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BTC

As unlikely as it may seem, summer break is almost over, and in a matter of weeks children will once again line up on street corners all over the suburbs to board big yellow school buses and return to class. But the question facing many schools districts and bus service companies is: Who will drive them?

The number of applicants for open bus driver positions is down across the board in recent years, according to local school district and bus company officials.

“We’re all shaking our heads, going, what is going on?” said Diane Walters, the human resource manager at Barrington Transportation, the company that provides bus services for Barrington Area Unit School District 220. “I’m not sure if we’ll get back to normal or what, because if this is the new normal that’s bad.”

The suspected culprit behind the shrinking applicant pool is the COVID-19 pandemic. Many suburban bus drivers are retirees, and the prevailing belief is that older people are avoiding bus driver jobs to avoid exposure to the virus, which has proved to be more fatal the older you are.

“The whole industry is watching this, going, is this going to be the change in the people who have historically been school drivers?” Walters said. “Did COVID ring that bell for us?”

To try to lure applicants, employers of bus drivers are offering increased wages or perks like signing bonuses and free job training.

Read more here.

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Common Sense

A recent St. Anne Parrish School Facebook post reads:

“DID YOU KNOW…?…

Saint Anne is a COMMON SENSE School!

As a Common Sense School, Saint Anne Parish School commits to responsible, effective technology use. We provide students, teachers, and parents with the latest strategies for digital learning and responsible digital citizenship. As a Common Sense School community, we ensure ALL stakeholders have the skills they need to be informed digital citizens. Saint Anne’s Common Sense certification reflects our ongoing commitment to innovative and transformational use of technology.

‘My favorite part about teaching Common Sense was when we were identifying if a website was a credible source. The lesson started with a “fake news” article about how corn is harmful to a person’s health. The students were shocked for a few minutes but quickly caught on to the objective of the lesson!’

-Mrs. Caitlin Quest, Saint Anne Middle School Teacher

‘I wouldn’t say finding out the truth about cookies excited the 8th graders as much as it floored them. Prior to our Common Sense lessons, the 8th graders had no idea what digital cookies were, much less the amount of personal information they collect. After the lesson, they were all determined to check their privacy settings and not allow cookies on their devices.’

-Mrs. Jaime Doud, Saint Anne Middle School Teacher”

The post can be found here.

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ADC

The Archdiocese of Chicago will make masks optional for students in most of its suburban Catholic schools beginning Thursday.

Greg Richmond, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, sent a letter to parents of students late Tuesday night explaining the change and the reasoning behind it.

“Currently, we have no classrooms in quarantine anywhere in our archdiocese and we have no schools that have more than 3% of their students currently testing positive,” Richmond wrote. “In fact, nearly half of our schools are reporting no cases at all. This has been a dramatic drop within the past few weeks.”

The archdiocese educates about 45,000 students in 162 schools in Cook and Lake counties. The policy change applies to all schools except those in places where it’s overridden by public policy.

“In the city of Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston, masks will still be required because local health departments have issued lawful orders that require them,” Richmond wrote. “We are complying with those orders and will lift the mask mandate when we can.”

Richmond wrote that all other COVID-19 protocols would remain in effect, including requirements for students to wear masks when coming out of isolation following a positive test.

Read more here.

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JB Masks Christian Schools

Timothy Christian Schools planned to make masks optional, despite a statewide mandate Aug. 4 that both private and public schools had to enforce Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s rule to mask students.

Superintendent Matt Davidson posted a video Aug. 11 explaining Timothy Christian in Elmhurst, Illinois, would exercise their own set of COVID-19 precautions. Those did not include enforcing Pritzker’s mask mandate.

“Our goal is to stick with the Timothy Health Plan, and thus, remain mask optional,” Davidson said in the video. “We’re not ramping up for some big fight. Speaking personally, I’m not comfortable with that approach and I wouldn’t support it. The issue of masks in schools is still, categorically, a recommendation, and not a requirement, from the CDC.”

The state quickly responded, with state Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala issuing a letter to school superintendents, threating the “force of law” regarding the Illinois school mask mandate. Ayala warned both public and private schools, “noncompliance is not an option.”

Defiant schools or school districts would become “unrecognized.” That’s what she did to Timothy Christian Schools.

Becoming “unrecognized” by the Illinois State Board of Education means the school’s low-income students cannot receive scholarships from the Invest in Kids program, that student athletes cannot compete in Illinois High School Association sports and that seniors will be at a disadvantage when applying to colleges. Colleges will likely penalize students for not having an accredited degree, college admissions expert Perry Kalmus said on Fox 32 Chicago.

The pressure ended Timothy Christian’s effort to let parents decide about masking their children.

Read more here.

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Mask Shot

Despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending schools start the year with everyone wearing masks indoors, many suburban school districts have yet to change course on decisions that make protective face coverings optional.

School boards in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, Kaneland Unit District 302, St. Charles Unit District 303, Geneva Unit District 304, Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, among others, voted to make masks optional. That was in spite of earlier CDC advice that unvaccinated students and staff members be required to wear masks indoors.

None have reversed those decisions in the face of the CDC’s stricter guidelines announced Tuesday. In some cases, the districts have told parents they are aware of the CDC’s recommendations.

The Barrington Unit District 220 board indicated students in prekindergarten through fifth grade “will begin the school year wearing masks indoors.” That board is slated to meet again Aug. 10.

Some school boards voted to make masks optional even after the CDC updated its recommendations last week to advise universal masking in schools. The Lake Zurich Unit District 95 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 boards both voted in favor of optional masks Thursday.

Read more here.

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SAPS

After nearly 17,000 Illinois parents opposed a bill to impose state health mandates on private schools, and state lawmakers let the effort sit, it seemed the fight was over. Not quite. A teachers union lead lobbyist pledged to keep pursuing it. (Photo courtesy St. Anne Parish School)

Nearly 17,000 Illinoisans made it clear they did not want over-reaching state health rules governing their private and public schools, and state lawmakers appeared to listen as they left the union-backed House Bill 2789 on hold as they adjourned.

Now a top teacher union lobbyist is promising the bill created by the Illinois Education Association will return as a priority.

“Unfortunately, due to a very, very well coordinated misinformation campaign, House Bill 2789 did in fact stall,” Sean Denny, IEA director of government relations, said in a video. “However, I want to assure everyone that we are going to continue pushing that issue. We’re going to continue pushing it during veto session in November and December.”

The bill would require the Illinois Department of Public Health to set rules for in-person instruction at public as well as at private schools. State rules would govern masks, cleaning, occupancy, social distancing and handling of positive cases. It would give the state the power to shut down private as well as public schools, taking away the local health department control used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private schools were able to safely keep students in classrooms during the pandemic while many teachers unions fought to keep public schools closed. Opponents saw HB 2789 as a power play by public unions and as punishment for schools that had served parents and students well through a global pandemic. Plus, the proposed rules defied direct guidance from federal health officials who said young students rarely transmitted the virus when proper protocols were in place.

“The end result of this language is that private schools could have any of their facilities shut down by state authorities,” said state Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-West Dundee. “My private schools had a stellar record, many even stayed open. I’d hate to compare that record with the public schools – many of whom told me they had no guidance at all.”

Read more from Illinois Policy here.

Related:St. Anne Parish School in Barrington welcomes students back to their classrooms,” “Temperature scans, symptom checks welcome Saint Viator students back to school

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Hopes-In-Profile-Finn-Karam-1

Volunteers Colleen Konicek Hannigan and Finn Karam

Saint Anne Parish School 8th grader, Finn Karam is one of hundreds of young Barrington volunteers who have joined Hope’s In’s summer service trips to build homes for families living in poverty surrounding Guatemala City’s garbage dump. Founded by twin sisters and Barrington High School alums, Courtney McGovern and Ashley Quigley, Hope’s In’s 9th annual Hope’s in Style fashion show fundraiser is coming up this Sunday. The first Hope’s In Style fashion show, took place in February of 2013. The goal was to raise enough money to build a single cinderblock house for one girl’s family living in a shack surrounded by garbage.

Now in its 9th year, the Hope’s In Style fashion show has raised $325,000 and built 43 homes. Courtney McGovern says the Guatemala families they serve have been devastated during the Covid pandemic and the need now is greater than ever. For the first time, this year’s fashion show is virtual and coming up from 1-3 p.m. this Sunday, April 11th! The theme for this year’s event is Hope’s In Style: Masquerade, Hope Disguised.

About a hundred Barrington High School student stylists, models and volunteers have been busy producing the show, filmed at various locations around town. High school students will share their experiences during the pandemic and the challenges they faced. They will also share the hope they discovered unexpectedly during the pandemic and how it has made them even more empathetic and motivated changemakers.

Read more, including a Q&A with Finn Karam, in 365 Barrington here.

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Safe

One year after schools physically closed, some students were back in the classroom masked and socially distanced, and others were e-learning March 11 at Liberty Elementary School in Bartlett. Here Gavin Maxwen listens to third-grade teacher Olga Fishkin. (Brian Hill | Staff Photographer)

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, students exhibiting symptoms at school were isolated and sent home while school officials quarantined and disinfected affected classrooms and relocated classmates.

That process often put classrooms out of commission for three days and contributed to the need many districts felt to turn to remote learning.

Now, with improved disinfecting methods using electrostatic sprays and ultraviolet C light, classrooms can be sanitized within minutes so learning can resume with the least amount of disruption, said Kevin Quinn, director of maintenance and facilities for Mundelein High School.

Experts like Quinn say efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools, low community transmission rates and educators being inoculated against the virus are why thousands of suburban students can return to full in-person learning after spring break.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois School Board of Education have relaxed social distancing rules from 6 feet to 3 feet for students and fully vaccinated school employees, while unvaccinated teachers are urged to remain 6 feet apart. Face coverings still are required and schools must continue contact tracing and isolating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, but they don’t have to screen for certain symptoms, such as congestion, runny nose and abdominal pain.

Read more here.

Editorial note: On August 31st, St. Ann Parish School posted the message seen below on their Facebook page.  Their students have safely attended school for more than six months now…

“What a GREAT day to be a Saint Anne Parish School Cardinal!! Today we safely welcomed back students, and we could not be happier about it. We are looking forward to safe and wonderful school year at Saint Anne!”SA

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The Observer takes a look back at another year gone by, as we present the most frequently read news stories and editorials in 2020. Click on any title to read and revisit stories from this past year.

Racism allegations follow as plan to move 25 kids into Barrington Hills home stalls

Although the leader of an organization helping disadvantaged minority youths contends race is a factor in his delayed plan to move into a Barrington Hills home with 25 children of color, village officials say the zoning code is the only issue.

This June 30 article received 11 comments, and 12 Facebook shares.

Time to stop giving 220’s Harris passes

A week ago today hundreds of parents and students in Barrington Area Unit District 220 gathered at a rally in Citizens Park to ask the district to allow in-person schooling to resume. Some spoke while others displayed signs such as, “Open our schools for in-person learning,” or “Face 2 Face learning is essential” (seeI am asking for a choice’: Barrington 220 parents, students rally for in-person learning” and “Hundreds turn out for Barrington rally calling for end to remote learning, restart of student sports”).

No one commented on this September 21 editorial, but a record 86 people shared it on Facebook.

220 won’t consider COVID-19 testing at this time (as opposed to New Trier, thus our response

Wednesday District 220 emailed the following notice to the community:

Over the past couple of weeks, the district has been looking at the possibility of using COVID-19 testing as one additional component of several virus mitigation efforts. At the Dec. 1 Board meeting, the Board decided it would not consider using COVID-19 testing at this time due to high costs and the fact that it would not be a full proof [sic] measure in preventing the spread of the virus.  Click here to watch the Board’s full discussion about COVID-19 testing.

New Trier Township High School District 203 did not hesitate at all when in October they announced, “…they will pay up to $1.3 million to conduct COVID-19 saliva screenings for students and staff.” As a result of their proactive measures, some students are back in classroom today, December 4.

There were 2 comments on this December 2 editorial, and 3 shares on Facebook.

Homicide investigation on Old Sutton Rd just south of Otis Rd, Barrington Hills

Barrington Hills police and firefighter/paramedics from Barrington -Countryside FPD responded about 3:34 a.m. Saturday March 7, 2020 to a report that multiple people were shot at or near a home in the block of 300 Old Sutton Road. Police and firefighter/paramedics received a report that there were multiple gunshot victims. At least two victim were transported to a local hospital. At least one victim was possibly dead at the scene.

We got one comment to this March 7 story, but 35 shares on Facebook.

Fact checking

On Monday night, CBS Chicago reported a story that included audio and text stating the following:

“Over 20 acres of tree-lined property nestled in affluent Barrington Hills feature tennis courts and a sprawling home purchased by Terrance Wallace, the InZone Project founder.” (InZone Project Founder Says He’s Been Hit With Red Tape In Efforts To Bring Black And Brown Boys From Chicago To Live In Barrington Hills Mansion.)

There is no recorded public record of a recent sale of the property on 541 Merri Oaks Road. Public records do indicate that the property is currently owned by a Trust and has been under the ownership of the Trust or related parties since 2002.

There were no comments or shares on this July 1 article..

NEW! Solitude Ranch w/Indoor Pool, Event Friendly! $599 per night

Sneak away from the big city for a peaceful stay at ‘Solitude Ranch,’ a vacation rental in Barrington! This ranch is one-of-a-kind, offering 3,567 square feet of space complete with 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, an upscale kitchen, sunken den, wall-to-wall windows, and even an indoor pool!

There were 3 comments made about this March 7 ad, but no shares

Barrington District 220 reverses course, switches to online classes only

Reversing course on its plan to let parents choose between in-person and online classes, Barrington Area Unit School District 220 announced Wednesday that it would offer only remote learning when school opens next month.

There was one Facebook share, and 9 comments to this July 29 article (most of which objected to our choice of graphic used).

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Marengo’s Zion Lutheran School has not reported a single case of the virus among students or staff in the 54 days they have been in school

Leaders of local private schools told McHenry County Board members that in-person learning has been safe and successful for them, while many public school districts have chosen to heed guidance from the McHenry County Department of Health about returning to remote learning.

With much frustration and fear coming from community members who support either in-person or remote learning, Public Health and Community Services Committee Chairman Chris Christensen said he invited the local private school leaders to Thursday’s meeting for a fruitful, level-headed exchange of ideas.

It’s about “talking to some of the private schools that are having such success in keeping their kids in school,” said Christensen, who represents District 3 on the County Board. “COVID-19 doesn’t understand the difference between a public school and a private school necessarily, but I know the numbers can be different.”

Among the invited guests were Dan Bertrand and Merri-Lynne Seaburg, co-principals of Marengo’s Zion Lutheran School, who said they have not reported a single case of the virus among students or staff in the 54 days they have been in school.

“There is no reason why you cannot have kids in school right now,” Bertrand said. “There is no place safer for a kid to be than in the schools. … The virus is not being transmitted inside of schools.”

Bertrand referenced a Brown University study titled “Schools Aren’t Super-spreaders,” in which data on 200,000 students in 47 states from the end of September was analyzed to reveal an average COVID-19 infection rate of 0.13% of students and 0.24% of teachers.

Read more here.

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