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Continuing the conversation: Herscher site of latest local peaceful protest

HERSCHER — A 2015 Herscher High School graduate, Skylar Brinkman spoke to a group of about 30 people at the start of a peaceful protest Monday at Village Park in Herscher.

“The situation may not seem real because it maybe doesn’t happen here, but [the protest] brings awareness to it and it is sometimes where the root of the issue can start,” said Brinkman, who is now a resident of Manteno. “I went to school here, I know first hand how it can be and it might be uncomfortable to have these conversations in these towns. But I think it’s really important to anyway because this is where the root of the change can really start.”

With the support of local law enforcement, Brinkman said she organized the gathering on social media in an effort to not leave the small towns of the county, like Herscher, out of the conversation about law enforcement’s treatment of minorities in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“I hope the people we’ve reached today see that it’s an important issue. It’s just important to care about things that might not affect you, and care about people in general,” Brinkman said. “You don’t always see the issues if you’re removed from the situation, or if it’s something you don’t personally experience. It’s so easy to brush it aside. That’s why I think it’s important to have these conversations here, in small towns like Herscher.

“Hopefully, 50 years from now we won’t be back here again for the same reason.”

Brinkman has participated in protests across the county for the past couple weeks, some rallying more participants than others. She said the just more than 30 people willing to have the conversation today was great to see. Also, she has begun compiling a directory of black-owned businesses through the website The-Black-Pages.com after she was inspired by Chicago resident Keenan Love’s recent 46-mile march to Kankakee and how he brought the community together. The website acts as a resource for those who wish to support black businesses in the community, she said.

She encouraged all attendees to continue showing support at upcoming protests and in other ways when possible.

Kankakee resident Dan Harris, who formerly taught psychology at Herscher via Kankakee Community College, spoke to the group of about 30 protesters at Village Park in Herscher at the conclusion of Monday’s protest.

Well-known for his volunteer and liaison work with Kankakee School District, Harris said he felt compelled to speak and share his perspective. Referencing historical riots that killed hundreds of black people 100 years ago, Harris asked if the protesters felt there has been real change since then.

“Not from my perspective,” he said. “We need to keep going and learn the history.”

Harris said he was happy he decided to attend.

“This is the first time I’ve personally seen a group of only white people come together to support blacks,” said Harris, who is an African American. “I’ll be honest, I was trying not to cry this whole time.”

Harris encouraged all in attendance to show their support at an upcoming protest planned for Saturday, June 20, at 11 a.m. at the Kankakee County Courthouse and also invited them to enjoy the local Juneteenth Celebration set for noon to 9 p.m. June 19 and 20 at Pioneer Park in Kankakee.

Vehicle sticker sales to begin July 6

KANKAKEE — Sorry, Kankakee vehicle owners.

The day for parting with $35 for a vehicle sticker is nearing, and the city now has a new location to settle all of these transactions after the Kankakee City Council approved a three-month lease with Midland States Bank.

The city agreed to enter into a three-month lease — at $1,000 per month — for the building at 310 S. Schuyler Ave. to sell the vehicle stickers. The former bank location has three drive-thru windows where the stickers can be sold as a way of limiting face-to-face interaction as part of the social distancing recommendations.

The drive-thru hour will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Motorcycle stickers are $20.

Sticker sales are set to begin July 6 and run through July 31. The sales during this July period will be considered as on-time sales. After the July 31 date, the price of vehicle stickers will be doubled, per city ordinance. The sale of the stickers at the former bank drive thru located at the corner of South Schuyler Avenue and East Station Street will continue at this site for at least a couple weeks after the end of July.

Many of the details are still being worked out regarding the logistics and the operation, said comptroller Elizabeth Kubal at Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting.

The bank site has been vacant since Midland States Bank and HomeStar Bank merged in October 2019. When the two banks merged, Midland closed the South Schuyler Avenue site and relocated its downtown Kankakee business into the former HomeStar location at 255 E. Station St., less than one block northeast.

The vehicle stickers are a revenue source for the city and have been used for many years. It annually raises about $450,000.

Even though the city stickers are being sold at a later date this year — the stickers are normally sold in June and enforcement begins in July — that does not mean city vehicle owners have gained an extra month concerning 2021. Sticker sales in 2021 will likely begin on June 1 with enforcement beginning on July 1.

Bradley School District weighs options for instruction next school year

BRADLEY — Bradley Elementary School District 61 administrators are holding off finalizing plans for what instruction will look like next school year until July in hopes that state guidance for schools will be clearer in the coming weeks.

Superintendent Scott Goselin discussed possible calendar options and methods of instruction for the 2020-2021 school year during a school board meeting Monday. He said he would present formal options during the next board meeting July 9.

“Our ultimate goal is to get the kids in person-to-person, teacher learning process in the classroom,” he said.

While in-person instruction is the goal, a regular school day might not be realistic until the state enters Phase 5 when there is a vaccine for COVID-19 and restrictions end, he said.

In Phase 4, when gatherings of 50 are allowed, a hybrid model combining in-person and remote learning would be possible. However, the administration believes this would be challenging for families.

In a hybrid model, students would come to school three days per week and do remote learning two days per week.

“You know and I know that’s a parent nightmare,” Goselin said. “To get childcare, to get people here, to get them here with buses and everything.”

The district would begin the school year in August if proceeding with fully remote learning. Alternatively, the school year could be pushed back until after Labor Day if it seems like restrictions will ease up by then.

A survey of more than 300 parents indicated 72 percent would prefer to wait until after Labor Day to start school, Goselin said.

The district also surveyed parents and staff about their experiences with remote learning and is zeroing in on ways to improve in the event it has to continue into next year, Goselin said.

Getting electronic devices in students’ hands and determining which families need help with internet access would be a priority with extending remote learning, he added.

Illinois State Board of Education guidance for next school year will be critical in deciding how to move forward, he said. Details on social distancing and mask requirements in classrooms will affect the district’s ability to provide in-person instruction.

“Even though it’s 50 kids [maximum], we’re not going to be able to fit 22 to 29 kids in a classroom with social distancing,” he said. “There’s no way we can do that.”

He also noted that, with an enrollment of about 1,450 students, the district would need to provide 87,000 face masks over a 60-day period.

Goselin said that trying to keep up with state guidelines up to this point has been like “hitting a moving target.”

“It’s like survival for these districts now trying to figure out what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” he said. “How are we going to get kids in here and have a safe learning environment for our kids and our staff?”

Kankakee School District to address next year plan in webinar

KANKAKEE — Kankakee School District 111 will host a virtual community forum at 5 p.m. today to discuss plans for returning to school in the fall.

A link to register for the Zoom webinar can be found on the district’s website and on its Facebook page.

The webinar was originally scheduled for June 2 but was postponed due to a scheduling conflict with Black Lives Matter marches and rallies in the community.

“We didn’t want our teachers to choose whether or not to exercise their right to protest or to be a part of the webinar,” Superintendent Genevra Walters said.

The proposed plan for next school year would integrate remote learning with a schedule of in-person instruction designed for small group settings and social distancing in accordance with the state’s reopening phases.

Under this plan, most students would attend school for a few hours once or twice a week while engaging in remote learning the rest of the week. Schools would be sectioned off so groups of 50 adults and students would be isolated from one another.

Students would be attending school in shifts, with school buildings open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The district is also considering following a CTA-like bus schedule in which school buses would arrive at stops every 15 minutes or half an hour to allow for social distancing.