be attending these schools. Even if a student is struggling, we determined we could better assist students through remote learning in conjunction with their current school contacts. Another silver lining emerging is the community’s realization of how little value was obtained from a standardized IAR (Illinois Assessment of Readiness – formerly PARCC) score. These annual “report card” scores have typically only been popular among news media, realtors and legislators. This shift away from focusing on standardized tests this year is not a way to avoid accountability; this year has seen learning occurring in so many personalized and creative ways. One 5th grade student is attending “classes” on a Chromebook at the local tavern, because it is the only place with free WiFi near their home. Another 7th grader is attending online classes from their attic because it has adequate cellular reception. Online classwork is complete with insulation hanging down and the student with a jacket using one hand to hold their hotspot to the window. With such variables in the home educational environment, why in the world would a standardized score show us anything? Due to the diverse status of school re-openings across the state (some have yet to open since last spring, some have opened fully since August and most have done some type of combination of both), standardized test results are skewed. If students’ learning environments are not standardized, then these assessments will not be truly normed. Further, if these results are misused in order to shame districts that have a higher concentration of students needing more support and resources, then this borders on educational malpractice. What should be occurring is districts reporting for accountability to their communities on how they have managed students’ wellbeing and engagement, while also providing adequate feedback. Achieving a level 2, 3 or 4 on the IAR test not only will fail to convey this, but also breaks a cardinal rule of motivating students: students must experience success early and often. www.iasbo.org

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By Scott Miller


“No more snow days,” is one of the first things that colleagues say, and as this answer may seem one of the implications of remote learning moving forward. While this answer may seem cursory, there is quite a bit of depth to this response. Pre-pandemic, almost all K-12 school districts considered the idea of a virtual learning day for all grade level students impossible. Months of planning would need to go into the preparation, teachers requiring many days of training, research on best practices of teaching online, a survey of families may need to be taken and a pilot program would need to be implemented before allowing distance learning on a snow day. While all of these are necessary to create and implement sustainable teaching and learning in schools, we see now that innovation, creativity, collaboration and problem solving have become a daily occurrence for teachers and administrators. Adapting to change has become the norm for educators because the circumstances are constantly changing. • • • • •

What happens if a teacher or student loses Internet connectivity during class? Which concepts are most important for students to learn with less instructional time? What parts of the lesson can be synchronous and/or asynchronous? How can we reach students that are not engaging? How do we assess students using technology? What does classroom discussion look like online?

The answers to these questions are at the center of what will carry over in the future of teaching and learning. Distance learning has also magnified the equity gap. All students must have equal access to high-speed Internet and devices. No longer should there be a lack of connectivity for students that live in rural, urban or suburban communities. Connectivity, both inside and outside the classroom, is vital to the success of students. Teachers have found ways to connect with students that extend beyond the walls of the classroom and the time of the class period. Utilizing digital tools to provide voice to all students has provided new ways to build relationships. To accomplish this, teachers have restructured time during a class period. Students interact with a digital activity, followed by short bursts of instruction and synthesis. Teachers then implement a short formative assessment and provide digital feedback allowing them to gauge the understanding level of each student and to determine what they are ready for next. Teachers are also taking time to conference face to face or digitally with individual or small groups of students that need additional support. Connectivity, restructuring learning, analyzing student work and providing support for students require more collaboration time for teachers.

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UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021

ARTICLE / Virtual Learning

By John Connolly


Imagine a world where paper is not being routed throughout the district and ending up in a file cabinet? Extra pay forms and timesheets are all electronic with signature workflows, student and parent forms are all online and cafeterias are cashless! All of the forms are automatically organized in a central document management system that has automatic retention configured. Documents are searchable, and advanced reporting will allow for better analysis. Yes, this pandemic has accelerated the timeline for the above scenario; some districts were already moving in this direction and many more are now starting this journey. If they have not already, districts will be reviewing document management systems that include digital form workflows and signatures. In addition to the document management systems, there will be growth in cashiering operations moving to the online payment systems. Offering credit card payments or electronic checks will continue to increase, with parents looking to save time and complete tasks from home. This will also reduce the incidence of money handoffs for various student programs, including registration, extra-curricular programs, uniforms/t-shirts, donations and collections. Districts will need to review their current system and ensure that there is flexibility to set up the many different programs and payment options. All of the virtual events that were held during the pandemic will open up opportunities for future flexibility. More board meetings will now be streamed to allow people to attend online, board members will be able to join virtually and general comments can be sent in virtually. Feedback from parent/teacher conferences was positive, with plans to run these interactions virtually moving forward. Parents can complete the conferences while at work, instead of having to wait in lines outside teachers’ doors. Teachers were positive on the video conferencing as well. The floodgates are open for virtual professional development and student/staff connections. This is especially exciting for connecting and providing centralized class opportunities across multiple schools. Virtual professional learning communities both within a school, across the district and regionally, will all provide for increased ways to share, and thus help improve student learning.

While the virus will eventually be controlled, the lessons learned from 2020’s virtual learning will continue into the next decade. What we all went through has changed the trajectory for virtual learning, accelerating our pathway up the curve. We are becoming more comfortable with learning and working virtually. It is not without some technological pitfalls, as the security discussion highlights, but it will become an option for all of our futures. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of promoting digital equity at school and at home. If learning is not limited to the classroom, reasonable Internet bandwidth must not be limited either. Finally, as with all our digital initiatives, we must consider the whole student or staff member. As we redesign the assessment and evaluation systems for varied learning venues and circumstances, we must remember that technology never absolves us from addressing the basic principles of student social-emotional learning and teacher/staff well-being.


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Pursuing a school business degree?

Want to broaden your school business network?



There are multiple scholarships available to help ease the financial burden by covering a portion of your tuition or internship costs.

Foundation grants allow you to travel to conferences including the Illinois ASBO Annual Conference and ASBO International Annual Conference & Expo.


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UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021

PERSPECTIVE / On the Profession

SCHOOL BUSINESS 101 What are some operational funding challenges or solutions you have found during the pandemic? whole families transitioned from in-person learning and working, they quickly found that “ When their home internet did not have sufficient bandwidth. Between March and September, the

number of families seeking mobile hotspots from the district increased from 20 to over 300. With such an increase in demand, we were fortunate to learn of T-Mobile's EmpowerED program. For an all-in cost of $20 per month, we were able to acquire hotspots with unlimited high-speed 4G data and content filtering included. This was a tremendous cost savings of over $100 per hot hotspot over 12 months. Access to the EmpowerED program has been so successful for our students, that we are planning to move our school district's cell phone plan to T-Mobile, for a cost savings of $20 per line, per month."

DR. R.J. GRAVEL, Associate Superintendent, Glenbrook HSD 225

running into a cash balance challenge for our Debt Service Fund. Our County allowed “ I'm for delayed property tax bills which in turn delayed our revenue disbursements. Our debt service payments are August 1 and February 1. We did receive enough tax revenue to cover our first payment but are short available cash for our second payment. We are forced to do an interfund loan to our Debt Service Fund until we receive more revenue payments from our County, which they keep telling us is coming but are not providing a specific date." DR. FRANK WILLIAMS, Dir./Business & Operations, Mascoutah CSD 19

We applied for the COVID-19 FEMA grants and, like many districts, were initially denied. However, due to the hard work of one of our administrators and assistance from representatives at IEMA we were able to show that the district had relevant expenses related to the in-person summer school program that we ran in July. This information allowed for approval of the grant and funding to the district of $63,000 to reimburse for PPE and sanitizing supplies." CRAIG ENGLERT, Asst. Supt./Business Services, CSBO, Matteson Elem. SD 162

challenge I have faced has been the lack of support from FEMA to assist in reimbursing “ One schools for COVID-related expenditures. Before the September 15 deadline, I submitted my COVID expenses to FEMA for reimbursement. My expenses consisted of PPE equipment and supplies. I did not have any labor-related COVID costs to submit. Approximately two months later, I received my determination letter from FEMA indicating they denied all of my expenses. I inquired of my Illinois ASBO and ASBO International peers and discovered many inconsistencies in how FEMA has been reimbursing schools across the country, but still went ahead and filed an appeal. I am encouraged to recently learn that per President Biden's direction, FEMA will now be considering reimbursement for all PPE, disinfecting services and supplies at 100% federal share. It is great news that FEMA has recognized the important measures schools are taking to protect the public health and safety." THOMAS BEERHEIDE, Chief School Business Official, Sunset Ridge SD 29 www.iasbo.org

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Uncovering Universal Truths of Cleaning Schools: What the Pandemic Has Revealed

It has now been over one year since the pandemic has afflicted the daily operations of schools across the United States. For all of us on the operations side of school business, daily routines and any reasonable semblance of planning consists of: • • • • •

Navigating ever-changing recommendations and guidelines. Overanalyzing health and data metrics. Balancing the nuances of “shall we, should we and could we,” while supporting teachers’ determined efforts to educate our students. Buying additional cleaning supplies and disinfectants along with new, and larger quantities, of personal protective equipment (all subject to supply chain issues). Handling a constant barrage of unknown vendors offering services that do not have anything to do with their core business, all in the name of “helping you through this pandemic.” Reviewing new gadgets, widgets and gizmos with unproven track records and efficacy, never before utilized in the school setting. Gaining a heightened awareness and expectation of cleaning and disinfection by individuals that either never thought about it before or simply assumed a certain level of care.

New Normal or Just Different? There is also a lot of talk of the “new normal.” Certainly, the education side of school business is going through unique new challenges, never before seen in education. But is any of this really new to cleaning schools or just different? Schools have always needed cleaning and disinfection. Facility managers have always tested new procedures and equipment


By Brian Rominski


Doug Renkosik


to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness. Cleaning supplies and consumables come and go, are discontinued, or no longer supported by suppliers and manufacturers. Guidelines and regulations have always changed, sometimes more stringent, sometimes more lenient. One has to ask then, has the pandemic changed the way we clean schools, or better yet, has the pandemic’s hidden role been to uncover universal truths in cleaning schools that should have and have always been constants?

The Human Connection & Manpower

The job we are asking custodians to do is most likely not their dream job. Wages are not typically very high, and in many cases new employees are dislocated from other career paths and simply trying to make ends meet. Remember, we are asking people to do some really gross things that not everyone is willing to do! This makes identifying unique individuals who are up to the challenge very hard to find at times. Boosting morale and promoting the importance of their role is something districts should never lose sight of. More importantly, we need to take care of them. Providing the necessary personal protective equipment when working with germs, viruses and chemicals is critical, but we also need to recognize that there are different tools and equipment which can

complement custodians to meet housekeeping goals. Finding the right combination to meet your unique needs, customer expectations, housekeeping standards, life cycle costs and complementary manpower requirements, should always be considered. Once identified, ensure custodians know how best to utilize this tool set to be as effective and efficient as possible in the workplace. Even the right worker with the right tools could do more harm than good without proper training! One of the tricky parts of putting together an effective cleaning team is determining the size of the staff required to meet the customers’ expectations, with or without a pandemic. Developing the happy medium between the pace of work, tasks to be performed, task frequency and volume of work, all within a reasonable amount of time for the average worker to accomplish, is a challenge. Production rate standards from sources like the International Sanitation Service Association (ISSA) or equipment manufacturer’s published production rates are great resources, but this should not be the only information used in determining manpower. www.iasbo.org www.iasbo.org

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Every facility has unique characteristics which warrant adjustments to the rate of production, in addition to customers’ expectations. Even physically identical facilities may have significant differences in occupant traffic and loading, density of furniture and educational materials in the space, types of finishes on floors and walls, quality of air infiltration (which can contribute to dust loading in the facilities), and of course the type of tools and equipment provided to custodians to meet end goals. Do not discount getting out a stopwatch and shadowing a custodian who is working at an average pace; this can be invaluable in helping find a reasonable rate of production and manpower.

Customer Service Mindset & The Optics of Clean

Customer service transcends all industries, all markets and all jobs. No matter what job you perform, you can identify who your customers are. Cleaning schools and custodial services are no different. Our customers are teachers, staff, students and community members. After customer expectations are identified, and procedures, duties and tasks are assigned, it is the custodian’s job to fulfill those expectations. This is accomplished by the consistent execution of daily tasks to the specified level of care. Consistent not only from the perspective of the same quality result every time, but also in the spectrum of time, Monday through Friday, every week during the school year. It is also important to trust but verify your level of customer service. You may think you are providing a high level of service, but you will not know until you ask your customers. Creating surveys to receive feedback is the best, and only way, to know how you are doing. Albeit, looking in the mirror is not always the easiest thing to do, it is a healthy process. Remember, a complaint is not a complaint if it is just stating an observation and following up to let your customers know they have been heard, and what corrections will be taken to improve their experience is vital to success.The optics of clean is also an important aspect of customer service, or maybe better described, as customer confidence. What teachers and staff see and smell will temper their confidence in your service. Classrooms and washrooms 22 |

UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021

are easy — if it looks and smells clean, it is clean. But think about all the other customer touchpoints over the course of a school day. Not what they are physically touching, but what they are seeing. When a teacher walks by an opened door to a custodial room, does it look neat and orderly or something out of a horror movie? Are custodial uniforms clean and professional in appearance? Garbage cans are for garbage and icky stuff, and should not be used to transport dust mops, brooms, or as an impromptu drying rack for towels that are used to clean desks – that is gross. Custodial carts should be neat and organized. Cleaning towels, brooms and mops should be clean looking and disposed of when not, and please, no old cut up t-shirts from home for cleaning rags.

The Big Three & The Deep Cleaning Myth

These are facts that have never been changed by time or the pandemic: Cleaning physically removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces by using surfactant (soap) and water. This process does not necessarily kill germs (it can in some cases), but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces by the use of chemicals. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces to a prescribed safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements, lowering the risk of spreading infection.

Proper disinfection should always be a two-step process, first cleaning a surface and then disinfecting per the manufacturers desired chemical dwell time. If it is not a two-step process, it is sanitizing, which does have its place as well in the custodian’s daily routine. Just remember disinfecting is not sanitizing, and sanitizing is not disinfecting. For most facility managers, deep cleaning is what we do in the summer months to refresh spaces in preparation for the

ARTICLE / Uncovering Universal Truths of Cleaning Schools

next school year. For some reason the term deep cleaning has developed into a response action to the flu season and now pandemics. What is deep cleaning? If you ask 10 facility managers, you will probably get 10 different answers. The simplest answer is the ceiling to floor cleaning of a space and all of its components, a very labor intensive and operationally intrusive process. However, there is absolutely no evidence, empirical or data driven, that proves deep cleaning, as a response action, has any effect on reducing or eliminating the spread or transmission of viruses, especially airborne ones. With limited time, money and manpower, the greatest benefit to districts would be to focus on more frequent and effective disinfecting efforts on high touch points and surfaces that students and staff touch, and a comprehensive cleaning strategy in heavily travelled or visited areas. When there is a need for a response action, focus on these priorities and procedures, but do not call it deep cleaning. For more frequent daily disinfecting, much of this can and should be accomplished by transitioning the day custodian/porter’s role from service and light maintenance to cleaning, leaving maintenance to the maintenance department, a different concept for many districts. Day cleaning may be foreign to the K-12 segment of education, but many higher education institutions have adopted a heavy day cleaning regiment.

Cleaning for Health is a Priority

The primary purpose of a custodian’s role is to clean, and where appropriate, disinfect the school to provide a clean, safe and healthy environment. School custodians and nurses have always dealt with and managed icky things such as influenza, MRSA, streptococcus, staphylococcus and all the other ‘ococcuses. School custodians and nurses will manage and effectively deal with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) too; that is not new, just different. What has changed is that this specific virus has heightened the awareness, need and desire for disinfection, to a panic level in some cases. This has resulted in increased use of disinfectants on a daily basis and more importantly, in areas of school buildings that historically did not receive such treatments. To achieve

this increased use, disinfectants are being applied with traditional spray and wipe methods, fogging, broadcast spraying, electrostatic spraying, by gizmos, widgets and gadgets. However, the fact is that not all disinfectants are meant to be in schools, and not all disinfectants are friendly to humans or a building’s indoor air quality environment. Disinfectants are designed to kill viruses, germs and other living organisms, but what of the unintended consequences? The occupants of school facilities and the individuals doing the cleaning are also living organisms. One has to be conscious of disinfectant residue left on surfaces (that students and staff touch and are eating off of), what occupants are breathing in, the overall effect on indoor air quality, perfumes and fragrance triggers of asthmatics, chronic migraine sufferers and other high-risk individuals, the health and safety of the custodians and now teachers that are using these chemicals on a daily basis. We need to find the happy balance of introducing the right quantity of this chemical into the facility to reach our desired level of clean and then, in some cases, remove the residual chemical from the space while leaving the area “clean.” The cleaning chemical industry has come a long way in the last 15 years helping provide safer, healthier, yet still effective products. You just need to do your homework to find the balance of efficacy, safety and health to make sure the solution is not worse than the problem it is trying to fix.

Universal Truths in Pandemic

SARS-CoV-2 has certainly wreaked havoc across the United States and with schools seemingly in the cross hairs, many days it feels like we are under attack from all sides. But focusing on these universal truths of cleaning schools will help us all realize, this is not new, just different. Keep calm and carry on!


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The operational challenges of the pandemic have tested school leaders, partner firms and staff at all levels to think on their feet, collaborate and quickly respond to ever-changing guidelines. These challenges have brought both short and long-term design considerations into focus, including adapting classrooms, improving environmental quality and supporting staff and community members. Read on for lessons learned amidst the chaos, some short and longterm implications of the pandemic on operations, as well as tips on how to address indoor air quality.


Eric Rogers


Assessing the Long-Term Impact on Operations As students and teachers return to the classroom, the short and mid term preparations that have been put in place will serve as a tool to measure the effectiveness and success of COVID-era solutions for both school operations and learning. As school is conducted under necessary safety guidelines implementing social distancing, enhanced ventilation and filtering, hygiene, PPE use and cleaning, these solutions will become part of broader considerations for long-term change. While these infrastructural changes are considered, teachers and students on the front lines, as well as leaders and policymakers, are also questioning assumptions about student agency, schedule, curriculum, assessments and social-emotional learning.

Design for Wellness

The pandemic has shined a light on our considerations for student health, surfacing opportunities for high impact changes to improve indoor environmental quality. These capital investments must be considered carefully so that they can be implemented in an equitable way across an entire school district. Potential improvements include touchless equipment and hardware changes to provide enhanced hygiene control, particularly in toilet rooms. Cleaning strategies include switching to equipment that utilizes environmentally healthy electrostatic cleaning, eliminating the use of harmful chemicals and their impact on air quality. Indoor air quality improvements include new HVAC equipment that provides increased air changes and enhanced filtering to reduce potential virus spread. National agencies and organizations such as ASHRAE and the CDC have produced effective technical guidance that will assist school districts to implement these strategies.

Design for Adaptability

Social distancing, student flow, physical activity and decentralization strategies can be incorporated into master planning, renovations and new facility design. These designs not only provide adaptable configurations offering

safe occupancy during a pandemic, but also create 21st century learning environments, including collaboration spaces and differentiated learning solutions. A key design principle to consider is the creation of cohorts, or small learning communities, with extended learning areas. These extended learning areas can provide additional space for social distancing while maintaining visual contact with the classrooms and also reduce the number of students within a school that interact with each other. The cohorts also facilitate decentralization strategies, providing “just in time” ready access to resources such as toilet rooms, food serving areas and outdoor classrooms and play areas. Combined, these strategies reduce the need for students to travel through the building and set up coordinated circulation paths for entrance to and egress from the school.

Family and Staff Support

Additional family and staff support have become more important now than ever. Schools need to adapt to the new teaching and learning environment by potentially investing in new initiatives: •  A community liaison position could be put in place to reach out to families to determine if additional academic and/or social emotional supports, or access to food or technology are needed. •  To match student needs, new clubs and committees could be formed to address social emotional learning needs of students. Coping strategies and emotional awareness have become priorities as students are isolated more than ever from their peers. •  Staff training to address virtual learning environments has become a priority. •  Changes in districts insurance programs could provide staff mental health and anxiety/depression supports. Schools have been given access to additional resources via grants or local opportunities to address these concerns.

www.iasbo.org www.iasbo.org

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By Dr. Lyndl Schuster


Lessons Learned in Chaos

Dan Whisler


Ron Richardson, AIA

As school districts tackle the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, leaders of River Trails SD 26 and FGM Architects discuss lessons learned from this unprecedented experience.

Returning Students to School

The most important lessons we have learned are that all decisions are fluid and communications are key. River Trails is a small district in Chicago’s northwest suburbs with 1,600 students enrolled in four PK-8 schools. We started this school year in fully remote learning so teachers could master e-learning and we could focus on our most important goal: safely returning students to school for in-person instruction. To decide whether we should be fully remote, in a hybrid model or fully in-person, we worked with a stakeholder committee to establish metrics and criteria for decisionmaking. We reviewed CDC and Illinois Department of Health guidelines, along with a range of health and educational research studies. Our metrics, based on positivity rates, helped us determine when to bring students back while our criteria set the standards for instructional delivery, whether hybrid or fully in-person.

Case Rate per

Instructional Model Remote Hybrid In Person


Positivity Rate

>175 70-174 TBD

>8% >8% TBD

Case Rate per

Instructional Model Remote Hybrid In Person

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UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021


Positivity Rate

>175 70-174 TBD

>8% >8% TBD


The key criteria we determined are that staff and students must maintain six feet social distance, wear masks and stay in cohorts which meant no eating while at school. These decisions required us to adopt a morning and afternoon hybrid schedule. By mid-October, the metrics looked positive for activating a hybrid approach and we decided to bring grades K-1 back on October 26, with two additional grades returning in stages over the following days. Then, the metrics “went south” and by November 8 we were back to fully remote instruction. On January 19, 2021 we went back to an am/ pm hybrid model. River Trails heavily invested in PPE, cleaning supplies, UV disinfecting cabinets, improving ventilation and technology. We were lucky to already have a Chromebook for each student, but we expanded the budget for hot spots, eLearning and meeting software as well as Jabra speakers, microphones and webcams. Lesson Learned: Starting the school year in fully remote learning helped our teachers become more adept with this type of instruction. In hindsight, we should have started the school year with our classes organized for hybrid learning which would have smoothed the transitions between remote and hybrid instruction.

Space Planning Considerations

The Illinois State Board of Education and Department of Public Health issued classroom space planning guidelines in Summer 2020 which included the illustration below depicting the recommended space separation between students. For planning purposes, FGM Architects combined this six foot separation recommendation with a two foot seating zone and then created school building “test fits” that school personnel can use to determine building occupancy capacity.

The diagram to the right illustrates a test fit for an elementary school. This test fit involved the conversion of larger core spaces (such as a gym and/or cafeteria) into classroom space. Please note that this layout does not allow for dynamic movement. Students must enter and exit the classroom in sequence to maintain separation. This test fit will support 79 percent of the original building enrollment.

Fundamentals for Safe Operation Ventilation Improving air quality and maximizing the supply of fresh air is critical to maintaining a healthy environment inside a school building. Some key considerations are: •  Air balance reports calculate how much outside air is being supplied to each space. •  Data, including the space size and total number of occupants, are needed to establish system settings. •  The minimum outside air setpoints must meet or exceed ASHRAE standards. •  Systems that operate based on CO2 readings may not provide adequate fresh air and need to be overridden. This data should be examined when determining occupancy levels throughout your facility. •  Use MERV-13 filters or better if your air systems can safely deliver the recommended air volumes with a higher filter resistance.

Partnerships and Communication

Our transportation company has been a critical partner with buses used for food distribution and deliveries. Last spring, we expanded a partnership with the neighboring school district that manages our food service. Through the Summer Emergency Feeding program, we began weekly food distribution which included seven breakfasts and lunches, a gallon of milk and fresh produce for each child 18 and under. This summer we fed 3,000 children each week – about twice as many as we have students!

In the COVID-19 era, meeting these thresholds will increase facilities energy consumption.

While in hybrid instruction, our bus routes were adapted, and drivers added to incorporate mid-day and special ed routes. We consolidated routes to stay within budget even though we were bussing students twice as much.

Cleaning Procedures It is important to communicate the cleaning/disinfecting plan and schedule. This transparency will increase awareness and the comfort levels of staff.

Above all, we have learned the importance of a strong partnership with the teacher’s union, which has helped us to communicate effectively. As Superintendent Dr. Nancy Wagner notes:

•  Use products that clean and disinfect; the time saved can be used to sanitize surfaces more often. •  Multiple vendor relationships help when product supplies are limited. •  Third-party and in-house training should be provided and reviewed frequently. •  Touchpoints throughout the school need to be defined.

“Before I send information or a survey to staff, I ask union leaders to review it. They are able to soften some of my language and communicate the same message in a way that will not trigger negative responses. Also, we talk about from whom messages will be best received: from the union to convey they are working with administration, from administration or as a joint communication? These are important considerations that make a difference.”

www.iasbo.org www.iasbo.org

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By Steven Kowalski


How to Achieve Indoor Air Quality in School Buildings Unlike a cracked window or a broken door, identifying indoor air quality (IAQ) issues is not always obvious. According to a CDC report published in June 2020, the transmission of the coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops and keyboards. That means the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in Illinois schools can be significant in limiting the spread. Even before the pandemic, a 2018 Harvard report noted that 46 percent of U.S. K-12 schools had indoor air quality issues. HVAC systems do vary widely in complexity, intended use, age and condition.

Create a Plan

School building HVAC systems should be examined throughout school facilities where students will be present to be sure existing conditions or planned changes do not negatively impact the environment. However, operational issues school administrators face to get students safely back to school other than indoor air quality can be daunting, so relying on facility partners, including professional engineers, can help Illinois districts assess and identify indoor air quality issues that can then be prioritized for action.

Fund Capital Improvements

Financing HVAC improvements is a consideration, of course. Many districts are taking advantage of historically low interest rates, favorable contractor costs and a variety of creative funding options to get capital projects completed. Additionally, the HVAC improvements needed to enhance air quality usually reduce energy and operational costs as well, providing payback savings. Those savings can then be used to help fund HVAC infrastructure upgrades required to achieve indoor air quality in school buildings.

Collaboration is Key

The recent pandemic has caused an even higher level of awareness about the need to provide safe indoor environments while at the same time addressing new patterns of facility use. There is no need to go this alone. By collaborating with a team of qualified professionals, quantifying existing capabilities and developing short, mid and long-term plans, school administrators can successfully address indoor air quality for the current school year and beyond.

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Most HVAC recommended actions focus on the following: Ventilation



Air Purification – Safely use air cleaning


Building Automation Controls

Action 1: Disable demand-controlled ventilation. Action 2: I ncrease outdoor air ventilation rates as much as possible. Action 3: Install localized exhaust systems for source control. For example, keep restroom or the nurses station exhaust operating 24/7.

Action 1: Change filters and clean coils, drain pans and the interior of the air handling units according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Seal the edges of filter racks. Action 2: I nstall filters with increased efficiencies and enhanced particle filtration capability to the greatest extend possible, considering the limitation of the existing air handling equipment. Action 3: Install portable, free-standing high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters with integral fans (portable room air cleaners) in high-risk areas.

Action 1: Maintain standard comfort conditions during occupied periods and standard setback/setup unoccupied space temperatures.

Action 1: Maintain space relative humidity (RH) between 40 to 60 percent. Scientific literature generally reflects the most unfavorable survival for microorganisms when the RH is between 40 to 60 percent.

technology as appropriate. Air purification is considered emerging technology and can be explored to supplement the primary methods of ventilation, filtration and humidity controls. These include bipolar ionization and UVC lighting. Be sure to address air purification strategies in an integrated systems manner, working with qualified professionals.

Action 1: Keep systems running longer hours to enhance the effects of increased ventilation and filtration. Investigation is required to ensure system runtimes do not create humidity issues.

www.iasbo.org www.iasbo.org

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TRANSPORTATION ISSUES & COVID-19 Before we received “return to school” guidance from ISBE in late June of 2020, there were many questions about student transportation during COVID-19 (or as it is sometimes affectionately called, “The COVID” or “The Rona”). How can students socially distance on a school bus? Our bus companies told us that we could only transport six students on a bus in order to properly socially distance; what do we do? How can we get students of all ages to wear masks on a bus? What if kids lick the windows? Who will shut the windows? There were so many issues that we did not even know where to start!

Once we received guidance from ISBE, there were still a lot of problems that needed to be resolved regarding student transportation, and since there is no “one size fits all” for Illinois school districts, there is also not a single set of solutions to the transportation challenges that we are facing with COVID-19. As there are still many districts in Illinois that are providing education to students 100 percent remotely, there may be transportation issues that your district might not have encountered at this point.

“The bus company that we contract with refused to take temperatures of students before the students got on the bus, therefore the district hired an extra bus monitor (even though we already have one on each bus) whose primary duty was to take temperatures and check for symptoms daily.” - Aletta Lawrence, Superintendent, Mount Vernon City Schools District 80

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By Jan Bush


Here are some popular solutions to common COVID-19 related transportation issues: Student Health Screening

•  Daily online certification that students have no COVID-19 symptoms. •  Daily paper certification slip signed by a parent that their child is COVID-19 symptom free in order to board the bus. •  Have bus drivers, monitors or other school or bus company employees do temperature checks of all students before boarding the bus.

Masks & Windows

•  Ensure that students wear a mask 100 percent of the time while on the bus – ask parents to help with this request as well. •  Require bus drivers to wear a mask at all times. •  Provide disposable masks for students who forget their mask. •  Provide additional staff to monitor social distancing and students keeping their masks on. •  Weigh whether students will be allowed to wear a face shield vs a mask based on their IEP. •  Decide what disciplinary actions will be appropriate for students who do not wear masks on the bus. •  Open windows when weather permits to allow for increased airflow on the bus. •  Request that students come dressed in preparation of the variance on the temperatures on the bus – dressing in layers. •  Ensure that only adults can open or close the bus windows. •  Prohibit eating and drinking on buses.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

•  Sanitize buses front to back completely at the end of each route. •  Sanitize buses when schools have staggered starts and/or laddered route structures – consider time issues.

•  Use electrostatic backpacks to sanitize or backpack sprayers with disinfectant. •  Provide disinfectant products and request that the bus driver sanitize the bus during the end of route bus check. •  Utilize maintenance staff to assist in cleaning and disinfecting.

“Having enough drivers to perform the job is probably the biggest challenge relating to transportation during COVID-19... Between illness, quarantine and ‘normal’ absences, keeping drivers in the buses has been a challenge. Finding sub drivers has always been a difficult task, but the difficulty has increased exponentially during COVID-19." - Cary Jackson, Superintendent, Dieterich Unit 30 Schools Staffing

•  Determine if you have existing staff available to help with additional transportation duties such as monitoring students wearing masks or temperature checks. •  If you are not providing transportation every day, consider whether your transportation staff can be used elsewhere in the district to deliver meals or perform other duties. •  Use temperature checks or self-certification of bus drivers daily. •  Include your bus contractor in planning and having regular conversations with your bus contractor or inhouse transportation staff to get feedback and address issues in a timely manner.

“The only difficulties we have encountered with transporting students is finding an adequate amount of work for our bus drivers. There are no extra-curricular activities and many of the students we would be transporting to outplaced schools are closed. This makes it tough for our drivers to earn enough money to stay with the job.” - Dr. Brad Shortridge, Asst. Supt/Finance & Operations, CSBO, Genoa-Kingston CUSD 424 www.iasbo.org

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Routing & Number of Students

•  Require seating charts on buses and ensuring that siblings or household members sit together. •  Require that students remain in their seats at all times. •  Ensure that seats immediately behind the bus driver remain open to allow for social distancing from the driver and during loading and unloading of students. •  Ask parents if they are going to send their children on the bus in order to minimize routes. •  Ask parents to commit to whether or not their children will be riding the bus for a full quarter or semester so that routes can be set and only changed periodically. •  Notify parents that it could take up to two weeks to add a student to a route. •  Allow only one pick-up and drop-off point for each student. •  Coordinate with feeder districts and families who have students in multiple grade levels.

Boarding & Deboarding

•  Be cognizant of what you are asking your drivers to do. •  Have clear instructions for drop-off zones. •  Ensure there is adequate social distancing while students are boarding and deboarding the bus. •  Think about using different school entrances. •  Realize that there will be an increase in parent pick-up and drop-off and determine how your district will handle the increased traffic. •  Talk with local law enforcement to request assistance if needed. •  Request that parents be patient because their wait for pick-up and drop-off may be much longer than usual. •  Work with building administration – principals know their buildings best. •  Require that students socially distance at bus stops and remain six feet apart from all non-household members at all times.

Contact Tracing

•  Have seating charts maintained by bus drivers, along with bus attendance. •  Have conversations with your local health department on contact tracing regarding bus transportation. •  Determine what triggers a notification – Riding on the same bus? Sitting next to a student? Even though students will be wearing masks, they will most likely sit less than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes. •  Determine your bus company’s protocol after exposure. When will they consider the bus quarantined? When will they require a deep cleaning of the bus? How long will the bus be “out of service?”

“Originally they wanted 80 percent of the full contract, but we negotiated to 37.24 percent of the contract for long-term remote. We also negotiated 33.44 percent of our transportation contract for special education transportation for long-term remote learning days.” – Rose Kidd, Director of Fiscal Services, Plainfield CCSD 202 Financial Concerns

•  Decreased transportation expenses will have an effect on your state transportation claim, your future revenue and your budget. •  Negotiate with your bus company if you are operating fully remote to decrease your contractual payments while no buses are running. •  Consider paying either full contract cost during a pause in a hybrid or blended student attendance model. •  Use buses and transportation staff to deliver meals on remote days. •  Negotiate with your bus company to provide additional routes, within the parameters of your budget.

“Since we have been mostly remote, and because the intention of the district has been to move back to hybrid as the metrics allow, it has required the district to keep our transportation vendor "on the ready." As such, we’ve been paying full freight to have them ready on a moment’s notice.” – John Filippi, Ed.D., CSBO, Business Manager, Deerfield Public Schools District 109

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ARTICLE / COVID-19 Transportation “We have been fortunate to have a great relationship with our student transportation company and they have provided great service. They were included in our return to school planning committee and I attended multiple meetings prior to school starting and throughout the school year to have open and honest conversations about safety, compliance with ISBE, IDPH, etc. protocols and requirements. Our collaborative approach provided reassurance to drivers and families about our priorities and expectations.” – Brian Arteberry, Business Manager, CSBO, Highland CUSD 5

Biggest Obstacles to Date

“The biggest obstacle for West Prairie has been the need to run routes twice. We are pretty spread out and with students every other seat it has meant the students on the ‘second round’ are getting to school about 15 minutes later than the others.” – Crista Rigg, Business Manager, West Prairie CUSD 103

“One of the greatest difficulties we have encountered with transportation is numbers. Our enrollment is on a decline and has been for several years, but logistically we aren't prepared to cut routes. Our in-person enrollment was about half of what it normally is, which is great considering we're operating during a pandemic, but our transportation contract is in its third year with a built-in three percent increase. From a numbers perspective, we are certainly not getting our ‘money's worth.’ The positives will always be attributed to the fact that we can and will do anything to transport our students to school. It gives the students a little bit of normalcy in a situation where everything has changed.”

Biggest Transportation Surprises/ Positives During COVID

“There has been no COVID spread linked to traveling on the bus. Parents are pleased with the steps taken to reduce the stress associated with getting their children to school.” – Charlotte Montgomery, CPA, CGMA, CFO, Chief School Business Official, Ball Chatham School District

“There have been many positives, mainly the professionalism and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the students to school safely. The staff has been wonderful. We rarely hear complaints, only ‘What can I do to help?’ We have really not run into many surprises. I feel our support groups (Illinois ASBO, IASA, IPA, ISBE, ROE and the local health department) have done a GREAT JOB of providing support, guidance and information to help us through this unique situation.” – Cary Jackson, Superintendent, Dieterich Unit 30 Schools

– Janiece Blake, CSBO, Cairo School District 1

“The timing of pick-up and drop offs given half days was difficult; however, the district allowed families to choose AM or PM with the goal of keeping families together, while also mapping out routes utilizing a neighborhood strategy. For example, with our new strategy there may be four different families on the bus from the same neighborhood vs. the old strategy which could have twenty different families from different parts of town.” – Charlotte Montgomery, CPA, CGMA, CFO, Chief School Business Official, Ball Chatham School District Note from the author: Special thanks to Dr. Dean Romano, Asst. Supt. For Business Services, Geneva CUSD 304, Mr. Eric DePorter, Asst. Supt. of Fin., Fac. & Operations, CSBO, Glen Ellyn 41, Dr. Seth Chapman, Asst. Supt./ CFO, St. Charles, CUSD 303 and Mr. Ed Brophy, Asst. Supt. of Operations, Forest Park SD 91. The information contained in this article was the result of a collaboration with these wonderful gentlemen during the Illinois ASBO COVID-19 Conversations 2.0. Thanks for doing all the hard work! www.iasbo.org www.iasbo.org

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How to Work with What You Have: Managing Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Indoor air quality has historically been one of the most important aspects of facility operations – particularly so for school facilities. Maintaining optimal air quality is essential for occupant health, productivity and satisfaction. This has become even more critical during the current COVID-19 pandemic, as school operators navigate the challenges of maintaining healthy buildings and instilling confidence that their facilities are safe. In the current climate, a variety of HVAC system approaches are being promoted to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 (or general pollutant and virus) transmission. Some of these have good merit, others have yet to be proven. It is important to note that as of December 2020, no HVAC-related technology has been proven to eliminate COVID-19 transmission, and there does not appear to be definitive confirmation that transmission can occur via air travelling through a building’s HVAC system. The consensus from the World Health Organization is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) transfers primarily via droplets of saliva which fall to the ground within a short distance and do not necessarily aerosolize. Having said that, it is still imperative that facility operators help ensure the most effective practices in pollutant mitigation, proper ventilation and good preventive/corrective maintenance for their HVAC systems. Chances are, as a facility operator, you already have what you need to maintain a healthy environment – you just need to make sure it is operating correctly.

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The recognized industry standard for acceptable ventilation and indoor air quality in commercial buildings is Standard 62.1 published by the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). It is updated every three years, with the latest version published in 2019. Most local codes reference this standard. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASHRAE issued specific recommendations for mitigating risk associated with COVID transmission in their May 2020 Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Those recommendations were also mirrored in the November 2020, Ventilation System Guidance During COVID-19 published by the Illinois Department of Public Health. They recommended the following: » Increasing outside air ventilation rates » Disabling demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) » Further opening outside air dampers as far as 100 percent » Improving central air filtration to at least MERV-13 » Keeping ventilation systems operating for longer hours, up to 24/7 » Considering portable room HEPA filters » Considering Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) These are all excellent recommendations; however, before implementing these, it is best to verify your existing HVAC systems performance and maintenance practices. Additionally, being proactive in your maintenance program and documenting all activities will help mitigate risk and create a healthier space for your occupants.


Ventilation operations include proper control of fresh outside air, exhaust air and building pressure (and control of stack effect in taller buildings). As the ASHRAE Guidelines identify, the proper amount of fresh outside air is essential to a healthy facility. Since school facilities are more densely occupied than commercial offices, they traditionally incorporate higher volumetric flowrates of outside air to help ensure adequate dilution of pollutants. It is important to ensure those flowrates are being maintained.

To verify this, visually inspect your ventilation systems (air-handling units, dedicated outside air units, makeup air units, exhaust fans, etc.) and their associated controls: • Are all dampers stroking through their full range without binding? • Is there any air leaking through dampers? • Are automation commands resulting in the correct response at the associated equipment/device? • Are the positions/values of your devices appearing accurately at the control panel or building automation graphics? • Are your airflow monitoring stations clean, calibrated and reporting the correct value? • Are your air-handling unit economizer controls operating properly? Are the associated temperature/humidity sensors calibrated? • Is there any standing moisture in your air handling system? Are their signs of moisture carryover (moisture travelling past your cooling coil’s condensate drain pan) in the cooling coil section? • Are your humidification and/or dehumidification systems functioning properly? It is important to maintain space relative humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent for the best indoor air quality and reduced chances of general viral transmission. • Are the exhaust fans that serve your restrooms functioning properly? • Is the interior of your ductwork clean? www.iasbo.org

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These are just a few effective ways to verify proper system operation. For larger or more complex systems, the services of a qualified commissioning provider can help you with this effort. It can also be beneficial to retain a highly qualified Test, Adjust and Balance (TAB) firm to evaluate and document air flow rates (at minimum and maximum operating scenarios) and system dynamics. This can provide an operator with hard data, helping confirm systems are operating per their original design intent and industry standards.

EVALUATE FILTRATION & MAINTENANCE STRATEGIES: ARE YOUR FILTERS PERFORMING ACCEPTABLY? Make sure to change air filters regularly and protect maintenance personnel with appropriate PPE when doing so. Visually inspect your filter banks to ensure they are clean, the differential pressure gauges read correctly, associated alarms are operating correctly, and (most importantly) there is no bypass leakage around the filters. Clean all heat transfer coils and condensate pans on a regular basis, as that helps ensure efficient performance and mitigation of moisture related issues.

OPTIMIZE IAQ WITH ASHRAE STD 62.1 COMPLIANCE: ARE YOU MEETING CODES AND GUIDELINES? DOMESTIC WATER RISKS: ARE YOU TAKING STEPS TO It is important to ensure your facility’s ventilation systems are introducing the correct amount of outside air. ASHRAE ADDRESS AND PREVENT LEGIONELLA? Standard 62.1 bases the recommended outside air quantity on the occupant density or floor area, depending on the type of space. If the original design documents for your facility are available, confirm the required outside air quantities and verify your air-handling systems are achieving these quantities. Conduct regular building occupant headcount surveys. Headcount, especially during the pandemic, will vary, but knowing this value will allow you to gauge if the amount of outside air you are introducing is sufficient. Apply the results of your head count to ASHRAE Standard 62.1 to ensure you are introducing adequate outdoor air to your facility. Many modern school facilities are equipped with permanent carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, which typically initiate a demand-controlled ventilation scheme (whereby fresh outside air is only introduced when CO2 levels increase in the space). However, you can also use those monitors to gauge ventilation effectiveness in your spaces. In the Midwest, ambient carbon dioxide quantities are typically between 400-450 ppm – the exact concentration in your location should be verified. In a densely occupied indoor space, CO2 concentration can be 400-500 ppm above this value. This is the point at which most demand-controlled ventilation systems introduce additional outside air. If your facility is consistently maintaining CO2 values below this maximum, your ventilation system is likely performing well.

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While most of the recent attention is on air-side HVAC systems, it is important not to forget about domestic water systems. During the pandemic, schools may be operating at low occupant density. As a result, plumbing fixtures will get minimal usage and water can remain stagnant in the piping for extended periods of time. This can lead to the growth of Legionella bacteria. This is a real risk and needs to be prevented. Domestic water should be regularly circulated and tested when necessary. Prior to re-occupying a facility after extended downtime, the domestic water system should be flushed and cleaned to help ensure elimination of bacteria. Note that even if a system is left in circulation, there may be stagnant water in branches when plumbing fixtures are not in active use. Water heaters should be set to produce a minimum of 140°F water, as this limits bacterial survival rates. This temperature can then be reduced at downstream mixing valves to appropriate end-use temperatures. ASHRAE Standard 188 addresses domestic water management and recommends developing a water management plan for your facility.


Once you have carefully evaluated and resolved any issues with your existing systems, review your facility’s performance for an extended period of time using building automation system trend logs or regular PM rounds and logs. If the ventilation systems are consistently maintaining the required outdoor and exhaust air quantities, and CO2 levels are low, your system is likely performing well.

ARTICLE / Managing Building Operations

When you have reached that point, it may then be worthwhile to consider enhancements, as noted by ASHRAE and other industry organizations.


Increase the amount of outside air to your facility. Note that while ASHRAE and other industry experts are recommending this approach, it must be carefully evaluated. It can be challenging in many climates and result in occupant comfort issues since central system heating/cooling capacities may not be designed to accommodate this additional load. If your system can handle the load, there may be a significant increase in energy consumption and cost. A licensed professional engineer can help evaluate your systems’ capacity and ability to achieve this enhancement. Note: if your facility has significantly reduced occupancy, your total fresh outside air per person will be higher than normal by default (assuming your system is operating per its original design intent), which is good for overall IAQ performance.

Increase the amount of air-changes in each densely occupied space. This can be accomplished by increasing the total air quantity to the space. The guidance of a licensed professional engineer is highly recommended.

Install filters with higher MERV ratings. While a MERV rating of 13 or more is recommended by ASHRAE, it is important to confirm your existing system filter banks can accommodate these larger filters. Many schools utilize smaller fan coil units, unit ventilators, or package rooftop units which may not be able to fit these filters. Further, it is important to confirm your fan system can accommodate the higher pressure drop of these filters. A highly qualified TAB firm should verify air flow has not been reduced in the duct system as a result. ASHRAE Standard 52.1 addresses Air Filtration.

Consider enhanced controls sequences to optimize ventilation. •

Begin each occupied day with an outside air purge cycle where the facility is operated at the highest amount of outside air possible prior to occupancy.

Keep outside ventilation system operating at all times (24/7) rather than shutting down after occupants leave for the day or weekend. If this enhancement is pursued, the potential for freezing coils should be closely monitored.

Disengage DCV. Keep zone level ventilation air quantities at code-required minimums – never let them go to zero.

Consider the addition of UV-C lights on cooling coils. This proven technology can keep your coils clean and save energy (and might qualify for energy retrofit rebates from your local utility company to fund the upgrade). UV-C lights are available in different frequencies and the correct one would need to be selected for your facility. Additionally, the lamps in these lights must be changed regularly and safety considerations must be taken when entering air-handling units with these lights installed. While UV-C lights have not been proven to eliminate COVID-19, they are worth considering as a general facility IAQ improvement strategy.

Other technologies (e.g. Bi-Polar Ionization Systems, electrostatic/dynamic filters, localized HEPA filters, etc.) show some potential to improve IAQ, but are also not yet proven to eliminate COVID-19. Further, significant maintenance may be required to ensure the best performance for these technologies. Proper professional guidance is recommended when evaluating these approaches for your facility.

COVID-19 has presented the facility operations world with ample challenges, but also opportunities to take some time and ensure the most optimal performance of your existing systems. This exercise has the potential to re-acquaint you with the capabilities of your facility and educate you on effective enhancements. Ultimately this can help lead to facilities that encourage safety and confidence amongst their occupants.


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How We Responded When the Pandemic Hit When Governor Pritzker ordered Illinois to close due to COVID-19 in March of 2020, school districts had to

shift gears and figure out how to serve students. There was no way of knowing how long schools would be closed and there was worry that many students living in poverty would be missing meals that had previously been provided at school each day. School districts across Illinois began preparing breakfast and lunch for students and distributing those meals by either delivering them on school buses/vans or meal distribution sites throughout communities for pickup using both paid staff and volunteers. At Murphysboro CUSD 186, we have had a lot of students to serve, and participation in the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Summer Food Program has allowed us to serve pre-made sandwiches on croissants, Lunchables, Pop Tarts, cereal, cheese sticks, yogurt, in-season fruit (apples), chips and salsa and other food that was easy to package and transport in bulk. As the pandemic progressed, and school went remote for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, school districts continued providing meals throughout the summer until school started in August.

Back to School Whether districts returned to school in person, hybrid or remote, there were obstacles that had to be overcome in order to provide meals to our students:

• SOCIAL DISTANCING – How can schools provide meals in a cafeteria setting with students six feet apart? We just do not have the space to do that! Many school districts elected to return to school four to five days a week, with students attending school for half days to eliminate the problem of having to serve meals. Some districts added extra lunch periods, which was possible because there were fewer students in the buildings; used plexiglass dividers for social distancing when it was not possible to 38 |

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remain six feet apart; utilized gyms, hallways or required students to eat grab-and-go meals in their classrooms; or encouraged open campus for lunch for high school students and utilized outdoor seating areas in nice weather. • FLEXIBILITY – Since so many schools across the country have provided meals to students at home, there have been food shortages. Districts cannot always get what they order, so you have had to be flexible and improvise. • NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM – School districts participating in the program found it nearly impossible to meet the required meal patterns during the pandemic, especially for the meals delivered to the thousands of remote students throughout the state. Thankfully, ISBE allowed districts to utilize the Summer Food Program beginning in September, which meant fewer restrictions on meal patterns, serving sizes and recordkeeping. • STORED FOOD/COMMODITIES – What do districts do with the food that was left in the freezers from March? We cannot use it for delivered meals because we need prepackaged food. When our district started providing meals in cafeterias in August, we had no idea how many students we would be serving each day. How do we know how much food to cook? We also found that we could not use commodities during COVID-19, so we are not drawing the commodities down. What do we do with 2,500 pounds of turkey when so many of our meals are delivered? • MEAL DELIVERY ISSUES – Our district sometimes delivered three to five days worth of meals each week to remote students, often on one day out of the week. How do we keep those lunches at the proper temperature? How do we store and transport so much food? Many districts purchased extra-large coolers to transport the

By Georgia Marshall


large quantities of food. There is not adequate time for staff to prepare the delivered meals, so pre-packaged food must be used by schools. • TRANSPORTATION ISSUES – With the high delivery demand, we sometimes had to deliver meals door-to-door. We found that our full-size school buses could not go to all of the places that we needed to go, so we had to deliver meals using multiple smaller vehicles. • DISINFECTING/PPE – All of the cafeterias and other meal service areas have to be disinfected/ sanitized between every meal, and there is a short turn-around between lunch periods. Coolers used for food delivery and the interior of each delivery vehicle must be sanitized each day. All food service staff must wear masks. • OTHER ISSUES – Districts are all shortstaffed because so many workers have been quarantined because they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus. Plus, taking the time to do temperature checks every day to keep our staff safe adds extra responsibility.

Looki ng for the Good There is no doubt that the pandemic has wreaked

havoc on the school food service industry, but there have been some unexpected positive outcomes. Faculty and staff have rallied together to ensure that students are getting the meals that they need. Our district has seen a unified staff with no more “building vs. building” rivalries. Since there are fewer students in our buildings, and they are required to socially distance, we have not had behavior issues in the cafeteria or hallways and our students are quiet during meals due to the social distancing requirements. We are looking forward to the return to “normal” so that we can provide quality meals in a safe manner to our students.


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AN OPERATiONS TEAM iN PANDEMiC While there is nothing in my educational career that could have prepared me to lead during a pandemic, I was grateful to have my ASBO International (ASBO) and Illinois ASBO leadership training to guide me.

Life Orientations (LIFO®) On several occasions throughout the pandemic, I have felt staff staring at me like a deer in headlights or like I was speaking a foreign language. When this happened, my first leadership “go-to” was my Illinois ASBO LIFO training. To ensure the team operated effectively, I tuned into my team members’ preferred behavioral styles and adapted my leadership to bridge my interactions with them. Leading in an ever-changing world through Zoom or emails can make interactions with staff even more difficult. LIFO identifies four quadrants that we prefer to operate in ControlTaking, Conserving-Holding, Supporting-Giving and Adaptive-Dealing. I found that I had the most difficulty with my Supporting-Giving folks because my go-to style has been ControllingTaking throughout COVID. To ensure their success, I needed to slow down and consider their needs before asking them to act.

Commander’s Intent At the beginning of COVID-19, we were not always sure about the target we were trying to hit. Most times, it felt like it was a moving target. At this point, I leaned into my ASBO West Point Commander’s Intent training. I knew I had to develop a clear and concise purpose for the team to hit our target. We began having daily meetings. Each meeting, we grounded our work with the intent to provide a safe environment for our staff and students’ return aligned to the IDPH and CDC guidelines. It took a couple of weeks to get in a groove, but once we solidified the intent, our work became easier (relatively speaking).

As we prepare to return for our third semester, I will continue to leverage my ASBO and Illinois ASBO leadership training to do my part to keep our students in session. Here’s to a triumphant return for all of our students!

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The FIVE Practices of Exemplary Leadership As the pandemic endured, it was time to pull out my Illinois ASBO Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership training materials. Many of the leadership tools from this training aligned with my West Point Commander’s Intent training. If we were going to get through this pandemic successfully, it was necessary to model how we could do this together. Modeling the way required us to align and clarify our work to our shared vision of getting our students safely back into our schools, aka, our “commander’s intent.” One of the most meaningful changes in our work came through the team’s challenging each other. The group broke down existing silos and leaned on one another to question our processes to ensure our plans would work. With the amount of work required, I had to empower and enable the team to act. I am so thankful for the team that I work with every day. After we got through our new way of working together, it was essential to recognize each team member’s individual efforts. The most important thing we can do as leaders is to encourage and recognize our staff for their long hours and excellent work.

By Susan Harkin


After Action Reviews The most critical ASBO training used was my West Point After Action Reviews. Our district was in session for two weeks in October for grades K-3 in-person instruction. While we were sad to be open for only two weeks, there were many lessons learned during this time. Immediately following the closure, we set up meetings to review our process with our elementary principals. The After Action Review identified improvements to our procedures for when our students return to in-person instruction. We walked through every step of our operational plans from PPE, cleaning, staffing, case management, communication and social distancing for potential improvements. During the review, we identified a couple of additional PPE items specific to individual building needs. With 26 buildings, we decided to obtain a case management software program to address COVID-19 cases as they occur in our schools to minimize transmission. We will leverage our communications team to elevate the importance of our health and hygiene protocols. While our teachers want to interact with students in a pre-pandemic fashion, we need to reinforce the importance of following our COVID-19 protocols. I am proud to share that our students have successfully been inperson instruction since January 11, 2021.

Susan Harkin is currently representing Illinois ASBO on the ASBO International Board and is running for ASBO Vice President this year! You can learn more and follow her campaign at www.susanharkin.com.


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Creating a Safety Net Through

Strategic Budgeting Times are tough. The COVID-19 Pandemic stressed even the strongest public school budgets. Property tax bases were negatively impacted with many commercial and residential property values being reassessed downward. For schools more heavily dependent upon state and federal support, deficits at those levels have grown exponentially. As a result, many schools are searching for actions they can take, to either increase revenues or to decrease expenses, in order to remain solvent. Of course, the best situation would be if you had been able to plan and provide responses for this type of situation years earlier by setting up a series of responsive actions to keep your district afloat when times get tough. At the simplest level, strategic budgeting is confirming that your budget is in alignment with a clear strategic plan where the greatest number of resources are committed to your district’s highest priorities. At a deeper level, effective 42 |

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strategic budgeting seeks to ensure that current and future resources will be sufficient to support and maintain the best possible educational programs for the students served by your district on an ongoing basis. Accordingly, effective strategic budgeting means identifying, or creating, layers of actions that you can take to protect your operating budget going forward. I call these actions financial “safety nets.” The opportunity to create safety nets in each district differs based on the legal limitations and structural financial resources unique to each district. Unfortunately, the current “post-pandemic” environment limits the number of opportunities for districts to consider. One common denominator to all districts, however, is that during dire times, most communities and employee groups recognize and accept the financial distress and may be slightly more open to making reasonable sacrifices to support their schools. Take this as an opportunity to act.


Taking the First Steps

My story in Community High School District 99 began in 1994 when Tax Caps had recently been implemented in DuPage County. Almost seemingly in spite of the imposed Tax Caps, in 1992, the board of education had agreed to a three-year seven percent compounding (21 percent in total) compensation increase in our faculty’s collective bargaining agreement. In their defense, 1991 CPI-U was 6.1 percent. But that turned out to be an anomaly. Without the ability to increase taxes to cover the raises, they borrowed $11 million in Tax Anticipation Warrants (TAW’s) and initiated a plan to reduce staffing of all employee groups by up to 10 percent. This situation was dire enough to get everyone’s attention. The first fundamental step was to create a comprehensive five-year financial forecast. We had to know how much we would have to cut to stabilize the district’s operating funds. Then, we started looking for opportunities to reduce expenditures in a way that still preserved the quality of our programs. It took two years for us to stabilize the district’s operating funds by using a mix of solutions. We did reduce some nonfaculty staffing, but mainly through attrition and by crosstraining staff so we had internal replacements when others retired. We also froze a mix of salary and non-salary expenditures. Overall, this was a watershed experience that our district committed to never have happen again. It exposed our weaknesses by not having any safety nets in place to protect our educational programs. My focus for the next five years became to identify and create planned potential budgetary actions that the district could take in order to make sure our operating funds remained solvent. Part of our recovery plan was to convert our financial reporting method from the cash basis to the modified accrual basis of accounting. We did this so we could formally defer recognizing the first installment of property taxes, typically collected in June, to the next fiscal year. This was done so that we would have more complete idea of the amount of taxes that would be recognized in each

By Mark Staehlin


specific fiscal year when preparing our annual budgets. It also required us to budget using a slightly smaller amount of taxes as the deferred levy is the more recent levy and it is normally larger than the prior year’s levy.

Putting Safety Nets in Place

Safety nets in my district were put in place over a period of years as a part of a strategic budgeting process designed to provide a 10-20 percent cushion to our total Operating Fund budget. Because we were fortunate to have a Debt Service Extension Base (DSEB) we issued Working Cash Bonds to have a permanent interest generating asset rather than issuing annual TAWs. We also determined that more strategic changes in policies and practices would be needed in order to protect our district from any rapid changes in the resources needed to fund our programs in the future. We set benchmarks for reserve levels and clarified what was to happen if those targets were not maintained. The members of the board of education had all agreed they needed to live within their means if the district was to remain stable. That meant limiting all future budgeted expenditures to the Tax Cap increase applicable for that fiscal year. Salary and benefits for all employee groups and our outsourced food service and transportation contract increases were all tied to CPI-U. Together, these areas represented about 84 percent of our district’s expenditures. Limiting contract net increases to CPI-U was a difficult change for the faculty, especially coming off of the earlier 21 percent over three years agreement. A couple faculty contracts later, the board was deeply challenged but held strong and overcame a strike to uphold this practice. Eventually, this precept made negotiations go smoother, as everyone came to the table knowing what the amount of board’s funding would be. That left the economic discussions to center around where the money should go. Limiting net contract increases to CPI-U meant that a portion of the savings of terminated or retiring staff, minus the cost of their replacements, could also be added to the funds available for the new contract. When retiring www.iasbo.org

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staff were not replaced, specifically when the position was targeted for reduction, a portion of those savings were allowed to be added to the new contract. This gave both staff and management an incentive to reduce overall numbers of positions whenever possible.

Strategic Staffing & Cross-Training Targeting potential reductions in staff is a key element of strategic budgeting. This process starts with the annual, or periodic reviews with staff. Over the years there have been dozens of tasks made redundant or unnecessary due to technology. Periodic conversations with staff, and reviewing their daily responsibilities, may result in your identifying opportunities to combine or reduce positions for reductions in force. Reductions in force are sensitive activities that may be held in abeyance until absolutely needed for budgetary reasons and/or if the employee is nearing retirement. Each time a staff member retired or left the district, I pulled my office team together to see if we could pick up the workload without filling the open position. For example, we now share administrative assistants between several departments at our administrative service center where, in the past, each department had their own assistant. Annual performance reviews can also lead to opportunities for cross-training key positions. Technology has changed many aspects of our operations over the last twenty years. Cross-training provides employees an opportunity to learn new tasks and responsibilities. This can build their selfesteem and sense of purpose. It can also provide operating support and back-up to critical office functions. We have cross-trained positions to cover payroll, our accounts payable and several HR processing functions. On occasion, simply asking staff to identify which part of the job they “dislike the most” can lead to identifying tasks, or processes, that may have been necessary in the past, but that are no longer needed. Staff may not recognize that the task/process is no longer relevant. They may just know that “they have always done it that way” and may not know they could challenge, or question, whether or not its purpose was still valid. For example, when I came to our district, we had a staff member making copies of purchase 44 |

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orders and filing them so we would have a “handy reference back-up.” She had been doing it for years but disliked doing it because it was hardly ever used. She was right to dislike doing it because when the purchasing system was upgraded years earlier, it provided a much faster electronic method to look up purchase orders. This made her task obsolete. By eliminating that task, and streamlining a few other of her responsibilities, it opened the door for us to train her so she could be a backup for others in the office. Staffing changes can be complicated but knowing where staffing reductions or other changes can be made is critical to developing an effective long-term strategic plan. In our district, knowing that our South campus was first opened in 1964, we anticipated an abnormally high number of teachers would be retiring when their maximum pension service credit would be reached in 1998 and 1999. That created a projected savings of $1.5 million based on the expected cost of replacing the retired staff members. Rather than just dropping the windfall into the budget, we issued short-term debt certificates and knocked off some very expensive capital projects and then used the staffing savings to repay the debt certificates. Limiting the expenditures to capital projects rather than recurring expenditures, such as salaries, and keeping the debt certificate repayment obligation to only a couple of years, allowed us to consider the million-dollar savings as a mid-term safety net that we could count on if the economy worsened. Twenty years later, we still have this safety net intact.

The Path to Long-Term Solvency Over the years, District 99 has used a series of other safety nets to recover from the first Tax Cap constraint impact, the 2008 recession and the more recently the Coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully you already have a multi-year forecasting document in place. This is a critical part of every strategic budget. You need to know what level of resources and changes in expenditures to reasonably expect over the next five years. Then you can better determine the timing and amount of safety nets to identify or create.

ARTICLE / Strategic Budgeting

Here are some of the safety nets used by our district, and some others that might work for your district: 1.  Find ways to bolster your reserves from within the current budget.

—   Set a target level. Consider different scenarios: •  How long would your reserves hold out if you lost $500k or $1 million of revenue? •  If you have DSEB authority, how much is available to be used for Working Cash? —   Look for predictable expenditure or revenue changes. •  Enrollment changes •  Staff retirement bubbles •  Check with Twp. Assessor for new construction additions to your tax base. •  Check with Twp. or municipalities for Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) maturities. —   Consider discretionary expenditure reductions: •  Reductions in Force (RIFs) P Seek efficiency gains and/or eliminating low priority tasks. P Cross-train now to be ready if unexpected retirement or termination occurs. P Consider outsourcing services to reduce salary, health benefits and IMRF costs. >>  Custodial, maintenance & grounds (CMG) positions >>  Cafeteria and food service management positions

2.  Resolve to incorporate CPI-U limits in all expense contracts such as:

—   Transportation, food service management and any other service contracts. —   Collectively bargained agreements and non-CBA salaries. •  Many CBA’s reflect only a percentage of CPI-U P For example, to limit salary increases to 75 percent of CPI-U. >>  Based on district’s exposure to benefit increases and other costs.

3.  Consider Debt Certificates to spread large, unexpected costs over two or three years.

—   Consider issuing short term DC’s repaid from your operating funds – not tax dollars. —   Use them to spread larger capital expenditures over multiple years. •  Do not use them to fund recurring expenses. —   Local banks will often fund these at competitive rates.

4.  Consider using modified accrual basis for financial reporting purposes.

—   Create a more prudent financial profile by deferring early taxes. •  Ensure your annual tax levy is intact for budgeting and reporting purposes. •  Make sure your budget reflects more recent (known) early taxes not next year’s (estimated) early taxes. P Property tax amounts are more accurate for budget and projections. •  In this approach, you will have the same cash on hand, but reserve levels appear much lower. P Eliminates tax objections for excess reserves. P Helps with collective bargaining. P Modified accrual basis is preferred basis by bond rating agencies.

5.  Establish or maximize your Working Cash Fund

—   Use your Debt Service Extension Base if you have one. •  This is subject to a back-door referendum. —   Consider going to public referendum. •  If you have a solid case to support need. •  This typically requires your having to show the community you considered many internal cuts and changes before asking to increase taxes.

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RESOURCES Practicing the Art of Stoicism Long before the term “emotional intelligence” was coined, there existed a group of philosophers who practiced the art of Stoicism. They spoke and wrote about the need to control one’s emotions, thoughts and actions in a deliberate and pragmatic way. Stoicism is sometimes misunderstood as being detached and emotionless. On the contrary, it is being fully aware of what goes on in your mind and deliberately working on these thought patterns. A great introduction to is practice is The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. This book features 366 daily meditations to help you reflect and gain insights into the art of living.

readings on that date and followed along each day. If you skip a few days, the brevity of each reflection makes it easy to catch up. It can also be used as an invaluable reference by using the table of contents to go directly to a topic that may be challenging you at work or at home.

The Daily Stoic is comprised of three parts: the disciplines of perception, action and will. Each part covers four months and offers contemplation on areas such as problem solving, awareness, resilience and pragmatism. The daily meditation begins with a quote from one of the Stoic masters (Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and others) followed by interpretation and prompts Although the book includes short, daily for consideration. These prompts help passages, I found it helpful to read the reader interpret and apply the through the entire book in several observations of the ancient Stoics. You sittings to get a feel for the content. may also find it helpful to record your Once completed, I then joined the daily thoughts in a journal if that is part of your routine. Even though most of the quotes are several thousand years old, I found them to be very easy to connect with our current circumstances and challenges. They talk about reacting to other people, trying to control the uncontrollable and giving up too soon. Given that we are all in the educational field, I believe we can all appreciate a statement such as this one from

On Their List Book reviews from your peers on relevant career topics

Myron Spiwak Dir./Business Services New Trier Twp. HSD 203 Myron spent 17 years working in the insurance industry before beginning his career in school finance. Currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Principles of School Finance PDC, he believes one of the most important elements of good leadership is working on self-management and awareness. Epictetus: “Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” Great advice for all, wouldn’t you agree?

“Stoicism involves being fully aware of what goes on in your mind and deliberately working on these thought patterns.” 46 |

UPDATE Magazine / Spring 2021


DIR./FACILITIES LINCOLNSHIRE PRAIRIEVIEW SD 103 My role is to provide a clean and safe learning environment. Well-maintained school buildings and grounds, with spaces that provide proper light, temperatures and furnishings help support an educational experience in which all students can excel. If I had to illustrate everything I’ve enjoyed about this role… It would turn into a book. Since the day I walked in the door at my current district, construction and renovation have been the focus. When you have buildings that currently span 50 to nearly 160 years old, there is a lot to attend to. I am proud to say that in the 10 years I have been in this role each building was renovated, added on to and brought to current building standards and design. To be involved from concept to completion has been very rewarding. Having the opportunity to provide state of the art educational facilities that will serve generations of students is what every facilities director strives for. COVID-19 currently presents the biggest operational challenge. There is no one working in education today that has been through a pandemic, so no one knows exactly the best way to approach the risks associated. The facilities staff is on the front lines of almost every facet of the pandemic issue and is faced with daunting task of getting buildings cleaned, sanitized and ready for the return of students to in-person learning. Facilities directors need to continue to communicate as a group and discuss what is working and what is not. We can only be successful in navigating this pandemic if we share ideas and the strategies that have proven to be successful in promoting a safe return for students. An important issue is providing proper learning environments for students with disabilities. An increasing number of districts are taking on the task of educating students with both physical, social-emotional and intellectual special needs. Without providing those students and staff with proper educational, life skills or bathroom facilities, schools risk providing inadequate environments in which these students cannot thrive. A well-trained operations staff is one of a school district’s greatest assets. Continued training and offering educational opportunities for all facilities staff will only increase their value as an employee and in turn show them that they are valued. This is an investment in the future of district and the employee and cannot be understated.

Representing Illinois ASBO on the ASBO International Board and as a candidate for ASBO Vice President, Susan Harkin is focused on these three passions.

Watch for more updates on Susan’s campaign and make sure your ASBO International membership is current so you are ready to vote this fall! Learn more: www.susanharkin.com | #heartharkin2021