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Mask mandate prompts debate from BBCHS parents

BRADLEY — The Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School District 307 School Board approved a back-to-school plan Monday and was met with both opposition and support from community members on the requirement to wear masks in school.

In accordance with the state mandate for all K-12 schools, the plan for the 2021-22 year includes an indoor mask requirement for all students, employees and visitors to the building.

Last week, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the mandate as part of the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.

Before the plan was approved by 6-1 vote, board member Todd Kuntz motioned to change the word “require” to “recommend” in regards to wearing masks. The motion did not receive a second, so the plan was approved unchanged, with Kuntz voting against it.

That did not stop some members of the audience from cheering when Kuntz made the motion and shouting “we second it!” and other interjections before the board proceeded to vote.

Several parents shared their opinions during the public comment section at the start of the meeting. Some argued that the school legally could choose to defy the state mandate.

Superintendent Matt Vosberg said that ignoring a state mandate would be against the district’s legal advice.

“When the state mandates something, we are obligated to follow that, and if we don’t, we jeopardize school recognition, which impacts your accreditation,” he explained. “So, it could impact funding. It could also impact participation in IHSA extracurricular activities if we’re not a recognized school district.”

Comments against mask requirement

BBCHS parent Steve Coats Sr. said Pritzker was overstepping his authority by issuing the mandate, and he does not believe all children need to be masked.

“If your student is scared, wear a mask,” he said. “If your student feels they need it, do it. My child does not need it. She has faith in God, as well as I do. That’s all we need.”

BBCHS parent Paige Orwig said the district should stand for the rights of individuals to make their own choices and urged the board not to “bow down to the governor’s mandate.”

“Allow parents to have the medical freedom to choose what is best for their family and decide whether or not to mask their child,” she said.

Dawn Coburn said she is having a hard time deciding if she wants her daughter to continue attending BBCHS because “everything keeps changing.”

“Pritzker does not have the authority to make this decision,” Coburn said. “That’s why we have local people. That’s what we have you for.”

Comments in favor of mask requirement

BBCHS parents Vincent and Alicia Clark spoke in favor of the mask requirement.

“I don’t particularly care for seat belts because I’ve never been in an accident, and I don’t plan on getting in one, but I do wear my seat belt because it’s a precautionary measure,” Vincent Clark said.

Alicia Clark said she supports the mandate for the health and safety of children and noted that she has lost loved ones to COVID-19.

“Many people have died, and it concerns me that my child would be potentially exposed to that same death sentence that people in my family and life have already experienced,” she said.

Dave Morgan, an English, speech and drama teacher at BBCHS, said he has spent the past year fighting cancer, and although he is now cancer-free, his immune system is still weakened from the treatments.

“This mandate is meant to protect people like me, the students and staff who are vulnerable or cannot be vaccinated. … In these challenging times, this is an opportunity to protect and take care of all of us who walk these halls,” Morgan said.

Plan details

Principal Brian Wright said administrators utilized guidance from the CDC, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and Kankakee County Health Department in developing the plan to return to school.

“We are dedicated at BBCHS to making sure that we supply for our community’s children the most safe school environment, using the least restrictive conditions and procedures in the guidelines that are brought to us,” he said.

Wright emphasized that the plan is a “fluid document” that could change based on new local, state and national developments with COVID-19. He said the school would look to relieve any restrictions in place when it is safe and advisable to do so.

School hours are back to full-time in-person learning from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. with 50-minute class periods.

Breakfast and lunch will be served during school, with both meals free to students due to the state extending its free lunch program.

Tables will be cleaned between lunch periods, and to offer more social distancing, seniors in good academic and behavioral standing will be eligible to leave campus for their lunch and study hall periods. Juniors in good standing will have the same opportunity on Fridays.

Social distancing will be 3 feet apart whenever possible.

“It’s tough to police that with 150 staff members and 2,000 students, but we will continue to implore our students to use social distancing whenever possible,” Wright said.

Quarantine procedures

There will be new procedures when students are identified as close contacts.

Regardless of vaccination status, symptomatic students will have to quarantine at home for 10 days unless they have a negative COVID test.

If the student is asymptomatic and vaccinated, they will not need to quarantine.

If the student is asymptomatic and unvaccinated, they will have three options.

They can return to school if asymptomatic after 10-day quarantine; they can return if asymptomatic after seven-day quarantine with a negative COVID test, or they can remain in school if asymptomatic with negative tests on the first, third, fifth and seventh day after exposure.

With parental permission, the school nurse will administer rapid tests that produce results in 15 minutes. Schools can attain the tests for free through the Kankakee County Health Department.

The first day of school for freshmen will be Aug. 16, with the rest of the student body starting Aug. 17.

Model airplane club celebrates 50 years

Dave Boudreau likes to fly planes — both the radio-controlled model and the real thing. A licensed pilot and a U.S. Air Force veteran, Boudreau said there’s no difference piloting the two.

“These are just smaller,” he said, referring to the RC model planes that take flight every day at the Kankakee Valley Model Flyers’ airfield adjacent to the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena just off River Road in Kankakee. “They fly the same way. The aerodynamics are the same, you’re just on the ground instead of inside it.”

The Kankakee Valley Model Flyers will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with an open house and airshow from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the club’s field at 1601 River Road.

It’s free admission to the open house and everyone in attendance receives a ticket for a chance to win a ready-to-fly RC model plane. There will be a food vendor, demonstrations and instructions on how to fly an RC plane.

There are 24 members in the club, most are retired, and Boudreau, of Bradley, has been in the club the longest, having joined in 1972 not too long after he got out of the service.

“I came back from Vietnam and was stationed on Forbes Field in Kansas, and my wife and I came back in ‘71,” he said. “But I didn’t actually get in the club until ‘72. ... A lot of those members have passed away. I was young then. I was 23, now I’m 73.”

The Kankakee Valley Model Flyers are associated with the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which was founded in 1931 in Muncie, Ind. It began chartering clubs in 1971, and the Kankakee Model Flyers is club No. 257.

“They have chartered over 5,400 clubs, and there are still 2,500 of those active,” said Ken Larson, who joined in 1987 and his been the president off-and-on for the past 15 years.

The local club has been a sponsored group of Kankakee Valley Park District since its inception, and the KVPD provided them with the open field the club still enjoys.

“I remember when there wasn’t anything out here, just this field,” Boudreau said. “We had our own little private drive to come in, cornfields on all sides.”

The park district and Kankakee Community College has grown up around the airfield, but the club members still enjoy their little respite where they can enjoy their hobby.

Boudreau, who’s been flying model airplanes since he was 12, has accumulated about 25 planes and is a regular at the airfield.

“It’s been a good club here,” he said.

“The guys are always friendly, welcoming,” said Fred Schultz, of Bradley, who has in the “neighborhood” of 20 planes. “And to me, one of the fun things about this is being able to share. I come out and I’m flying, and somebody I know who is a good pilot, I’ll say, ‘Here, you want to fly it.’ And they’ll do that for me at times and it’s just a great camaraderie.”

Schultz, 67, said he had a friend who was in the club back in the ‘70s in high school when he couldn’t afford the planes. But he said it’s still a great hobby and is much more affordable.

“It was real expensive in those days,” he said. “We’re paying the same price for radios now, they were then, and they are so much more sophisticated.”

There are the old gasoline-powered planes, electric and then the glow-fueled machines that are the most popular. Glow is a synthetic mixture. The club members like to mix it up on the airfield as often as they can.

“We have members from [age] 12 to 92,” Larson said.

Larson, 74, got interested in the model airplanes when he was a neighbor to Glen Davis, who was one of the original members of the club.

“[Davis] lived right next door to my in-laws, and my oldest son [Joseph] got the bug,” he said. “He’s still an active flyer. I got involved, and I was his mechanic and builder for a while and then he went to college and I had to learn to fly.”

Larson credits the local founding members such as Davis, Robert Gross, the club’s first president, and Andy Zoph for sparking the local interest in radio-controlled airplanes.

“You can get into it for as little as a couple hundred dollars,” Larson said. “You can spend as much as you want. There’s actually real carbon jet models. These are real aircraft, they’re just small.”

Rezoning approval allows apartment complex to move forward

MANTENO — A proposed apartment complex in an existing structure in Manteno near the Diversatech Campus cleared its first hurdle when it was granted a rezoning at Tuesday’s Kankakee County Board meeting in the county administration building.

On the recommendation of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the county board unanimously approved the rezoning of the parcel at 3 Diversatech Drive from a general industrial district to a high-density residential district along with other measures related to the case. The application was filed by Midland States Bank, the property owner, and Duncan Homes Inc., the developer.

A special use permit for the multi-family dwelling and five variances (lot size minimum, density maximum, floor area ratio, front setback and building height) were also approved for the proposed project.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the approval of all of these actions 6-0, and the PZA, planning, zoning committee concurred with them,” said Delbert Skimerhorn, county planning manager.

Skimerhorn said the proposed apartments are for 21 units, and there are other residential areas around the property that sits just southeast of Manteno. The property is part of a PUD, or planned unit development.

“It allows for uses and variances that the ordinance wouldn’t normally necessarily be allowed,” he said. “Multi-family, even single-family residential is not allowed. But it’s more of a mixed-use development, and it’s pre-determined the locations and what would be allowed there. And the county board approved that back in, I believe, 1984.”

The structure located on the parcel was formerly the administrative offices for the Manteno State Hospital and was most recently used for administrative offices for Midland States Bank. Duncan Homes intends to convert the building into apartments.

Skimerhorn said it would be 21 one-bedroom loft-style apartments less than 800 square feet each. The apartments would rent for $1,300 to $1,700 per month.

“It’s all preliminary,” he said. “We don’t have the actual plans. Until they apply for the building permit, we won’t know for sure.”

The rezoning is just the first step for the project. A start date for work on the building or a name of the apartments are not yet known.

2 people shot Monday night in Pembroke

PEMBROKE TOWNSHIP — The Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a shooting on Monday night that sent two people to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Deputies were dispatched at 8:42 p.m. to the area of East 3000S Road just east of South 13000E Road in Pembroke Township in regards to a report of shots fired, according to a news release from Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey.

While en route, deputies learned that two victims had been shot at different locations, according to the release, which did not state whether the shootings were related.

A 31-year-old female was struck in the leg by gunfire while inside her residence, according to the sheriff’s department. The other victim, a 41-year-old male, was shot in the arm and stomach area, the release said.

The sheriff’s department was also called to Hopkins Park last week to investigate a shooting.

Last Tuesday, Deric Wren III, 21, of Pembroke, was found shot in the 2600 block of South 13000E Road. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kankakee County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ken McCabe said on Tuesday there was no evidence that the shootings are related.