coronavirus

Join host Peter Medlin for a discussion on how different school re-opening plans are playing out throughout northern Illinois. Hear from parents and teachers about the challenges of incorporating different learning options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

The Winnebago County Health Department reported 343 new cases of coronavirus from over the weekend on Monday. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said this means there have now been more than 10,000 cases total.

“Our rolling 7-day positivity rate is 13.5%, well above the 6.5% that we need to get ourself out of mitigation.”

Seven residents also lost their lives to the disease since last week. Officials from local health care providers say they have seen many more people coming in for tests, and are working to increase patient capacity as cases mount.

SD209

Students in the Proviso School District are still learning remotely as COVID-19 case rates go up across Illinois. But their teachers are now working inside the district’s school buildings, despite safety concerns and the Teachers’ Union filing of an Unfair Labor Practice & Grievance against the district.

 

Almost 300 Proviso teachers have been back for a week now. Maggie Riley -- she’s the president of the Proviso Teachers’ Union -- said the conditions are exactly what they were worried about. 

 

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are announcing additional COVID-19 mitigation efforts that will be implemented in Region 1 beginning on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. According to a news release issued Thursday afternoon, after mitigation efforts initially took effect in Region 1 on Oct. 3, the positivity rate has remained the highest in the state, with the region reporting an 11.9% rolling positivity rate today, Oct. 22.

The STEM Read Podcast - Past, Present, And Futurism

Oct 20, 2020

In this episode of The STEM Read Podcast, we’re bringing you an excerpt from the Future Telling Webinar series, STEM Read’s collaboration with NIU’s University Libraries.

719 Northern Illinois University freshmen received the Huskie Pledge grant this fall, during the first semester it was offered. It covers remaining tuition and fees for Illinois residents with a minimum 3.0 GPA in high school and whose family income is no more than $75,000.

Sol Jensen is the VP of enrollment management, marketing and communications at NIU.

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UPDATE:  Dr. Sandra Martell issued the following statement related to indoor dining in Winnebago County on Oct. 20, 2020

Last week, Winnebago County Health Department issued guidance for Meetings, Social Events, and Gatherings at Restaurants and Bars during the resurgence.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University is expanding COVID-19 testing efforts into what some might consider an unexpected place: wastewater.

Dr. Barrie Bode was the longtime chair of NIU’s Department of Biological Studies. Now he has a new title he could have never anticipated: director of COVID-19 facilities.

Partnered with the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District, Bode is building a lab and assembling a team to implement a new component in the university’s surveillance testing plan.

Peter Medlin

Over the summer, the school year was still in limbo and racial tensions were running high in Rockford as well as communities across the country. A former student reached out to Amanda Becker with a simple question: “Mrs. Becker, how are you going to teach about this?”

Becker is a history teacher at Auburn High School and a Rockford historian. Her answer was a philosophy she learned from her own teaching mentors.

“The best thing to do is to let the kids talk. That's it. Don't teach them anything. Let the kids talk,” she said.

Judith Meyer

Our guest this episode is Judith Meyer, she’s an artist -- a painter, to be exact -- and art professor at Rock Valley College.

Judith talked to host Peter Medlin about how to virtually teach about art, the unexpected places around the world her art has gone to, what she's been working on during the pandemic, creativity as a spiritual exercise and so much more.

 

Positive cases of coronavirus on the Northern Illinois University campus peaked in September, but the northern Illinois region continues to struggle with preventing new cases.

Kishwaukee College Offers Contact Tracer Training

Oct 8, 2020
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Kishwaukee College Workforce and Community Education will offer an online Contact Tracer class the first two weeks of November. Contact tracers work with people who have been diagnosed, or exposed, to highly communicable diseases including the coronavirus. They relate information regarding quarantine, testing and public health resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The classes will be conducted virtually. 

 

Peter Medlin

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, we have Jason Cavanaugh. He’s a high school math teacher and baseball coach in Sycamore.

They’re learning remotely. So, Jason is going into his empty, retrofitted math class to teach kids who are at home. Obviously, he’s never done this before, the students haven’t either. And, as you can imagine, the technology is not always flawless.

Peter Medlin

More than 40 schools in Winnebago County have reported positive COVID-19 cases. Close to half of those are Rockford Public Schools. 

Dr. Sandra Martell is the director of the Winnebago County Health Department. She recently stressed that despite cases appearing in schools, the department doesn’t believe students and staff are transmitting the virus while at school. 

IDPH

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Monday that COVID-19 resurgence mitigations will be implemented in Region 1, which holds the most northwestern counties in the state. The measures will begin on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. 

According to a press release, the region is seeing a seven-day rolling average test positivity rate of 8% or above for three consecutive days, which exceeds the threshold set for establishing mitigation measures in the region under the state’s Restore Illinois Resurgence Plan.

A staffer who recently traveled with Gov. JB Pritzker has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the governor and others to self-isolate for a period of two weeks, his office announced Tuesday.

Victoria Lunacek

The majority of Illinois students are still learning remotely so there hasn’t been much need for school buses. Unfortunately, that means in many school districts there has been no need for bus drivers either.

Ladel Cass is a northern Illinois general manager at busing provider First Student.

He oversees 10 districts and says only around 30% are driving their normal routes right now.

And for the ones that are picking up and dropping off students as usual, they’ve had to make some major changes.

Wikipedia Commons

Illinois has devoted more than $230 million across every county in the state for COVID-19 contact tracing.

Spencer Tritt

We’ve got a special episode this week. Remember a few months back when we heard from those valedictorians about what it was like graduating in the strangest senior year ever? And remember when we heard from some parent surveys about the challenges of learning from home a few episodes ago?

Well, today we’re hearing from the kids just starting their school journey: elementary schoolers from pre-K to 5th grade in the West Aurora School District.

Susan Stephens

NIU President Lisa Freeman announced Friday that effective immediately, the university is temporarily moving undergraduate courses online. Additionally, all students who reside on campus, and undergraduates who live in DeKalb County are asked to limit in-person activities and interactions until Sept. 28.

Freeman tells the campus community that the immediate action is similar to what other universities recently had to implement.

niu.edu

Enrollment at Northern Illinois University went up this fall for the first time in a decade, despite pandemic concerns.

At the beginning of 2020, the university’s enrollment projections looked good. A plan was in place, applications were up. Then COVID-19 happened, and it became impossible to predict how the fall numbers would look -- if students returned at all.

Sol Jensen is NIU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. He said that one of the most important improvements was with local, northern Illinois students.

Pritzker Talks Vaccine, Contact Tracing, And University Spread

Sep 9, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

The statewide COVID-19 test positivity rate hit its lowest point since July 26 on Wednesday as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,337 new cases of the virus among 48,029 test results reported over the previous 24 hours.

The rolling seven-day average positivity rate was driven downward to 3.7 percent after Wednesday saw a 2.8 percent one-day positivity rate. 

That came as Region 7 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan saw its fourth straight day below an 8 percent positivity rate, the threshold at which the state increases economic restrictions in an effort to mitigate spread. The rate in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee Counties, was 7.4 percent as of Sunday. That was still higher than the 6.5 percent rate at which the state would start to relax some of the added mitigations, which include closing bars and restaurants to indoor service.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University saw a slight increase in enrollment this fall.

 

Total enrollment at NIU climbed to 16,769 students. That’s only a 1% gain from last year, but it’s the first increase since 2009

Peter Medlin

Plenty of schools surveyed staff and parents over the past several months, asking about e-learning challenges and seeking suggestions going into the new COVID-affected school year.

Schools don’t as often ask the students themselves, especially younger kids. The West Aurora School District did ask its students, from Pre-K all the way through high school, how they felt about schools being closed.

Spencer Tritt

Many Illinois students are more than a week into remote learning, and parents are still finding new challenges and trying to get used to the new normal.

“We’ve just had a morning recess mishap. Did that land on your foot? Are your toe-sies okay?” One of Colleen Chavez’s children was crying. After a few seconds comforting them, she told them to run along and play with something safer. Only got a few minutes before it’s time to log on or school.

Kevin Wood

I refuse to just grow a mustache and say, “Well, my time is done for a while,” and wait for something to happen. –Lincoln Presenter Michael Krebs

Due to Illinois’s shelter-at-home order, many of us are quarantined, working remotely or unable to work at all. But what about our Lincoln presenters? How has the coronavirus disrupted their profession, which relies almost exclusively on live events, many of them taking place in schools and senior centers?

Peter Medlin

Many school districts surveyed staff and parents over the summer. They highlighted challenges in the spring. Several schools asked the students themselves about what they faced and what to change as classes resume. 

 

A growing number of northern Illinois school districts have pushed their in-person start dates back and are beginning the school year online. 

 

Peter Medlin

Move-in day is normally a frenzy. At large schools like Northern Illinois University, thousands of students descend onto campus; student organizations pass around sign-up sheets in crowded dorms, maybe even the football team helps unload furniture.

Not this time. This year, students made appointments to move into dorms over the course of several days.

David Lewis just transferred to NIU from a community college in his home state of Missouri. He and his dad drove in the night before to get an early start. He came for the political science department and the marching band.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge episode we have Molly Lilja, principal at Manchester Elementary School in Poplar Grove.

She talked to host Peter Medlin about everything from the challenges of preparing for the school year during COVID, like putting up thousands of dollars’ worth of plexiglass dividers or having some students eat lunch in the library. They also chat about teaching online, what that was like in the spring and how the fall could be different.

Near the end, they also touch on Molly’s passion for playing a certain extreme sport!

Illinois Child Care Bureau

Many school districts are delaying in-person instruction and starting the year remotely. That can present challenges for parents who work during the day and can’t be there to assist with their child’s virtual learning. 

That means many will have to seek out child care options, and those providers are advertising that they can not only provide outdoor activities and crafts, but also help with remote learning.

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