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BBCHS starts year with first full day in classrooms since March 2020

BRADLEY — The start of the new school year is already here for some Kankakee County schools, including Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, where the incoming freshman class found their footing Monday before the rest of the student body returned.

Not only was it a big day for these students beginning the next chapter in their lives, but it was also the first full day of in-person school at BBCHS since March 2020, when schools first shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 535 freshmen attended their first day of the 2021-22 year a day early, along with about 350 students in advanced placement courses participating in preparatory workshops. The first day for the entire school was Tuesday.

It was also the first time since March 2020 that students sat in the cafeteria for a normal lunch period, as meals were served grab-and-go last year.

Principal Brian Wright said the first day of school was a novel experience not just for freshmen, but also for sophomores, who started their high school careers during an abnormal year.

“Not only our school, but across the country, school was just not normal for our current sophomores,” he said. “So they are going to be a little off as well with some of the procedures we have established and trying to make their way around the building.”

Some students were fully remote last year, so this year will be a transition for them as well, he noted.

“That’s another full transition that we have to make, finding our way through a normal school year — as much as normal is at this point in time — so they can be successful coming out of online learning back into classrooms and engaging with their peers and teachers,” he said. “Yes, wearing a mask, but engaging nonetheless.”

Wright noted there was some concern about students getting used to wearing masks again after likely going without them all summer, but he was encouraged to see “100 percent compliance,” the first day, with very few instances of students wearing them incorrectly.

Josiah Jones, a junior, said he came to school Monday to prepare a game plan for his classes for the next four quarters.

Jones said he found it helpful to talk with his teachers; however, he admitted that the return to normal school hours felt tiring the first day.

“I got so used to 8 to 1, getting out early and having the rest of my day to do stuff,’’ he said. “Now we’re going from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and sports schedules are going back to what they used to be. We are definitely going to be putting in more work in the classroom.”

Jones recalled the start of last school year, when class periods were 30 minutes long and students attended school in person every other day.

“We were in and out,” he said. “The teacher was trying to cram as much as they could within that time, and sending you home with a good amount of work just to fill you in on stuff you would miss for that day.”

He said he didn’t adjust well to remote learning or the changing schedules throughout the year, and his grades were slipping.

While the prospect of a full school day, extracurriculars and sports is a bit daunting, Jones said the change is a positive thing.

“We can definitely get used to it. I mean, we’ve done it before,” he said. “It might be just a little weird going into school wearing masks all day, but other than that I think we should be all fine.”

Andres Andrade, a freshman, said he got to know his teachers and classmates Monday with icebreakers, such as “two truths and a lie.” He told his classmates that he plays soccer and tennis and owns a pet chameleon.

The lie? He doesn’t play tennis.

“I will play soccer here, too,” he said. “I’m excited to meet some new people.”

Andrade graduated eighth grade from St. George Elementary School.

He finished his seventh grade year on remote learning and was back to in-person learning for eighth grade, though he said he wasn’t able to see several of his classmates at graduation due to cases of COVID-19.

Andrade said he could go either way when it comes to remote or in-person learning. He likes seeing his friends when he is in school, but he also found it easier to stay on track from home.

“I kind of liked it because I hate doing school work indoors,” he said. “I just found it really calming doing it remote.”

Jayda Gilbert, a freshman, said she found the first day of school “a little nerve wracking.”

“I had a lot of trouble finding my classes, but in the end a lot of the teachers helped,” she said.

Gilbert graduated eighth grade from Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, where students were on an every-other-day schedule much of last school year until resuming a full in-person schedule toward the end of the year.

“I really struggled logging in [for remote learning],” she recalled. “I almost didn’t graduate last year because I forgot to log in daily.”

Layne Kolitwenzew, a freshman, said she felt most of her nerves Sunday night, but she was more at ease once she got to school Monday.

“It’s going to be easier to find my way around,” she said. “I didn’t know the school at all before today.”

Kolitwenzew graduated eighth grade from Bishop McNamara and said she is excited for the opportunities to take a variety of classes and join clubs at BBCHS.

While she didn’t mind remote learning at the start of the pandemic and briefly in November 2020, she feels she will learn more attending school in person.

“I hope we don’t go on lockdown again,” Kolitwenzew said. “I hope nothing like that happens, because I know a lot of people don’t want to do it again.”

St. Rose hosting prayer garden dedication Aug. 27

KANKAKEE — St. Rose of Lima Chapel has been developing an outdoor prayer garden on the west side of the church thanks to the individuals behind St. Rose Chapel Association.

The association meets monthly in order to make decisions — including indoor and outdoor beautification — for the church. Following the 6 p.m. Mass on Friday, Aug. 27, the association will be hosting a dedication ceremony for the prayer garden.

In addition to landscaping from Tholens’ Landscape & Garden Center — and work from architect Jeff Jarvis — the garden includes a cross-shaped brick walkway that is designed with personalized brick pavers.

The association has sold 199 pavers to individuals, families and organizations in 12 different states, and will continue to sell pavers after the dedication. At the center of the brick walkway is a statue of St. Rose, and the woman who donated the money to fund the statue will be a guest at the dedication. Father Lescher will offer a blessing for the garden.

Association member Pam Gall shared a few stories of individuals who have moved away from the area but still keep St. Rose in their hearts.

A man from Virginia ordered $1,000 worth of pavers to represent his entire family. Another man, from California, purchased $600 worth of pavers and dedicated one to his former St. Rose teacher, a nun who died in an accident.

“It just amazes me how everybody’s connected, somehow or another,” said Gall.

“It’s been very fulfilling for the association to see how many people are just still so much in love with St. Rose and so touched by all the memories that are there,” she continued.

Gall also shared that the association is planning to develop more landscaping and plans to continue this process in the spring.

St. Rose of Lima Chapel is located at 486 W. Merchant St., Kankakee. For more information, go to the church’s website at strosechapel.com or find the church on Facebook.

Timeline for census challenge explained

KANKAKEE — If Kankakee is going to move in the direction of a U.S. Census recount to deal with what officials believe is an undercount, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Kristina Barrett, a Census Bureau public affairs specialist, said Tuesday that any community which questions the census figures can request a Census Bureau Count Question Resolution program, beginning in January 2022.

There is an 18-month window to file for a CQR, as the deadline is June 30, 2023, she said. She added that there is no cost to the governmental body seeking a CQR, as this program is built into the cost of the census count.

The CQR, however, is not a recount. It is merely an examination of the count which had been completed in 2020. The data regarding municipalities was released last week.

A story in Monday’s edition of The Journal stated communities had far less time to consider and complete a CQR. The Census Bureau provided the correct timeline.

If Kankakee is not satisfied with the CQR review, then it could determine if a full census recount is warranted. The cost for such a recount would be the responsibility of the city.

Kankakee is in an uncomfortable position. First, 2020 census data showed the city has lost 12.6 percent of its population, dropping its population from 27,537 in 2010 to 24,052 in the 2020 count.

Secondly, the fact the city has fallen below the 25,000 threshold could lead to a challenge of the city’s Home Rule authority, which severely could hamper its ability to raise money through taxes or bond sales to fund the government.

Upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Kankakee County

More COVID-19 vaccination clinics are coming up through the end of August.

On Saturday, clinics will be available from 9 a.m. to noon at Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School and Momence High School for anyone age 12 and older. Staff at both locations will be administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for those who attended prior clinics, but they will also bring first doses of Pfizer for those 12 and older or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for adults. Regular school immunizations will also be offered at Momence.

Momence High School is located at 101 N. Franklin St. and BBCHS is at 700 W. North St, Bradley.

The Illinois Department of Public Health will host a clinic at Bethel Baptist Church, 119 W. Bethel Drive, Bourbonnais, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday. Contact the church at 815-932-9814 or visit bit.ly/BethelClinic to register.

Every Tuesday, the Kankakee County Health Department administers vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for ages 12 and older. Call 815-802-9449 to make an appointment.

The Iroquois County Public Health Department also has COVID-19 vaccine available by appointment from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.