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D161 hears more concerns regarding COVID-19 mitigation; talks construction near Parker

Flossmoor School District 161 parents are continuing to raise COVID-19 concerns as the 2021-2022 school year progresses this fall.

Pam Jackson, a parent of twins in fourth grade and a kindergartener at Western Avenue Elementary School, was one of two parents to speak Aug. 30 during a board of education meeting about COVID-19 mitigation concerns.

“This is not an easy thing to deal with,” Jackson said. “I appreciate the changes you have made.”

But Jackson said one of her children was asked to quarantine based on being within 3 feet of a student who tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes.


“What about my boys?” Jackson said. “My boys live with her. Why are we not quarantining them?”

Jackson said she kept them home because logic said if her daughter was a potential risk, the sons who live with her could be, too. But she wanted to know what District 161’s policy is on the matter.

She also asked if there is a hotline set up for parents who may find out someone in the district tested positive over a weekend. And she wanted to know what the district was going to do when SHIELD testing begins and more positive cases are identified.

Jackson also wanted to see a better plan for remote learning when children are asked to quarantine. Jackson said her child was doing what she considered to be “busy work” at home and not necessarily getting a full educational experience.

“Her getting a packet and getting a Chromebook today that she’s never used before is not a good solution in my opinion,” Jackson said. “I would like to see a better plan.”

Yelene Modley, who spoke before the board Aug. 16 on concerns related to COVID-19 mitigation efforts in the district’s schools, reiterated some of her concerns, presented new ones and read comments from other parents during the Aug. 30 meeting.

Superintendent Dana Smith noted that the district would be updating its Frequently Asked Questions online with new information soon and would respond to parents individually the next day.

“These are really good questions,” he said.

Smith noted SHIELD testing protocols — regular saliva tests designed to catch asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 before an outbreak occurs — are set to begin next week. As of Thursday, Aug. 26, roughly 115 students were opted out of the program in which students were otherwise auto-enrolled.

Flossmoor drainage improvements to extend a few feet onto Parker property
The school board discussed how the Village of Flossmoor’s Douglas Avenue Drainage Improvements project is expected to impact its schools, particularly when it comes to Parker Junior High School.

“Parker Jr High has a history of being a flood zone, all by itself,” Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella told the board.

Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke told the school board the project involves a 30-inch storm sewer out of the Leavitt Avenue Drainage Basin near Parker to alleviate the flooding in the area, which he said is among the “worst” in the village.

Work is to extend roughly 8 feet onto the school property, and a storm structure would be created by the east side of the Parker parking lot, he added. Brunke said water in the parking lot would hit the structure and move out of the area instead of flooding the property once the project is complete.

“Very safe, it’s graded, small holes,” Brunke said of the structure. “It’s not unsafe for children or anybody.”

The plan is to start working on the project in approximately three weeks, but work on the school property would come near the end of the project, 2-3 months from now, Brunke said.

Crews will likely only be on-site for a couple of days, and work is only likely to impact a few parking spots at that time, he said. Douglas will remain open but with one lane of traffic near the school during portions of the project, Brunke added.

“It’s really not going to affect anything you do at the school,” he said.

The village is asking for a temporary construction easement and a permanent drainage easement over property owned by the district to install, inspect, replace, alter, enlarge, remove, repair and clean the storm sewer, surface drainage way and manholes, according to a report filed by LaBella. A proposed intergovernmental agreement would allow the village to do just that, provided the property is returned to its prior condition once work is completed. Smith noted the district’s attorneys gave their OK to the agreement.

The item was presented for discussion only at the Aug. 30 meeting.

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