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“In keeping with the Illinois Governor’s latest directives, as of Friday, November 20, 2020, the Riding Center will be operated under the following new mitigation requirements:

  • Face coverings required for all activities at all times.
  • No more than four (4) riders allowed in the modified indoor arena at one time.
  • Every other window in this arena will be open to facilitate ventilation and the end doors will be locked open.
  • Every other stall will remain open and the window in those stalls will be open.
  • The bleachers/warming area can seat a maximum of three (3) people.
  • The outdoor arena can have no more than six (6) riders at one time.”

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The Illinois High School Association’s decision Wednesday to defy Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order to put high school basketball on hold set off a whirlwind of discussions, and frustration, from school administrators Thursday.

The IHSA opened the door for schools to play basketball beginning in November, putting school district administrators in the position of having to decide on the issue as the COVID-19 numbers across the state continue to spike.

“It’s disappointing that the IHSA and the (Illinois Department of Public Health) are not able to get on the same page,” Barrington Area Unit School District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said. “It’s frustrating from a superintendent’s perspective that that is now pushed onto our plates. It makes it extremely difficult and puts us in a very difficult position as a district.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think the IHSA is seeing the whole picture,” Harris continued. “Yes, the social part and the emotional part of sports are all valid. But there’s more to it, there’s the whole educational component and we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

The Illinois State Board of Education issued a statement late Wednesday imploring school districts to follow IDPH guidance. The statement said defying the guidance opens schools up to liability and other ramifications that may hurt school communities. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is saying the basketball season should be postponed until the spring and suggested schools defying the public health guidance could have public funding withheld.

Harris said the liability issue is paramount.

I have a responsibility to the taxpayers in my district to manage the liability of this situation and (playing basketball when it is considered high-risk by the IDPH) is going against my best judgment there,” he said. “I want our kids to participate in sports. Absolutely. But I want it to be in a way that keeps our kids safe.”

Read more here.

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An outbound Metra train travels past a memorial at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove. At the same location on Oct. 25, 1995, inbound Metra train No. 624 crashed into a school bus, killing seven teenagers on their way to class at Cary-Grove High School and injuring the bus driver and 24 passengers. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times)

The dream that has visited Ford Dotson Jr. thousands of times always starts the same way.

It’s a crisp October morning. Beneath clear skies, leaves shimmer copper, gold and red.

It’s long before sunrise, and Dotson sets off from home. He’s happy anyway because there are no weekend shifts, no one bugging him to work holidays. He climbs into the cab of Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line train No. 624 heading to Chicago from Crystal Lake. At the end of the run, he’ll curl up on a cot for a few hours before making the return trip.

The 200-ton locomotive at the rear of the train pushes six passenger cars and the cab control car. It’s an express, and ahead the signals are green. So Dotson “jumps it up” to the maximum speed — 70 mph. He crosses the Fox River, which sparkles in the sunlight.

In the distance, he sees a school bus. It’s moving slowly across the tracks, but there’s no reason to panic. Dotson nudges the brake handle — just in case — and blows the train whistle: two long blasts, a short, another long.

But something is wrong. The rear of the bus remains on the tracks. Dotson pumps several short blasts on the airhorn. He keeps at it because the bus isn’t moving. As the train hurtles forward, he slams the brake handle all the way.

That’s the point in the dream when he always wakes up, shaking, just before the impact.

Twenty-five years ago Sunday, Ford Dotson Jr.’s train smashed into a school bus in Fox River Grove. It wasn’t any dream. Seven teenagers, all of them students at Cary-Grove High School, were killed: Jeffrey Clark, Stephanie Fulham, Susanna Guzman, Michael Hoffman, Joe Kalte, Shawn Robinson and Tiffany Schneider. The bus driver and 24 other passengers were injured.

Read more about a sad anniversary this Sunday in the Chicago Sun*Times here.

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Without consensus on safety, liquefied natural gas needs another look

The Daily Herald and leaders of several of our suburbs were among those arguing years ago that crude oil shipments by train should be restricted to newer, stronger tank cars that are more likely to withstand a derailment or crash without rupturing, exploding and burning.

That viewpoint largely prevailed, with new requirements unveiled in 2015 that mitigate the risk.

But now the federal government is upping the ante, exposing towns along freight rail lines to potential new danger with the judgment that now that tank cars are safer, they can be used to move material that is more volatile.

The U.S. Department of Transportation over the summer authorized railroads to haul liquefied natural gas around the country, even in the face of the National Transportation Safety Board questioning whether doing so would be safe.

Natural gas is a chameleon, turning liquid at -260 degrees and taking up 1/600th of the space it requires as a gas, making it cheaper to transport. If the gas gets overheated and the tank ruptures, such as following a derailment or crash, it can explode violently into a fireball that will keep burning until the fuel is gone.

Read on here.

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Students returned for the new school year at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights on Aug. 24, but new positive COVID-19 cases over the weekend led officials Monday to temporarily switch to remote learning.

Six weeks after starting the school year in person, St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights closed its doors Monday and switched to remote learning because of a “higher than acceptable” COVID-19 incidence rate within the school community, officials said.

New positive COVID-19 test cases among those in the school were reported over the weekend and during the overnight hours Monday, reaching “our threshold for keeping our students and faculty safe,” school President Brian Liedlich and Principal Karen Love wrote in a letter to parents.

School spokesman Jim Mitchell did not say whether the positive COVID-19 tests came from students or faculty members.

Officials plan to resume classes in two weeks, on Oct. 19, but said conditions will dictate that decision.

For now, all classes are remote, and students will be expected to follow their block schedule via Zoom video conferencing. All extracurricular activities, including athletic practices and games, are suspended.

Most of St. Viator’s 837 students chose the school’s in-person learning option, with a few choosing remote, when the academic year began Aug. 24.

Read more here.

Editorial note: They made a good go of it for six (6) weeks, and if all goes well they’ll be back in classrooms in two weeks.

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A new federal rule allows liquefied natural gas to be transported by train across the U.S., sparking concerns from Barrington and other suburbs.

A new player, liquefied natural gas, has joined the list of hazardous materials cruising through Illinois by train — a move the federal government says is safe but raises fears of out-of-control fires and explosions for some suburbs.

This summer, the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized railroads to haul liquefied natural gas (LNG) across the country.

Prior to approval, more than 460 entities commented — mostly critically — on the plan, including Barrington, which is crisscrossed by the Union Pacific and Canadian National railroads.

The potential for a catastrophe “is quite acute,” village officials stated. “An uncontrolled LNG release involving fire stemming from a derailment scenario must burn itself out as there is no practical way to extinguish it.”

Federal officials are confident that upgraded DOT-113 tank cars with double shells and thick carbon steel can safely contain any spills.

New requirements, such as remote monitoring of tank car pressure, will “provide for the safe transportation of LNG by rail to more parts of the country where this energy source is needed,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stated.

Read on here.

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“Village ordinances regarding solicitation and trespass to land both require notice from the owner or occupant that such activity is prohibited.  Accordingly, the Police Department strongly recommends that all residents conspicuously post written notice (i.e. a sign) at the main entrance to their property, such as, but certainly not limited to, on a mailbox post or fire grid address sign post. To encourage and assist residents in this effort, the Department has purchased a supply of reflective aluminum signs which are available for sale at the Department’s cost: $9.30 per sign.

Signs may be purchased during normal business hours (Monday – Friday  8:00 AM to 4:00 PM) via check or credit card (no cash).  For the fastest and most convenient service, consider pre-paying via the Village’s Illinois ePay webpage and then pick up your sign.”

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The 8th annual Hills Are Alive Fall Festival is three weeks from today

The Village mailed their Summer newsletter to residents earlier this month. Some of the topics covered included:

  • The upcoming Hills are Alive Fall Festival
  • Voting information and critical dates
  • BACOG’s annual well water testing event
  • Updates from the Police Department
  • Village roads speed limit enforcement
  • Words of prevention on theft or burglary, and
  • A pop Village knowledge quiz

If you did not receive your copy of the newsletter, you can find it here.

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SPRINGFIELD — A legislative panel that oversees the state’s administrative rulemaking process voted along partisan lines to allow Gov. JB Pritzker’s emergency rule to enforce mask-wearing and other public health orders to move forward.

That decision came from the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, a 12-member, bipartisan, bicameral group that exercises oversight of the state’s regulatory process.

Pritzker announced the new enforcement measure on Friday, Aug. 7, as 13 counties were put on warning that they may have to reimpose some social and economic restrictions to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order requires businesses, schools and day care facilities to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that patrons and employees wear face coverings when they cannot maintain a six-foot distance from others. Reasonable efforts can include such things as posting signage that state face coverings are required, giving verbal warnings to customers to wear face coverings, offering a mask to patrons and asking customers to leave if they refuse.

Read more here.

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In just a few days, we have witnessed some very troubling communications decisions made by the District 220 Board of Education and their Superintendent. Some call it censorship, but it’s up to readers to decide that after considering some facts.

Tuesday night, upwards of 1,500 people tuned in to a live stream YouTube broadcast of a special meeting of the District 220 Board that began at 6:30 PM and lasted nearly three hours. For the first half hour of the meeting, a few participants checked off under on-line comments whether they liked or disliked what was being discussed (as seen in the graphic below).

Sometime after 7:00 the ratings were deleted and viewers could no longer register their opinion.

From the start of the meeting, participants were feverishly texting comments on what Superintendent Brian Harris was saying, and more often than not, the texts were much more insightful and interesting than Harris’ canned presentation.

Many of the texts were critical of the District, and around 7:00 PM, the texts were also silenced. The trail of comments were deleted as seen below.

It is also worth noting that the standard YouTube feature of free-form comments was also turned off. To view what we’ve described thus far, click here to view the recording of Tuesday’s meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, District 220 sent out a mass email with a link to a two hour Vimeo recording of the Tuesday meeting (seen here). However, the emailed recording failed to include over forty-five minutes of public comment from community members who waited patiently for two hours for their turn to speak their minds.

There is no question in our minds that the 220 Board of Education, but much more so Superintendent Brian Harris, failed to manage the expectations of parents, students and teachers in the months leading up to the unexpected announcement that fall classes would be all-remote learning last week.

As a result, the parties involved are upset and deserve to have their voices heard. For them to be silenced in the ways we’ve documented is tantamount to censorship.

Note: Those wishing to view the email sent by Dr. Harris yesterday can click here.

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