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Minor policy changes follow Sandy Hook school tragedy

School day Monday went smoothly in Channahon Dist. 17

CHANNAHON — The Channahon School Board observed a moment of silence Monday evening for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Superintendent Dr. Karin Evans said she and the staff of District 17 had been “grief-stricken since Friday” and that their hearts and thoughts went out to the families and the community of Newtown.

The board also got an update from administrators on the safety protocols of the four schools in the district.

“I feel that we are extremely safe,” Evans said. “We have been very, very diligent with our safety plan. We have always been very proactive in terms of practicing and practicing.”

The schools conduct several drills a year, including fire, tornado, and lock-down drills in conjunction with the police and fire departments.

But just to be on the safe side, Evans said police toured the buildings Monday to conduct a safety check and were at each of the schools during the day as a police presence. Administrators and some staff, along with Channahon Police Chief Jeff Wold and Lt. Mark Fischer, also gathered in an early-morning meeting Monday to discuss security concerns.

A couple of security changes recommended by police were instituted immediately, Evans told the board, including the requirement that all visitors not only show a picture I.D. on entering a school building, but also leave that identification in the front office for as long as they are inside the school.

Evans said office staff has always required I.D.s when parents came to pick up their children or when new volunteers entered, but they never kept them. Keeping them in the office will remind those extra people in the building to exit through the front doors.

The action will get them their identification returned, while making sure side and back doors are not used as exits, which can sometimes lead to doors being left ajar. The measure would also help first responders know who is in the building in case of an emergency.

Evans added that the first day back at school after the shootings went smoothly.

The school board Monday also recognized the winners of this year’s Geography and Spelling Bees. Spencer Scranton, last year’s runner-up, took the title this year in the Geography Bee, with Abby Holloway receiving runner-up.

The competition was held Nov. 16, with around 50 students competing. All of the top nine were eighth graders, according to bee sponsor teacher Kim Yonker.

Overall winner of the Spelling Bee was eighth grader Chris Flanagan, and overall runner-up was seventh grader Arianna Karnezis.

Spelling Bee 8th grade winners were Chris Flanagan and runner-up Abby Holloway; 7th grade winners were Arianna Karnezis and runner-up Carmen Slepicka; and 6th grade winners were Jazmin Arteaga and runner-up Abby Uphoff.

The school board this week also approved the district’s levy of taxes for 2012 to be $17.48 million, based on an estimated equalized assessed valuation of $623.6 million – a reduction of $19.5 million. Also approved was the abatement of $442,403, which is the amount of the increase of the Consumer Price Index, to reduce the district’s 2012 debt levy.

The board also approved the administration’s request to purchase a 2013 Chevrolet/Collins 28-passenger, gasoline engine school bus and to declare two current district buses surplus, one of which will be used as trade-in for the new bus.

Business Manager Mike Schroeder also told the board that four of the district’s older buses are eligible for the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Rebate Program, which is the first year of the lottery program. Should Channahon’s four buses entered in the program be chosen, the district could receive $90,000 total for them. The buses would then be destroyed. If they are not chosen in the lottery, Schroeder said the district would seek trade-in values for them.

Mileage on the four buses runs from 72,192 to 100,933.

The board Monday also approved hiring Joanne Sitarz, Patricia Poch, and Mary Lundberg as substitute nurses at $15/hour; Kelly Studer as a substitute bus driver at $35.70/run; and Jim Welsh as assistant wrestling coach at a stipend of $3,833.

Patricia Butts will transfer from a substitute aide to a permanent aide at Three Rivers School, and Mindy Carver will move up to permanent bus driver. The board also approved the resignation of Katie Kern as seventh grade girls’ basketball co-coach.

Board member Derek Breen voted against the personnel decisions, saying after the meeting that his vote was in protest of the district not having an official policy on how bus driver hires are made. If the policy is to hire the most senior substitute driver, he said, then it should be formally made into policy.

Board member Jim Bogacz was absent from Monday’s meeting.

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