Kaneland school board approves new hires to help with COVID-19 contact tracing

School board also approved district budget, Fox Valley Career Center budget at Sept. 13 meeting

SUGAR GROVE – The Kaneland District 302 School Board at the Sept. 13 meeting at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove approved the 2021-22 budget, the 2021-22 Fox Valley Career Center budget and the hiring of four part-time staff members because of an increase in contact tracing requirements and the implementation of Test to Stay protocols.

Superintendent Todd Leden said that after the previous meeting, the board’s consensus was to create job descriptions and determine salaries and responsibilities for the positions and bring the information back to the board for approval.

The recommendation passed 4-1. Board members Ryan Kerry, Aaron Lawler, Bob Mankivsky and Teresa Witt voted in favor of the hirings. Addam Gonzalez was the lone dissenter. Board members Meg Junk and Jennifer Simmons were absent.

“I guess my concern is being selective with these kids that aren’t participating in the SHIELD [saliva based] testing,” Gonzalez said. “It seems like if you’re not going to participate in the SHIELD testing, we’re not going to allow you. And there are still children not participating in the SHIELD testing that have close contact and are therefore quarantining, and if the district is funding these employees, to me, I don’t know, I guess I’m missing a component, but it seems like it’s not appropriate.”

Chris Adkins, director of human resources for Kaneland, and Julie-Ann Fuchs, associate superintendent for the district, said it’s the testing protocol of the company and beyond the district’s control, and that it’s also within the guidelines of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The new staff members will supplement the existing contact tracing efforts that are in place by the nursing staff and administrators and alleviate their workload.

The four part-time staff additions will work about 20 hours a week and will cost the district about $40,000 for the 2021-22 school year.

Kaneland High School and Harter Middle School each will receive one contact tracer/test-to-stay facilitator. Blackberry Creek and John Stewart elementary schools will share one tracer. McDole and John Shields elementary schools will share the fourth tracer.

Harter Middle School also will receive an additional part-time social worker. That addition passed with full board support.

“As we monitor student enrollments, if we reach a point where more staff is needed to comply with IEPs [Individualized Educational Plans] or special education requirements, we’ll bring those requests to the board,” Adkins said. “That’s what we need tonight. We’ve had several new students move into Harter Middle School, all that have IEP services for social work, as well as several existing students who have increases that are IEP minutes for social work. When you look at all of that together, it does require we add additional staffing to our social work allotment at the middle school to meet those needs.”

Masks and COVID-19 protocols continued to be the debated topic during public comment.

Elburn’s Chris Bateman held up a picture his daughter drew of herself with “many of her wonderful attributes” that are being hidden beneath a facial covering including “artistic, kind, weird, happy and smart.”

“We don’t let the kids take their masks off except for when they’re at recess, and we don’t let them go outside any other times,” he said. “This is what we’re hiding. This is what we’re covering up. This is what’s not getting a chance to be shared. Do you understand? Do you understand?”

Sugar Grove’s Luke Sharp said more children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 14 die of cancer, vehicle accidents, suicide, homicide, cardiovascular disease, drowning and influenza annually than of COVID-19.

“I appreciate all those who are here today standing up and pushing back from the illegal medical mandates to other hot topics on the agenda like exposing our K-12 students to the divisive critical race theory and the explicit sex education curriculum,” he said. “To those parents and students and teachers at home who are tired of this nonsense asking what can we do, get off your butt. Use your talents and resources, show up to these meetings, start emailing and making phone calls and get involved. Start organizing. We the people must make our voices heard. You are not alone. We stand with you. Remember local action, national impact. Each day more truth percolates out into the open and soon evil will no longer be able to hide in the dark. Fight for the kids and put an end to this communist takeover of America.”