Illinois

Rockford Art Museum

Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan is now in place. Some businesses are preparing for the public’s return. A northern Illinois museum is one of them.

The Rockford Art Museum is opening its doors again on Monday, July 6.

Carrie Johnson is the executive director and curator of the museum. She said the staff started to plan for this about a month ago.

Got Bugs? Build A Bat Box

Jul 2, 2020
Steve Taylor

Many firework displays are canceled this year, but if you want to see a natural spectacle that celebrates the environment, look up in the sky at night. You may see a cloud of bats swooping through the air eating mosquitoes.

A single bat can eat up to 3,000 insects a night. If you want to attract bats to your property, but don't want them in your house or garage, Joe Kath said to consider installing a bat box. It will help attract the flying mammals to your yard and they will naturally control the mosquito population.

Tails Humane Society

COVID-19 has affected how animal shelters operate, and the demand for pets.

When the state started closing down in mid-March due to the pandemic, a lot of businesses and organizations had to adjust quickly. For Tails Humane Society in DeKalb, that meant shifting their cats, dogs and other critters to foster care. Executive Director Michelle Groeper said the operation was a success, though a bit hectic.  

https://www.facebook.com/firstumcdekalbillinois/

A lot of summer programs are not taking place due to COVID-19. Some children depend on lunches from these programs. A northern Illinois church is making sure meals are still being provided this summer.

  

Vicki Boone is the summer lunch coordinator for First United Methodist Church in DeKalb. She said for the past eight summers children came to the church to eat. This year they’re grabbing lunch at the park. 

niu.edu

As COVID-19 started shutting down international travel in March, students from Northern Illinois University studying abroad had to be rushed back home.

Anne Seitzinger said she knows it was devastating for them. She’s the director of the study abroad office at NIU.  

Months later, her staff is still helping them deal with the consequences of the abrupt change in plans.

“They're trying to get refunds for the students, and most of them have been able to do that,” she said. “And the ones that haven't been able to tell us about refunds yet, it's sounding positive.”

Carl Nelson

Former Daily Chronicle Editor Barry Schrader has died.

The newspaper reports Schrader died Tuesday at the age of 79 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

A longtime journalist who worked around the country, Schrader served as editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969-1972. He and his wife also owned several smaller papers in the area.

http://www.jenevansart.com/

Some people may ask the question, “Are race relations changing in America?” Others aren’t just thinking about it. They’re taking action. An Aurora artist is helping to lead this change in her city.

Jen Evans is Aurora’s director of public art. She’s held this title since October 2017. Before that she worked as the interim executive director at Water Street Studios in Batavia. She also taught college art classes for about nine years and worked as a refugee health coordinator for DuPage County.

Karen Fullett-Christensen

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees. But what about poems? Aurora’s poet laureate is giving that illusion to those who pass by her home.

Karen Fullett-Christensen has a "Poet Tree" in her yard.

She said she read an article in the Illinois State Poetry Society newsletter that highlighted an Evanston woman with a Poet Tree.

Spencer Tritt

Illinois recently released guidelines for schools to return in-person this fall. Some concerned parents are choosing to homeschool their kids this year rather than send them back to in-person classes during COVID-19.

Brandi Poreda has homeschooled three of her kids over the last 20 years. She said the biggest advantage of homeschooling is flexibility.

Her first piece of advice to parents homeschooling for the first time? Don’t try to replicate the public school classroom experience.

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.

IDES

Illinois unemployment in May was up -- way up -- compared with last year due to COVID-19. But the state reopening is bringing jobs back. 

Non-seasonally adjusted unemployment statewide was 14.7% in May. That’s up more than 11 percentage points from last year. The Rockford area saw the biggest jump, rising from almost five to more than 19%. Sam Salustro is with the Illinois Department of Employment Security. He said Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan is bringing these numbers down.

Gardeners: Know The Names Of The Plants In Your Yard

Jun 29, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Summer means longer days and more time outside, especially for gardeners and their children -- and gardeners who are children.  But where do you turn to find out if a plant could cause problems for them?

Since the onset of the pandemic, people of all ages are gardening more than ever. Carol DesLauriers is the leader of the Illinois Poison Center. She said it's important to know the number of the hotline.

Jenna Dooley

 

Conversations at the DeKalb County government’s second virtual forum on race relations broadened this week. Demands for improved housing agreements took center stage.  

 

Jacob Maas voiced concern about uneven housing conditions and agreements that he says are prevalent in the county. 

“You know, we live in a community where it's not uncommon for people who rent to go without hot water, clean water, heat in the winter air conditioning in the summer,” said Maas.

 

 As the state lifts more restrictions, moving to Phase Four of the Restore Illinois plan, there are worries about a spike in coronavirus cases.  Hear what some experts are saying,

A Bloomington nursing home was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.  We learn more about what happened there.

And while Illinois lays claim to the Great Emancipator, its past also includes slavery. We'll get a history lesson.  That and more on Statewide.

 

This week's lineup:

'Dear Class of 2020...' | Teachers' Lounge Podcast

Jun 26, 2020
Spencer Tritt

This is a special episode of the show we’re calling “Dear Class of 2020…”  The teachers are gone. This week it’s all about the students graduating after the strangest senior year ever. You’re going to hear four valedictorians give the speeches they would have given, in a normal year, to an auditorium full of their friends and family.

The Class of 2020 valedictorians are:

Xavior Hutsell of Roosevelt High School in Rockford

Nina Mitchell of DeKalb High School

Ashley Althaus of Amboy High School

And, finally, Tessa Harbecke or Sycamore High School

Connie Kuntz

Illinois is home to many pollinators like butterflies, bees, bats, moths, wasps and flies. Though tiny, each creature plays a critical role in the production of fruits and vegetables. As pollinators, they carry pollen from the male part of a flower (stamen) to the female part (stigma) of the same or different flower .

Doug Gucker is an educator with the University of Illinois Extension. He is on the local food systems and small farms team. He said this movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds and young plants.

Rockford Area Arts Council

Corporations like Netflix, Amazon and HBO have all taken a stand against racism. Some northern Illinois arts organizations are doing the same. This comes after countless protests against racism in America. 

The Rockford Area Arts Council released a statement June 5 saying that they are standing in solidarity with Black and Brown communities.

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the executive director of the Arts Council. She said it's important to speak out.

Screen Grab from Video by Greg McMahon

Illinois is home to many animals, but bears aren't one of them. But there is one American black bear making its way through the state and it's probably a male.

Stefanie Fitzsimons is a district wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. She said it's mating season for black bears and that males are the wanderers for any species.

"This time of year, the males get kicked out of their dens to go find their own mates and their own territories," she said. "We obviously don't have the mates for it so it is continuing its journey south."

Spencer Tritt

The State guidelines that were announced Tuesday for schools to resume in-person classes this fall need more work. That’s according to one of Illinois’ biggest teachers unions.

The pandemic put schools across the country in a tough position. They know many don’t consider the quality of e-learning equal to that of in-person instruction. But, even with new in-person safety protocols, some parents say they aren’t going to feel comfortable sending their kids to school.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

This month, people across northern Illinois came together in Rockford to celebrate Juneteenth. They also used the gathering as an opportunity to protest police brutality. Rockford Youth Activism organized the event.

 

But what exactly is Juneteenth? Here is a brief history as told by those who gathered at Ellis Elementary on June 19th, 2020.

 

Those are the voices of Aija Penix, Laura Bates, Carolyn Cadigan, Aaron McAllen, Harlan Johnson, Toni Thomas, and Minister James Davis.

Rock Falls Tourism

The Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce is holding a ribbon cutting event for local businesses at the riverfront park. 

The event is part of an effort to bring back customers and restore their confidence as the state reopens. Chamber President Bethany Bland says companies will need to put in effort to attract customers whose entire routines have changed.

https://www.gorockford.com/resource-center/our-journey/

Last month a coalition of Rockford nonprofits and one small business announced micro-grants for Winnebago County artists. The first recipients were announced June 23.

Cicadas - 'A Treasure To The Midwest'

Jun 23, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Annual or "dog-day" cicadas emerge throughout the summer every year and buzz all summer long. Chances are you have already started to hear them along with a sub-brood of periodical cicadas, which are part of the large Marlatt's XIII brood.

In northern Illinois, the Marlatt's XIII brood of periodical cicadas emerges every 17 years, all at once. Right now, these creatures are still under the ground and we won't see them emerge until May 2024. In the southern parts of the state, the periodical cicadas emerge every 13 years.

The Winnebago County Health Department announced Monday that there are nine new cases of COVID-19 in the area. 

No deaths were reported, but there is now a total case count of 2,903. The positivity rate is at 9.7%, meaning less than one in 10 coronavirus tests come back indicating someone is infected. 

The Health Department also announced it will list on its website businesses that have been issued orders of closure or validated complaints due to COVID-19.

Rockford Art Museum

 

  

Due to the pandemic, the deadline for entries has been extended for a juried art exhibition that takes place every two years in Rockford.

The 76th Rockford Midwestern Biennial’s deadline was originally June 15. It is now June 29.

Carrie Johnson is the executive director and curator of the Rockford Art Museum.

She said the museum understands that many artists are caught up in dealing with the effects of COVID-19.

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. 

 

Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

Jun 19, 2020
Connie Kuntz

Here's a joke: Why did the turtle cross the road?

Answer: To find food, water, a mate and a nesting location.

Of course, that's not really a joke. Turtles all across Illinois are making their way across the state's 140,000 miles of roadways. Some are looking for food and water, but it's also breeding season. That means turtles are looking for mates and trying to find places to lay their eggs.

Flickr user E Photos / "IMG_1927 - Power Lines" (CC v 2.0)

The pandemic and accompanying stay-at-home orders have greatly affected many regional services, including utilities.

Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order and the accompanying months of social distancing have greatly affected what buildings remain open, and where people spend their time. 

Modern life requires electricity, and more people at home has changed how it’s consumed.  Aleksi Paaso is the Director of Distribution Planning at ComEd.  He said the times of day in which people use the most electricity haven’t shifted, but the system’s still been affected.

Dana Chaplin of Preservation Heart Photography

A DeKalb chef is partnering with a nonprofit to supply residents with warm meals.  

The DeKalb County Community Gardens started serving “Pay-As-You’re-Able” meals at the Genoa Area Community Food Hub back in January.

The plan was for this to take place monthly but COVID-19 changed that.

Heather Edwards is the associate director of DCCG. She said the organization has worked with personal chef Rudy Galindo before.

Pages