DeKalb

Spencer Tritt

Following the consolidated elections earlier this month, three new members will soon take seats on the DeKalb School Board.

On the campaign trail, voters often asked Ari Owens how she was going to leverage her connections with Northern Illinois University on the school board. She’s the assistant director at NIU’s Gender & Sexuality Resource Center.

Owens said she hopes she can help students in the district take advantage of the counseling and mentorship programs they offer.

First United Methodist Church of DeKalb

A northern Illinois church is bringing back its free monthly Sunday dinners after they were interrupted by the pandemic.  

Vicki Boone is a volunteer at First United Methodist Church of DeKalb. She said the "R.E.A.L meal sharing food and friendship" program is bigger than a handout.  

“It stands for -- I think what we hope all churches would be at their best -- relevant, engaging, authentic and loving,” she explained.

Boone emphasized that this is at the heart of what the establishment does.  

Spencer Tritt

A year since classes were canceled due to COVID-19, the DeKalb Public School District announced a return to full week in-person instruction. All grade levels will have the option beginning on March 30.

Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education reduced school social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet. The move had a dramatic impact on the quest to return to in-person classes.

The League of Women Voters of DeKalb County and WNIJ hosted a virtual, public forum where candidates for the DeKalb Township Supervisor had the opportunity to speak. This forum featured ballot candidate Mary Hess and write-in candidate Jim Luebke. Erin Roeper of the Homewood/Flossmoor League moderated.

Watch Now: DeKalb Mayoral Candidate Forum

Mar 8, 2021

The DeKalb Public Library, the League of Women Voters of DeKalb County and WNIJ hosted a virtual, public Mayoral Forum where candidates for the City of DeKalb Mayor had the opportunity to speak. 

This forum featured Mayoral candidates Cohen Barnes and Carolyn Morris. Susan Greenwood of the League of Women Voters of Naperville moderated, and we took your questions for the candidates. Watch the full forum below.

https://joejencks.com/home/?page=home

Musicians across the world have had to accept performing without a live audience. One DeKalb folk musician has adapted to this and is still able to make a living doing what he loves.

Joe Jencks grew up in Rockford. He is the youngest of seven children. He said his family was always surrounded by music.  

Spencer Tritt

DeKalb Public Schools has hired a new superintendent. Her name is Minerva Garcia-Sanchez. She’s currently the Pilsen, Marshall Square and Little Village chief of schools in Chicago. WNIJ education reporter Peter Medlin talked to her about her expectations and goals as she starts at a new school district during the pandemic.

Spencer Tritt

Most Illinois students have been learning remotely for some if not the entire fall.

Students of all grade levels are struggling with the academic and emotional stress of remote learning in a pandemic.

School districts have offered additional social-emotional support to try and help them manage the array of challenges.

Peter Medlin

DeKalb County -- like many counties across the country -- shattered early voting and vote-by-mail records. But that doesn’t mean the polls have slowed down on Election Day, amid COVID-19 safety measures.

Election judges at some precincts said that by noon they were closing in on full-day totals from the 2016 election.

“This is actually one of my first times voting,” said LeShawn Jackson. He was a part of protests in DeKalb this summer.

The movement for racial justice and police reform was a major reason he needed to cast his ballot. 

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.

Peter Medlin

The City of DeKalb is selling the old City Hall building and using some of those funds to buy body cams for police in an effort to increase police transparency.

Between the dash cam footage of Elonte McDowell’s controversial arrest late last year and the recent protests that followed the death of George Floyd, DeKalb community members have been calling for leaders to reimagine not just the culture of local policing but how police are funded.

DeKalb-Area Restaurants Adapting To COVID-19

Aug 12, 2020
Pixabay

Restaurants are working to recover after the lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19. We took a look at some of their experiences in DeKalb County. 

Back in March, the lockdown measures put into place by state authorities hit restaurants particularly hard. Closure of nonessential businesses eliminated many indoor dining experiences, as did strict social distancing requirements.

For some restaurants, innovation was essential for survival. Peter Panagakis, an owner of Egg Haven Pancakes and Café in DeKalb, said they needed to go “outside their brand.” 

Facebook

DeKalb will soon be home to a massive Facebook data center, and local government and business officials expect it to benefit the local economy. 

Facebook made the announcement at the end of June, and has begun construction of the facility on the edge of town south of Interstate 88. The response by the city and local business has been positive.

Bill Nicklas is the DeKalb city manager. He said the scale of the project is extensive.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge podcast, host Peter Medlin had a long chat with Huntley Middle School Principal Amonaquenette Parker.

Parker talked about the big lessons she learned about education during the pandemic and her perspective as a Black educator and mother as the country has started having more conversations about racial inequality and police brutality.

The conversation covered a lot of ground, so they also talked about when Parker’s mom was her boss for a few years and her love of cheesy romance novels.

Wikimedia Commons

Public libraries are working to open up their facilities to the public again, even as they expand their offerings online. 

When Governor J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order went into effect mid-March, most businesses and nonprofits temporarily shut down. Jen Barton, the director of Genoa Public Library, said there wasn’t any specific guidance in the order for libraries.

Facebook 'Likes' DeKalb With Announcement Of $800 Million Data Center

Jun 30, 2020
Facebook

Facebook is building an $800 million data center in DeKalb. City leaders have been working out the details for months under the secret project name “Ventus.”

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas confirmed the project early Tuesday morning.

According to a news release, the facility will be the 12th Facebook data center in the United States -- and is being touted for its energy efficiency.

Peter Medlin

The DeKalb School Board held a special meeting today on Juneteenth to ask members of the public to talk about their experiences with racism and inequality in the school system.

The need for more staff diversity was brought up by several speakers. Surveys show racial disparities between the numbers of black students and teachers exist across the country.

Jenna Dooley

 

Some DeKalb residents want the city’s Mayor Jerry Smith to be more specific on plans to address police brutality.  

 

The mayor spoke at a town hall Thursday night at Hopkins Park. The gathering was a forum on reforms related to justice and equality. Smith expressed support for its aims, but said he couldn’t talk details at the forum. 

 

Maurice McDavid

This week, we have our first ever returning guest on Teachers’ Lounge: Maurice McDavid. He’s been a teacher and administrator in his hometown of DeKalb for about a decade, but, starting next year, he’s going to be an elementary school principal in West Chicago.

Maurice is a black educator. He talked to host Peter Medlin about what he’s been thinking about during this national movement confronting police brutality and systemic racism in America. And Maurice gave his perspective on the racial inequities rooted in the education system.

Craft breweries often have a strong presence in a community as both a place to drink and socialize. A pair in DeKalb County have been hit hard by the pandemic on both counts.

One of the biggest consequences of the coronavirus outbreak for businesses has been closures due to social distancing and quarantine requirements. Byers Brewing Company is based in downtown DeKalb, and before the pandemic, it got most of its sales from an indoor taproom. Owner Steve Byers said COVID-19 changed that.

Connie Kuntz / WNIJ

Help was on hand for protesters attending the Rockford Youth Activism rally in Haskell Park Tuesday. In the 90 degree heat, volunteers on bicycles were ready with first-aid kits and handed out water and  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The group billed its event as a "March Against RPD Violence." That was in response to protests that turned violent in Rockford Saturday night, when protesters marched to the Rockford District 1 police station. Someone broke a window and Rockford police officers in riot gear surrounded the building. 

Protests continue in northern Illinois after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

TUESDAY 4:49 p.m. DeKalb Police and Northern Illinois University issued an alert that protestors are marching in the roadway on Sycamore Road.

Spencer Tritt / WNIJ

DeKalb police issued a city-wide alert Sunday night, ordering stores to close and for people to shelter in place because of “protests and looting.”

A weekend of peaceful protests against police violence changed tone Sunday evening after most of the crowd that had been marching in the streets dispersed. There were reports of looting in the area of Hillcrest and Annie Glidden.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

There were demonstrations across the nation Saturday, including Rockford and DeKalb, protesting the death of George Floyd and other police killings of African-Americans. 

Progressive advocacy group REACT is holding rallies over the next three weeks in DeKalb to raise support for the U.S. Postal Service.

The Postal Service risks going bankrupt by September without federal support. REACT is encouraging the passage of the HEROES Act in the U.S. Senate, which would provide $25 billion in funds. Activist Cynthia De Seife says they have to limit rally attendance to 10 people each as a result of coronavirus. 

The DeKalb Public Library plans to offer curbside pick-up as coronavirus restrictions loosen. 

The service is meant to be a transition toward more in-person services at the library. It’s dependent on the state moving the region into Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan. But library Director Emily Faulkner said whenever that happens, patrons could reserve and check out library items, and even speak with a reference librarian.

Spencer Tritt

Around 60% of DeKalb students qualify as low-income, according to the Illinois Report Card. That means they also qualify for reduced or free meals.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools scrambled to keep providing food for students who rely on their district for much more than education.

DeKalb Incident Highlights Traffic Stop Disparities

Apr 17, 2020
Sarah Jesmer

Over the past few months, in the wake of a controversial traffic stop that resulted in a 30-day suspension of an officer, DeKalb community members have continued conversations about police accountability. 

A viral video showed several officers including Sgt. Jeffrey Weese attempting to physically restrain Elonte McDowell during the Aug. 24, 2019 stop.

A DeKalb County resident in their 50s has died from complications of COVID-19. The DeKalb County Health Department previously announced that this resident had tested positive for COVID-19. According to a news release, the identity of the resident is not being released to protect the privacy of the family.

Northwestern Medicine is implementing new rules at its hospitals and clinics in response to the spread of COVID-19. 

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