DeKalb

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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.

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. 

Jenna Dooley

U.S. Senators voted to acquit President Trump on two articles of impeachment. In DeKalb, protesters gathered to voice their concern with the trial itself. 

The intersection known as “Peace Corner” is busy, but not usually this noisy. Protesters scheduled the gathering well before the Senate votes -- knowing the likely outcome of an acquittal.

But David Barrow says the public rally shows that many Americans are not satisfied with how the trial unfolded. Specifically, some calling out the decision not to call witnesses.  

Egyptian Theatre Hard Hat Tours Showcase Renovations

Jan 22, 2020
Jenna Dooley

The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s sparked pharaoh fever in architecture across the country.

One of the nation’s few remaining “Egyptian Theatres” is housed in downtown DeKalb. When it was built during the stock market crash, air conditioning wasn’t included. That’s been a problem ever since, says Executive Director Alex Nerad. He says there was an attempt to turn the building into a parking lot in the 1970s.

Sarah Jesmer

DeKalb’s Mayor says he sees several areas of growth in the city’s future. Jerry Smith delivered the annual address Monday night.

Smith pointed to several new businesses along Sycamore Road. They include a new Aldi grocery store and Planet Fitness gym to fill vacant buildings.

“Some business is growing, and a few go out of business too," Smith noted. "It’s the nature of the beast, my friends. To expect every business to succeed forever is simply unrealistic.” 

Peter Medlin

 

Every year, the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project makes 50 bookcases for 50 children, each case complete with a metal plate engraved with the child’s name. 

 

 

The project is now in its ninth year. Former DeKalb Mayor John Rey started the effort. And if you ask him where he got the idea? He says he read about it. 

 

Pixabay

A new training program is designed to help police officers identify and address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The program will focus on helping officers recognize the signs of PTSD, develop resilience, and find sources of peer support. Northern Illinois University Psychology Professor Michelle Lilly will be presenting at the sessions. She said they’re important for addressing a higher rate of suicide among first responders.

“The importance cannot be understated," she said.  "We have a duty I think, as a public, to protect those who are sworn to protect us.”

Li Is A Man On A Mission

Dec 12, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

2016 was a standout year for a lot of people. For Bing Bing Li, it was the year he started walking from Vancouver, British Columbia across North America. 

 

He said his goal is to walk across every continent in 30 years: “But [not] Australia and Antarctica,” said Li. “There’s barely anybody there, just a few researchers.”

 

 

Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments

Dec 10, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

This project is done in collaboration with The Northern Star. You can read their reporting on a new solar farm at Suburban Apartments and Estates here. You can also hear about how this collaboration came to be here

 

Spencer Tritt

DeKalb is a university town. But even growing up in the shadow of Northern Illinois University, that doesn’t mean every student sees themselves as a potential college student.

Advanced Placement classes are one way to make a student feel college-ready. They can also earn actual college credit from them.

DeKalb Residents March For Policing Changes

Nov 11, 2019
Noah Johnson

NIU students and DeKalb community members demanded accountability this Saturday with a protest.  It was a follow up to a controversial arrest this summer.

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