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KHS plans for a more college-like schedule

CLARIFICATION: The flex mod scheduling is optional; students will also be able to attend traditional school hours if it is their preference, according to Superintendent Genevra Walters.

KANKAKEE — Kankakee High School students’ schedules will more closely resemble college schedules next school year, according to school administrators.

Kankakee School District 111 administrators overviewed plans for the 2021-22 school year during a special board meeting last week, including detailing the new scheduling system at Kankakee High School.

Antoinette Rayburn, the district’s incoming director of secondary education and leadership, said high school students’ schedules will be organized into what are called “flex mods,” which are similar to college schedules.

“Flex mods are a modular scheduling technique that resembles some common college scheduling,” Rayburn explained. “It’s a form of academic scheduling where the school day is broken up into many increments, or what we call ‘mods.’”

Rayburn said students will be able to fit more courses into a flex mod schedule, in addition to having time to meet one-on-one with teachers. Teachers, meanwhile, will have built-in time for collaboration and student intervention.

While flex mod scheduling will be available to high school students next school year, they can also opt to attend school for traditional school hours.

Rayburn said the flex mod scheduling also supports the district’s “profile of a graduate” initiative, which focuses on setting students up with employable skills and qualities. The initiative was developed in December 2019 as a product of the district’s strategic planning.

Additionally, the high school will focus in on students’ needs through the “WIN (What I Need)” framework, she said.

The high school’s Student Success Center will be part of “WIN,” for instance, by helping students with filling out scholarship or job applications, test prep, and building tutoring time into their school day.

“Students will begin to know ‘What I Need’ to WIN,” Rayburn said. “The goal is going to be that we are going to be coaches — coaching our scholars to win.”

Jonathan Sikma, 10th-grade assistant principal, said he leads the scheduling committee which has been meeting weekly and every other Saturday to discuss roadblocks to implementing flex mod schedules.

“We know that for at least five years, flexible scheduling has been in the district’s vision,” he said. “It’s our team’s goal to make that happen for the students here at KHS next year.”

Some features will be that students will have a homeroom period early in the day, and athletics and extracurriculars will take place in the afternoons as usual.

“A large percentage of our student population are in athletics and clubs,” he noted. “Their day is not going to be that much different than it has been in the past as far as when things occur.”

Each academy within the high school will also have a weekly “Kay Day,” or colloquium day, with set times for interdisciplinary projects, plan and collaboration time for teachers, and targeted instruction time for students, Sikma said.

Sikma said the main benefit flex mod scheduling will offer is the specific time set aside for small group instruction and targeted intervention.

“If there is anything that COVID has taught our team, it’s that our students have a wide, wide variety of needs,” he said. “Flexible scheduling allows us to meet them more effectively.”

Sikma said there will be opportunities coming up over the next month for parents to familiarize themselves with the new scheduling format and how things will work next year.

Registration is currently open for the 2021-22 school year, with families asked to choose their preferred learning format.

Sikma said the high school will have a semi-completed master schedule by May 15, and teachers should have their draft schedules completed by May 28. By July 15, the district plans to have schedules ready to distribute to students.

Former coach returns for Purple Day

Bishop McNamara assistant softball coach Randy King embraces former Irish softball coach Laura Harms following a ceremony for Harms and her late mother, Cathy Harms-Wood, before Saturday’s home game against Lemont. It was the 10th annual Purple Day for the Irish, a cancer fundraiser that began in 2011 after Harms-Wood was diagnosed with cancer. See coverage of the game on Page B1.

Mi Casa Mexican restaurant on Broadway nears opening

BRADLEY — When Adriana Zamudio was a college student in Mexico, in one of her marketing classes, she was asked to design a business plan.

Eighteen years old at the time, she thought about the assignment and decided to develop a restaurant.

“Now it’s becoming real. This is mine,” she said of the former Gravina 801 Cuisine restaurant at 801 W. Broadway St., Bradley. The space was also the longtime home of the Italian eatery La Villeta Restaurant.

Zamudio, now of St. Anne, had designed a restaurant so similar to this location that once she saw it, she knew she had found the right spot.

Zamudio, 40, and her husband-and-wife business partners, Humberto Higuera and Andrea Ibarra, of Kankakee, are about a month away from opening Mi Casa on Broadway.

Translated, Mi Casa means “my house.”

If that Mi Casa name sounds familiar, you are correct. Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant opened about four years ago at 481 S. Main St., Bourbonnais, only a short distance from Olivet Nazarene University. It is operated by Higuera and Ibarra, and Zamudio may soon become a business partner of theirs at that site as well.

The goal is to have the Mi Casa on Broadway establishment opened by early to mid-June.

The approximate 90-seat restaurant is undergoing significant interior upgrades presently and some exterior upgrades are also being planned prior to opening.

The site has been vacant for about three years, but it is now a beehive of activity as construction workers busily work to get the property up to the standards of the new operators.

Born in Joliet, Zamudio and her family relocated to Mexico when she was only a few months of age as her father had business opportunities. She returned to the Joliet area about 10 years ago.

Several months ago, she began pouring her thoughts and energies into establishing a restaurant. She was introduced to Ibarra and they began formulating their plans.

Asked if this was the best time to open a restaurant considering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses, in particular restaurants, the women said they believe this will be a great time to open a new location.

“People are so ready to go out and get back to normal,” Ibarra said. In fact, she said, the Mi Casa restaurant on Main Street — which offers carry-out — has done a great business this past year.

“This past year has been our best year,” she said. “People are ready to get out.”

The Kankakee County region is home to many Mexican-style restaurants, but the trio notes this location will be somewhat more upscale. They note that while the location will of course offer casual-style dining, they will be offering many dishes which are not available in local restaurants.

The menu is still being finalized.

“We will certainly offer traditional Mexican dishes, Tex-Mex dishes,” Zamudio said. She noted they will also offer seafood dishes with either Nayarit-style seasoning [spicy] or Michoacan-style [more garlicky with tomato].

They are also planning traditional American foods, meaning beef and chicken.

“We will set ourselves apart from the many Mexican restaurants in the area,” she said. “Our customers won’t see the sombreros or peppers hanging around.”

The restaurant is slated for eight to 10 workers. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

“We will have the best margaritas in town and the best sangria,” Zamudio boasted.

The owners did not want to rush to open the location and have been careful to give themselves time to get every detail in order.

“First impressions are so critical,” Zamudio said. “The first impression we want for them will be casual, but with a touch of modern. ... We’re very picky about how the place will be. This must be right. We want quality. People have to come in and be impressed.

“We will offer quality service, quality food and nice ambience. We do that and we will have quality customers,” Zamudio said.

But will the Broadway restaurant impact the Main Street location, the business owners were asked.

They do not believe so. The Main Street location is more of food-to-go, while the Broadway location will focus on more unique dishes as well as a unique dining experience.

Vaccinations slow but don't stop in Kankakee County

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County administered 1,652 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the past seven days as of Friday, less than half of the previous week’s total, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

As of that same date, there were 26,699 fully vaccinated people in the county, which IDPH reports to be 24.27 percent of the county population. That’s up .9 percent from the week prior.

In the county, 68.17 percent of the 65+ population and 31.19 percent of those 16-64 are fully vaccinated.

Kankakee County has provided 57,981 vaccine doses in total as of Friday evening. IDPH may receive data from providers up to 72 hours late.

The Kankakee County Health Department held a vaccine clinic on Tuesday and assisted AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital Kankakee in administering drive-thru single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday.

“It looks like there may be some left over,” Kankakee County Health Department Administrator John Bevis said of the drive-thru clinic, which offers vaccines without advance registration.

Vaccination numbers have slowed across the state and nation for a few weeks. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that unused vaccine doses in some states can be redistributed to other states with more demand.

Bevis said that because of lowering demand, the health department only held one clinic last week. Riverside Healthcare has stopped using its mass vaccination site and is operating smaller clinics at its satellite offices.

“Then they don’t have to put out a lot of staff and equipment and things like that that then are not going to get used,” Bevis said.

Since March, the percent of vaccinated population in Kankakee County has hovered lower than most counties, but now 17 counties are below it. The population of Illinois is 34.02 percent vaccinated as of Friday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily doses administered has dropped from 532 doses on April 30 to 236 on Friday.

“I think still at least for the next month, we’re going to slowly get those numbers to increase,” Bevis said. “A lot of the counties around us are at 30 percent, we’re at 24.”

Several second-dose clinics, including one facilitated by National Guard from last month’s Moderna clinic, are on the books for this month.

The health department is looking into popping up vaccination tents at events, allowing for more walk-ins and trying other approaches to reach people who want vaccinations to be more convenient to them, according to Bevis.

“We might try an evening [clinic] to see if we accommodate individuals that are working and can’t get there during the day but might be willing to get there after hours, and then possibly looking at some weekend activity also,” Bevis said.

However, county health officials are preparing for a new age group to become eligible for vaccination. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be authorized for use in 12- to 15-year-olds next week by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and a federal advisory committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

Bevis said the Pfizer vaccine’s ultra-cold storage requirements pose a challenge for pharmacies and small providers to house.

“We might see a surge of interest for a brief period of time as parents then flock to the locations where those vaccination events might then be offering that to get their children vaccinated, especially with summer and the youth sports,” Bevis said.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday that local physicians can offer vaccine doses to patients.

Bevis said that doctors have to apply to get an individual vaccine allotment through the state; they will not be included in the health department’s dosage orders.

“These physicians know their patients, they know their histories,” Bevis said. “If the patients have any questions or concerns, they can get those answered through their physician.”