D118 board hears tax levy presentation, North Ridge safety plan

Oct. 29—DANVILLE — A proposed safety plan for North Ridge Middle School is taking cues from measures already put in place at Danville High School, including clear backpacks and weapon detectors.

The Danville District 118 school board read the safety plan for the first time Wednesday night. The board is expected to act on the plan next month.

North Ridge Middle School Principal Eliza Brooks went through the plan which had recommendations from a school safety committee.

Brooks said as principal and a community member, she wants to make North Ridge the safest place to learn.

Brooks said the safety committee met several times last school year and the recommendations are to improve the safety and climate of the school for seventh- and eighth-graders.

Building proposed needs, with many mirroring what DHS has implemented or proposed: clear backpacks similar to DHS and coats to be stored in lockers as already mandated (cost is $17.75 per student for 650 students at $11,537.50); increased number of hall monitors — staffing has been a challenge. They have two now and two openings. (cost: $20,442 times two for $40,884); weapons detectors — same model as DHS, and North Ridge has three entrances for students (cost: $16,400 per unit for $49,200); vape detectors — need six for two per student restroom (cost: Fly Sense $1,500 each for $9,000); video cameras for blind spots. There's a need for nine additional cameras. Replace old cameras with higher resolution. Add or move cameras in high traffic areas. Purchase 180-degree cameras for easier access to larger areas. (cost: $600 per camera for $5,400); and lighting outside — increased lighting in the back parking lot area (cost: defer to buildings and grounds).

Total cost is approximately $116,021.50, excluding the outside lighting.

When asked about vaping in middle school, Brooks said they caught six to seven students with vapes this week. Those are just the ones who were caught, she said.

Board member Johnnie Carey also suggested requiring students to be wanded for weapons when they are late coming to school or leave and come back, such as for a doctor appointment. She also suggested requiring clear bags for all sporting events district wide.

"This is not new for schools," Carey said about Champaign and other schools which require clear bags for the school district and public's safety. "There's just too much happening in our community."

Sporting events at DHS have clear bag and bag size requirements.

In other business Wednesday, the board also heard a tax levy presentation.

The school district's 2021 tax rate was 5.346 percent with an equalized assessed valuation of $350,250,116. The supervisor of assessments has estimated the district's EAV at $371,536,907 for 2022. This would be an approximate 6 percent increase in the total EAV amount.

"To avoid losing any potential funding through the levy, I recommend that we levy a 4.99 percent increase in the amount received from last year's levy. This would equal a 7 percent increase in the EAV and a total of $19,439,733 for our levy request. This will not require a truth in taxation hearing," according to Director of Business and Finance Narcissus Rankin.

The recommendation has the property tax rate going from 5.346 percent to 5.187 percent.

School board president Randal Ashton said the 4.99 percent levy amount increase maximizes dollars and avoids a truth in taxation hearing if it was a 5 percent increase.

He also said "this won't keep up with inflation. I think it's a great presentation and puts us in a position where I think we need to be."

The board also approved a worker's compensation agreement with Cannon Cochran Management Services Inc. (CCMSI) for a two-year extension for the district's third party administration. The previous five-year agreement was $28,000 a year. The new agreement is $29,500 the first year and $30,090 the second year. The board also approved a one-year excess coverage contract with US Specialty Underwriters for $47,472. The previous contract was $74,986. The decrease is attributed to a decrease in the federal rate and increase in the aggregate limit, which is the minimum amount covered for all workers compensation claims. The district hasn't had to use the excess policy, but it's necessary to carry it, according to Rankin.

In other discussions, the board heard an update of the Skyward student information system migration to the upgraded Qmaltiv. It's set to go live on June 26. School officials postponed the changeover due to staffing and other issues for a smoother transition. There will be a transfer of data and training with staff. The system will be down the week of June 19-June 23, with summer school attendance having to be done by paper and other issues being addressed.

In other reports: DHS girls' tennis team members received medals for their state placing; it was announced the Birth to Three program is a blue ribbon affiliate; discussions continued on the food service co-op the school district pays $1,600 a year for and how the current food service director had no files or history information, and how the district has had food program citations through the years for not meeting requirements; and in school board member comments, Darlene Halloran asked for a social studies department committee to look at curriculum and Thomas Miller announced he will be seeking re-election in next year's school board election.