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District 200's top 5: Online classes, testing update, program relocation, bank change and engagement presentation

WHEATON – Along with the passing of $10 million in summer spending, the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education saw several notable items during its May 14 meeting.

1. Online classroom agreement finalized

After months of planning, negotiation and uncertainty, District 200 officially entered into an intergovernmental agreement with two local districts to provide online classes next school year.

Naperville Community Unit School District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204 will join District 200 to share costs and resources for the Expanding Learning Opportunities Program. Each will pay a proportional annual cost based on size. District 200 will pay $85,000 up front and students will choose from 105 seats across the two semesters.

Originally, two additional districts – Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 and Batavia Public School District 101 – were also in the program, but both dropped out, citing cost concerns.

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Faith Dahlquist said the consortium is in the process of hiring a program director and will conduct interviews soon.

2. No Child Left Behind and PARCC Assessment update

Superintendent Brian Harris updated the board on two key issues that could deeply effect the district: No Child Left Behind requirements and the new PARCC Assessment.

In April, the state received a federal government waiver on the No Child Left Behind law, meaning districts will no longer be labeled "failures" if all students don't score well on tests, allowing them to use federal funds for low-income children more flexibly.

Harris said districts will not have to continue offering parents the choice to move students out of failing schools on the district's dime, cutting down on the amount the district pays for transportation.

"The metrics and the way that we are going to evaluate our schools and our performance is going to change – quite frankly, in a much better way," he said.

Harris also said he was optimistic that, while the district will be required to implement the PARCC standardized test in grades three to eight, legislators in Springfield are moving toward allowing juniors to take the PARCC instead of the ACT.

3. New home for transition program

After three years at Hubble Middle School, the district's transition program will get a new home.

The program, which offers a structured system in which special needs students learn life skills and vocational training after graduation, will rent a 2,500-square-foot space in the building at 100 Bridge Street.

The lease is covered by Medicaid funds, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Joanne Panopoulos said.

Harris said parents and students will be "thrilled" with the new location, which will bring the district up to Americans with Disability Act code.

"I've actually personally had conversations with a few parents on this topic, and they've been patient and we believe we have found a location that is appropriate," he said.

Board member Jim Mathieson abstained from the vote, as he had previously done business with the property owner.

4. District 200 changes banks

The district also decided to consolidate all funds into the Wheaton Bank and Trust system. Harris said the consolidation was "overdue" and staff was pleased to work with a local business. Mathieson, who serves on the bank's board, also abstained from the related votes.

5. Engage 200 presentation

Engage 200 community co-chair Liz Corry presented to the board Wednesday after a recent community engagement session regarding finance.

"It's been great to watch the community and the response and hear the feedback in the community," she said.

The final Engage 200 summary session will be held 7 to 9 p.m. June 18 at Monroe Middle School.

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