The temperature detection devices installed in all the schools in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 last week are being gathered up to be picked up by the vendor after an emergency resolution to buy the machines without obtaining competitive bids failed to get enough votes at a special meeting held on Aug. 13.
The resolution declaring an emergency to allow the district to bypass competitive bidding for purchases of more than $25,000 was approved by a 4 to 3 vote, failing to meet the three-quarters vote needed to declare an emergency.
Voting against declaring an emergency were Sharon Anderson, Marge Hubacek and Shannon Johnson.
“I don’t feel it’s an emergency,” Johnson said, adding that the process to put a bid out for the machines could have begun earlier in the summer. “We could definitely use the machines, but we have to be fiscally responsible.”
The machines were installed and set up last week, because the board had a meeting scheduled for Aug. 10 and administrators had expected the emergency to be declared and the purchase to go through.
But the Aug. 10 meeting had to be rescheduled after an incorrect area code for a telephone link to the school board meeting was published on the agenda.
District 103 is unusual among local school districts in limiting attendance at its meetings to 10 people, including school board members and administrators, essentially prohibiting the public from attending school board meetings in person.
Five temperature detections devices were going to be purchased from Yates Enterprises, a Chicago vendor, for $6,000 each, a $1,000 discount from the list price. The company was going throw in one device for free.
“I don’t think this is an emergency, plus it doesn’t look good that they gave us a free machine,” Hubacek said. “It looks bad.”
District 103 is starting school fully remotely, but supporters of the purchase said that the machines, which record and keep track of temperature readings and also can tell if someone is wearing a face covering, will help keep teachers safe.
Teachers were required to be at their schools starting Aug. 13 to prepare for the new school year, and they will be expected to teach remotely from their classrooms beginning Aug. 21.
“We don’t want our teachers to be exposed to a district that is not ready for them,” said school board President Jorge Torres, who voted in favor of declaring an emergency.
Board member Vito Campanile said he worried that the delay required by going through the competitive bidding process will cause the machines not to be available and might cause the price to increase.
Campanile also said that having the machines in operation for a substantial amount of time before students might return to school in person will allow for all the kinks in the system to be worked out before students return.
“I am totally disappointed,” Campanile said. “Being a contractor who does this kind of installation, the time frame needed to make the system 100-percent stable to guarantee the safety of our children is what we just jeopardized. I’m real concerned that if it takes too long, too many schools will grab the inventory that’s out there. I’ve seen this happen too many times.”
District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera said he was disappointed in the delay but would move forward to competitively bid out the devices.
“Naturally I was a little disappointed in that decision,” Rivera said. “[I’m] looking to provide the safest environment we could have for the teachers. It’s an additional layer that we’re going to be without temporarily. We definitely intend on moving toward the bidding process and still providing it as soon as practicable.”
Toni Jackman, president of the teachers’ union in District 103, expressed frustration with the delay in getting the temperature check devices up and running, citing the perpetual rancor among school board members.
“When it comes to the safety of its employees during this pandemic, the school board needs to get on the same page and do a better job of communicating with each other,” Jackman said. “We should all be on the same team in this unprecedented time. The focus should be on safety, not on personal feelings or politics. Teachers, staff and ultimately students deserve better.”
Yates Enterprises is a minority owned company, founded by a surgeon, that has provided metal detectors primarily for government entities. In 2018, the Cook County Board voted unanimously to award Yates a three-year contract worth $566,430 to provide metal detectors and X-ray machines to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which runs Cook County Jail.
School nurses hired
In other District 103 action, the school board voted unanimously to hire four registered nurses to serve at the district’s schools. The four nurses will be paid $55,000 each.
Along with nurses from an employment agency, there will be a registered nurse at every District 103 school building this year. Mary Mangerson will be the school nurse at Lincoln School in Brookfield this year.
Earlier this summer the district’s health aides were laid off as Rivera said that the wanted a nurse in every building.