Illinois COVID-19

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with both praise and criticism. WNIJ’s Peter Medlin has the first part of our series “The Hot Seat” talking to leaders, like the Winnebago County Sheriff, about the process behind those big decisions.

Recently, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled an executive order to keep businesses from opening before Illinois reached the next phase of reopening. Business owners could be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the stay-at-home order.

17th Judicial Circuit

The 17th Judicial Circuit  announced Thursday that  it will be reopening courts in Winnebago and Boone Counties June 1 and resuming a regular schedule.

In the announcement, Chief Judge Eugene Doherty advised anyone coming to the court as a juror or litigant of the changes in its procedures that will be in place due to the continued threat of COVID-19:

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of those valedictorian speeches. If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

Pixabay

In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed -- and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month.

That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans.

Bobbi Smith is the interim director of financial aid at Western Illinois University.

Wikipedia Commons

Illinois residents have been flocking to state parks as the summer months approach. As of now, 60 state parks have partially reopened since May 1.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan says even though more people are visiting the parks -- sometimes for the first time ever -- the state has been a “model for reopening.”

Spencer Tritt

Last October, the State Board of Education showed nearly 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs and nearly 5,000 total education positions. 

 

Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. He says it’s likely the pandemic will worsen Illinois’ teacher shortage. 

 

“I honestly think that we're going to have some retirements that we didn't plan on,” he said. “They're going to decide it's not worth the risk.” 

 

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.

Peter Medlin

Running is more than exercise, it’s therapy. That’s what Jonah Garcia says. So he’s training now harder than ever. Garcia’s a senior distance runner on Auburn High School’s track & field team in Rockford.

Like so many spring athletes, Jonah had his final high school season stolen by the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he was feeling good about the season and had personal records he figured he could easily break.

“I was hoping to go Division-1 and maybe try and get a scholarship based off of my times this year,” he said.

Spencer Tritt

Coronavirus has highlighted the digital divide among low-income as well as rural students. Schools that don’t send students home with laptops rushed them equipment so they could do their homework online.

School administrators say some parents claim to have internet access, but it may only be through a phone plan. Districts have distributed hot spots for families without a plan or where service is undependable.

Gov. Pritzker Unveils Five Stage Reopening Plan

May 5, 2020

Governor J.B. Pritzker has released a five-part plan to allow certain regions of the state to open up to more activity. The governor is calling it Restore Illinois.

Peter Medlin

Illinois students have been e-learning for more than a month now. Reliable internet connectivity is still one of the major hurdles for many rural districts.

Alex Moore is the superintendent at Montmorency. They’re a K-8 district in Whiteside County with around 230 students.

“On a good day, I get four megabytes per second download speed, so I knew that was going to be an issue,” he said. “About half of our families probably have decent internet.”

Even that “good day” download speed doesn’t meet the FCC’s minimum recommendation for e-learning.

Jim Kanas

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, roots musician, jazz guitarist & music teacher: Jim Kanas. He’s retiring from DeKalb Public Schools this year and has been an artist-in-residence with the Illinois Arts Council at schools across the state.

Jim talked to host Peter Medlin about e-learning, being an artist outside of the big city, his passion for American music and, obviously, we didn’t have him on without making him play a little something.

Spencer Tritt

Schools across Illinois have shifted to eLearning. But making that dramatic change can be very complicated, especially with schools that serve under-resourced minority populations disproportionately affected by the virus.

Students at Youth Connection Charter Schools in Chicago are often from those groups. Some are homeless or young parents, and many work in essential positions that put their health at risk during the COVID-19 crisis.

'Making People Laugh Is What Makes Me Want To Live'

Apr 24, 2020
Picture provided by Rudy Ruiz

COVID-19 has caused uncertainty in the lives of many. During hard times, in the past, people found relief by attending comedy shows. But what do you do when comedy clubs are closed and the comics are left to find humor for themselves? A few northern Illinois comedians share how they are making it through this pandemic.

Rudy Ruiz is a comedian from Aurora. He said he misses the stage.

Spencer Tritt

It’s unclear what COVID-19’s full impact will be on colleges in the fall. Some are re-tooling schedules in case they need to move online.

And many students are changing their college plans because of the pandemic.

Cathy Cebulski is a counselor at DeKalb High School. She’s been communicating with her students over email since they moved to e-learning.

“If students were planning on going away to college thinking that Mom and Dad both had a job and they're both laid off right now, that certainly is a concern,” said Cebulski.

https://shelter-care.org

WNIJ recently aired a story about how one northern Illinois homeless center is taking precautions to keep its guests safe from COVID-19 but this pandemic is affecting some individuals who were homeless. 

Shelter Care Ministries in Rockford offers housing for homeless families with minor children. The families are placed in scattered off-site apartments.

Illinois.gov

Business shutdowns have led to mass unemployment across the nation. The jobless are filing for benefits in unprecedented numbers, including Illinoisans.  

Before the pandemic, about 200,000 people applied for unemployment insurance across the country in an average week. That all changed with mass furloughs and layoffs. Carl Campbell is Professor of Economics at Northern Illinois University. He says filings  increased greatly in the first three weeks since stay-at-home orders went into effect.

“It’s been 17 million, so about 30 times what it normally is,” he said. 

Some Dental Offices Remain Open During COVID-19

Apr 17, 2020
"Dentist" by Flickr User Travis Wise / (CC X 2.0)

A poll from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute said 18% of dental offices in the country have closed their doors due to COVID-19. Those that didn’t close are only performing emergency procedures. A northern Illinois office is doing the latter but not without some changes.  

Evadne Bowlin

This week, the Teachers’ Lounge is actually a Student Teachers’ Lounge. We have DeKalb Founders Elementary student teacher & Northern Illinois University senior, Evadne Bowlin.

Evadne talked to host Peter Medlin about how coronavirus affects her both as a student-teacher and just as a college student. We also got into her journey to education and how she’s kind of been a student teacher since the 7th grade.

Illinois Child Care Bureau

While most daycare facilities are closed, some in Illinois remain open for families of essential workers.

KinderCare is one of the biggest daycare providers in the country. Around a quarter of its locations are still open across Illinois.

Dee Cottman says the company had to choose locations mostly based on their proximity to hospitals. She’s a district leader for KinderCare and oversees more than a dozen of its facilities in northern Illinois.

When You Can't Stay At Home

Apr 15, 2020
carpentersplace.org

Illinois residents are encouraged to stay at home because of COVID-19, but it’s hard to stay home when you don’t have a place to live. This is forcing some people to put their safety into the hands of others.

Carpenter’s Place in Rockford is a daytime outreach center for those without housing.

Executive Director Kay Larrick said the organization is taking direction from the government to make sure it’s protecting its guests.

Concerts, festivals and other large events could be called off this summer. Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged organizers to “think seriously” about cancellations as restrictions could still be in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.