Coffee with Dr. Kara FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions from Coffee with Dr. Kara

September 6 & September 10, 2018

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1. With thinking of the future and having our kids in a learning community will the grade centers be able to be ONE?
Utilizing the space that the district currently owns, there is only a large enough footprint for the EC-2 center on one area and the 3-5 in another.
2. Are grade centers successful at primary level with 300+ students per grade?
There are many examples of successful grade centers. The sizes vary per district. Students will be clustered in smaller learning communities or pods of 4. Students will still have the opportunity to build relationships and get the attention that they need within the grade-clusters. Students will still have the opportunity to meet and go to school alongside other children from their own neighborhoods like before, however, their classrooms will now also include children from other communities as well.
3. What will help prevent younger children from getting "lost"; with so many at each grade?
Each grade level will be broken down into smaller learning communities or “pods” of four. Teachers will work as a team of four, just like at their home schools, to share students, plan instruction, etc. Students will be housed in these smaller learning communities which will create a small community feel.
4. How will the younger children build relationships and get the attention they need and currently receive in the neighborhood elementary schools?
Meeting other children from other neighborhoods at earlier ages will also help students when it is time to come together at the middle school and high school. By the time that they enter these older grades, there will be less transition for them socially due to their time together in K through fifth grade.
5. What things will be done to ensure a quality education?
CM201u has always prided itself on delivering a high quality education to our students. With moving towards the grade centers at the k-5 level, students will have the ability to access even more resources such as STEAM labs, technology, air-conditioning/heat, equalized class sizes, etc. Educating our students in facilities that offer our students access to more progressive opportunities will ensure greater success.
6. What might be your idea for encouraging and providing vocational Tech programs at our high school?
Preparing students to become Future Ready includes offering additional opportunities for students that have a high aptitude for vocational programs. The district will be working towards expanding our programs at the high school to include programs such as these.
7. What is your belief about allowing Bible Release class in accordance with state and federal statutes allowable by law? (Release time-elementary and/or Bible Clubs-high school)
The District does not currently have a religious release program during the school day. It does permit necessary release time and other accommodations needed for students to fulfill their sincerely-held religious beliefs and obligations. Student-initiated clubs, such as a Bible Club, are permitted to use school grounds for meetings during non-instructional time provided that the club meets the requirements of Board Policy 7:330
8. As the superintendent, can you modify the plan that was approved months ago and put it on a referendum?
The Board is the body that makes the decision as to what is put to referendum. At this point in time, the school board did receive feedback from the community on how much the district could borrow at one time without going out for referendum. This was put out on the election ballot in 1993. The Board is exercising its right to stay within the guidelines that the community gave at that time and will not spend more than was asked for.
9. Your flyer for the plan is telling everyone that there will be IB for all. How can you say that when it is not a guarantee? You aren’t sharing that we have to start all over. If it goes through Title I funds,why can’t all school apply separately?
Once the Board of Education approves the final plan, and if it includes IB for all K-5 students, we will begin the process of having the new grade center become authorized. The authorization process takes 2-3 years. It begins by submitting an application for candidacy, followed by professional development and IB curriculum work, and finally an IB authorization visit.
10. Were teachers asked about this plan? What was teacher input?
The plan is being shared with teachers. Teachers have been given the opportunity to share their feedback. They were able to share their concerns as well as provide feedback on a staff only survey. The feedback is currently being compiled and will be added into the data set the Board will be reviewing in October before the final “our plan” is determined.
11. What does the new infrastructure plan have to do with being "future ready"?
The new infrastructure is the catalyst for creating the space, opportunities, and equal access to resources. The number one reason for being future ready is about equity and exhibiting cultural competency. Creating equity for all means that all students will have the same access to air-conditioning/heat, STEAM labs, same class sizes, same curriculum (IB) etc. Teachers can more effectively collaborate with one another across the grade levels about instruction, assessment and personalized learning strategies. Students will have the opportunity for full exposure to diversity at an early age which means more time to develop cultural competency before they merge at the middle school and high school settings.
12. Why did Mr. Turay oppose bonds a few years ago but now it's okay?
This question requires the opinion of an individual board member, and as such, cannot be addressed within this framework.
13. Will CSK still have a lottery to get in? Will the admission process remain the same?
If the Board of Education decides to keep CSK open, the current lottery and admissions processes will remain the same.
14. Approximately how many classes and students per class will the new school have?
Each of our K-5 district grade levels have approximately 320-350 enrolled students. Using our current contractual class size recommendations, the number of classrooms and students per class would remain the same at 12-14 classrooms per grade level. Should we reduce class sizes, the number of classrooms per grade level would increase.
15. Will the name remain the same?
There is discussion to re-brand the district with a new name. This would include new names at all schools that more fully reflect our unification as a district.
16. How many kindergarten classrooms will there be and how many students will be in each class?
Currently, we limit kindergarten classrooms to 25 students. Simply moving all kindergarten students to one building will keep the number of sections essentially the same as we have now, which is 12 classrooms. If we reduce the class size limit to a lower number, the number of classrooms will increase.
17. How do you form relationships with hundreds of same grade students?
In a grade center design, grade level classrooms are designed into smaller communities or “pods” so students can form relationships with each other as well as the adults in those smaller communities.
18. Will the new school be IB accredited?
If the Board of Education approves the final plan, and if it includes IB for all K-5 students, we will begin the process of having the new grade center become authorized. The authorization process takes 2-3 years. It begins by submitting an application for candidacy, followed by professional development and IB curriculum work, and finally an IB authorization visit.
19. What alternatives were evaluated with this choice?
No alternatives were evaluated.
20. Why so far away and out of UP?
The Crete site is the same site that was chosen for the construction of a new large elementary school in 2013 in the Facilities Master Plan. It is large enough to hold a 140,000 square foot facility and has the infrastructure already in place. Our current sites in UP and Park Forest are not large enough for a school of this size. Our newest elementary school, Monee Elementary is on a site that is also large enough to accommodate a facility of the size needed to accommodate all grade 3-5 students.
21. Based on the report card, why did the middle school get a report card grade of “B” when it was just built?
The original middle school was built in 1974. It was completely renovated in 1998. An addition was added in 2005 and again in 2016. The report card grade of “B” was assigned in 2013 which is 15 years after the original renovation.
22. What is the district planning on doing to incorporate AP curriculum for grade school?
Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum is designed for high school students.
23. Has there been a study done on the effects of students from a smaller school size to bigger school size?
There is research on the positive impact of small school size. With that being said, there are ways to create a small school environment within a larger school. We are exploring the various ways to do just that in larger grade center facilities.
24. Has the IB program been approved for other district buildings regarding the new plan and how does that affect the district high school as a whole?
Approval of the IB program for other district buildings that are part of the new plan is an idea that is being considered. If approved for K-5, students would be part of IB programs K-8. The IB Diploma program which serves students ages 16-19 could be considered for future implementation at the high school. It would be one of many programs the high school offers.
25. Do you have enough interest from other teachers to get certified in the IB program and can it be ready in two years?
If the decision is made to implement IB for all students in grades K-8, teachers in those grades will be required to participate in the appropriate training by the district. Teachers will be trained in the International Baccalaureate program at the appropriate time and in a similar manner to those at the middle school who are currently in a training rotation. Training will be completed by either having the trainer come to the district to work with large numbers of our teachers at one time, or teachers will be sent on a rotating schedule to training at an out of district site. The training may be completed on an appropriate schedule as required by the IB program.
26. Based on the plan, what part of the plan will be financially invested in qualified teachers?
Funds for the facilities plan may be used for that purpose only.
27. A slide was shown that showed the current bus time and what it would be like after the centers are built. What will the time look like when the students are temporarily at Monee during construction of centers?
At this time, we do not estimate any time changes to bus routes.
28. I understand that there are buildings lacking greatly; however, with as much money being spent, why are our youngest going the furthest away and why isn’t there more being done about the wrong children/out of area ones/ in the district as there are so many issues from them?
We have been working with National Investigations who is helping us resolve the issue of residency. Grade center location is based on many variables. Two important factors are land owned by the district and size of the lot.
29. Why was Crete chosen as the site of the new school instead of UP?
This is the same site that was chosen for the construction of a new elementary school in 2013 in the Facilities Master Plan. In addition, it is large enough to hold a 140,000 square foot facility and has the infrastructure already in place.
30. There are many open landmarks/land/fields to build this grade center here in UP; has this been looked into?
While we considered other sites, the determining factor was the District already having a site for the facility. In addition, we had concerns with the village providing the necessary services (police, fire, etc.) to support another school in their village because of their financial situation.
31. Will the cost plan originally given to enhance and bring each individual school up to code be made public? Not just the bottom line number, but a detailed breakdown of that number
The cost plan to enhance and bring each school up to code was originally shared with the public in 2013 through a Board of Education meeting in May 2013. As a summary, here is a chart that will show the costs of those items and we will be able to share the entire list in the near future:

 2013 Life Safety Survey  2013 Physical Facilities Assessment  Grand Total
Balmoral Elementary School  $155,600 $8,561,760 $8,717,360
Crete Elementary School $4,021,700 $8,122,800 $12,144,500
CSK Magnet School $1,204,700 $6,159,240 $7,363,940
Early Learning Center $2,637,500 $5,429,040 $8,066,540
Monee Education Center $568,900 $2,886,000 $3,454,900
Talala Elementary School $1,405,300 $4,934,640 $6,339,940
  $9,993,700 $36,093,480 $46,087,180

 2013 Life Safety Survey  2013 Physical Facilities Assessment  Grand Total
Crete-Monee Middle School $10,300 $3,190,900 $3,201,200
Sixth Grade Center & Dome $3,051,00 $38,515,920 $41,566,920

$3,061,300 $41,706,820 $44,768,120

 2013 Life Safety Survey  2013 Physical Facilities Assessment  Grand Total
All Facilities $13,055,000 $77,800,300 $90,855,300
32. I'm very confused on how all of this expensive equipment for this school will only be a $2 increase in taxes per household? Middle school renovations cost my household $186. Please explain.
Lessening the impact to the taxpayer is a priority, so this is accomplished by restructuring our current debt and extending the new debt out 20 years so that the district’s current debt payment will remain the same.

It is similar to buying a new car when you still have a payment on your old car. You want to keep the same payment on the new car, so you extend the loan so you can have the same payment.
33. What will the approximate dollar amount be per household in taxes? Dollar amount of increase?
This is a difficult question to answer as each community has a different tax rate and equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of a property. However, as stated previously, the district is committed to minimizing the impact on the taxpayer, so we have structured the repayment of the money borrowed to keep the same debt payment.
34. What would be the purpose of moving CSK’s location? Me and other residents moved into UP just to keep our kids close by their school. What are the benefits of moving the location? Basically, it’s unnecessary chaos for what seems purposeless.
It’s important to keep in mind that CSK is not a neighborhood school but a district school that is attended by students from all parts of the district. As you may recall, the purpose of transitioning from Hickory Elementary to CSK was to provide a more specialized curriculum to the school that was mandated by the state to be restructured.

At that point in time, Hickory Elementary stopped being a neighborhood school attended only by those that lived in the neighborhood to one of district choice. CM201U students from across the district are invited to enroll based upon a lottery system. Currently, CSK is attended by students who reside in 5 different communities. They are as follows: 2% Beecher, 35% Crete, 12% Monee, 12% Park Forest and 38% University Park. As of March, 2018 there were 281 students. From this total number, there were 107 students that reside in University Park.

The benefits of utilizing the IB model of instruction with our students has clearly proven to be successful. We frequently hear from staff at the middle school that they can identify students who have attended CSK. Parents, students, and staff alike continue to speak highly of the benefits of the IB School.
35. Why doesn't the Board want a referendum on the "Plan"?
The district residents voted in 1999 to allow the Board of Education to incur debt up to $6.4 million per year as the District Debt Service Extension Base (DSEB). This means that the voters of the District already approved this, which is the same as going to referendum.
36. Has research been done to check the cost for CSK renovations/updates? If so, what is that approximate cost?
This research was shared with the Board of Education and the public at a Board of Education meeting in May 2013. Here is a summary of those costs:

 2013 Life Safety Survey  2013 Physical Facilities Assessment  Grand Total
Balmoral Elementary School  $155,600 $8,561,760  $8,717,360
Crete Elementary School $4,021,700 $8,122,800 $12,144,500
CSK Magnet School $1,204,700 $6,159,240 $7,363,940
Early Learning Center $2,637,500 $5,429,040 $8,066,540
Monee Education Center $568,900 $2,886,000 $3,454,900
Talala Elementary School $1,405,300 $4,934,640 $6,339,940
  $9,993,700 $36,093,480 $46,087,180
37. How does cost relate to the cost of building a brand new school?
If you look at the total cost of upgrading our elementary schools, the estimated cost is approximately $46 million. However, this does not include any “Future Ready” items like flexible furniture, STEAM labs, etc. To build a new Pre-K - 2 Grade Center and renovate Monee Elementary School to be a 3-5 Grade Center, the cost is approximately $61 million. This does include flexible furniture and STEAM labs.

While a $15 million difference seems large, when it comes to new construction vs. renovating old facilities, the difference is not too large and it is best to invest in new construction.
38. What would be the cost for each of the school’s life safety, enhancements, and upgrades like the steam program?
Here is the cost for each of the school's life safety and enhancements:

 2013 Life Safety Survey  2013 Physical Facilities Assessment  Grand Total
Balmoral Elementary School  $155,600 $8,561,760  $8,717,360
Crete Elementary School $4,021,700 $8,122,800 $12,144,500
CSK Magnet School $1,204,700 $6,159,240 $7,363,940
Early Learning Center $2,637,500 $5,429,040 $8,066,540
Monee Education Center $568,900 $2,886,000 $3,454,900
Talala Elementary School $1,405,300 $4,934,640 $6,339,940
  $9,993,700 $36,093,480 $46,087,180
The District does not have an estimate on STEAM labs or other programming additions at this time.
39. How will we as residents be affected by the operational costs?
One of the goals of developing this facility plan is to eliminate our operational deficit which will make our District stronger from a financial standpoint. When it comes to increasing operational costs, we are bound by property tax law in that we may only increase our property tax revenue by the annual consumer price index (CPI) or 5%, whichever is lower. As an example, the current CPI is 2.1%.
40. Was the PMA projectory done to the life safety plan just like it was provided for the facility plan?
The projections done by PMA for for financing, and were not done for the Life Safety Plan.
41. The extension of the current debt service (2025-2046) will cost $192M. Project estimates are $85-95M. Can you provide a breakdown of proceeds from bonds/dept extension and total usage of those funds?
The total cost of borrowing $84.5 million would be approximately $157 million. This would be $84.5 million in principal and $72.5 million in interest.

Usage of the $84.5 million is as follows:
Demolition of the Sixth Grade Center $ 2,011,500
Construction of Pre-K - 2nd Grade Center $ 44,537,100
Addition to Monee Elementary School $ 17,574,500
Addition to Crete-Monee Middle School $ 6,621,300
Conversion of ELC/Admin Center $ 13,758,300
42. What are the projected property taxes for Park Forest after 2044?
The District does not have enough information to determine this.

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