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1st day of school brings 'buzz of students' back

BOURBONNAIS — Amani Ali, 11, attended her first day of sixth grade Friday at St. George Elementary School and was having a pretty good morning — at least until her locker wouldn’t open.

Amani had to go to the front office to ask for help, as this was her first time using a locker with a combination lock.

“It really wouldn’t budge,” she said after an adult helped her to get it open.

Fortunately, there was another highlight to Amani’s first day. She got to walk her little sister into school for her first day of kindergarten.

“I get to take care of my sister more,” she said about her sibling finally joining her at school.

Meanwhile, in the second grade classroom, teacher Amber Studyvin was starting off the school year with a lesson on kindness.

“You should always be nice to other people,” said Scarlett Honaker, 7, about what she learned that morning.

In fact, “learning” is what Scarlett said she is most excited about now that she is back to school. Her favorite subject is math.

“[My first day] is going really good,” she said. “And I am really excited because I learned more last year, so now I know a lot this year.”

Nearly all area schools have now started the 2022-23 school year. Many had their first days last week.

This week, Kankakee School District 111 started Monday, and Kankakee Trinity Academy starts today.

Bourbonnais Elementary District 53 starts Wednesday, along with just freshmen at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School. On Thursday, all BBCHS students will return.

In St. George Elementary, it wasn’t just the students having a first day of school.

Jay Smith, the district’s new superintendent, had his first “first day of school” in St. George CCSD 258.

Smith said the school year was “off to a great start” and noted that it was a “beautiful day” for the first day of school.

“I always enjoy seeing smiling faces and seeing the energy from the staff members and the teachers, and just a new start with everything,” he said.

Principal Christine Johnson said she was looking forward to having kids back in the building.

“In the summer, it’s so quiet, and just hearing the buzz of students and the energy from the kids back in the building this morning was so fulfilling,” she said. “Just being able to interact with the kids, that’s the best part — watching them grow, just being part of their lives.”

Joyce hosts roundtable to discuss future of ag

To kick off Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, State Sen. Patrick Joyce hosted a roundtable with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos along with other agriculture professionals to discuss future ag policy.

“As a fourth generation farmer, I know how important ag policy is for farmers and consumers,” said Joyce (D-Essex). “Farm bills govern nearly 100 percent of agricultural and rural policy for the next five years, which is why it’s so important for Congress to work with the ag community and our state legislators to get it right.”

The hour-long discussion was hosted and moderated by Joyce and Bustos. Representatives from the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Department of Agriculture joined the discussion to share their thoughts about different portions of the current farm bill and what changes they believe should be made in the next federal farm bill, set to be filed and discussed in 2023.

The group discussed input costs, preserving federal crop insurance programs and increasing market access for commodities, among other items important to the Illinois agriculture community.

“Family farmers across our state rely on farm bill programs for certainty and peace of mind during the growing season and beyond,” said Joyce. “We owe it to them to gather their input and use it to bring forth policy that works for growers and producers throughout Illinois.”

The current congressional farm bill was signed into law in 2018 and is set to expire in October of 2023.

Bond set at $75,000 for driver that hit ISP squad

KANKAKEE — The driver of a vehicle that struck a stationary Illinois State Police squad, injuring a trooper and another person Saturday, was charged with two Class 4 felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol.

Austin M. Gray, 24, of Chebanse, was in court Monday for his bond hearing before Kankakee County Associate Judge Brenda Claudio. She set Gray’s bond at $75,000.

According to Kankakee County Assistant State’s Attorney Rebecca Souligne, Gray agreed to take a field sobriety test following the crash. The police report said Gray showed signs of alcohol impairment.

Gray submitted to a breath test. The result was .145 blood alcohol content, almost two times the legal limit of 0.08.

According to information filed by the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office, Gray is also being charged with both a Class 4 felony and Class A misdemeanor for improper passing of an emergency vehicle (also known as Scott’s Law), and two counts of Class A misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to Illinois State Police District 21 at Ashkum, the trooper was investigating an accident on U.S. Route 45-52 near East 5000S Road, five miles south of Kankakee, at 2:34 a.m.

The trooper and driver of the vehicle from the previous crash were standing in front of the squad car. The squad’s emergency lights were activated, ISP said.

A Chevrolet Trail Blazer operated by Gray was traveling south on U.S. Route 45-52 and failed to yield and struck the rear of the squad car, ISP said.

The trooper and the driver of the previous crash sustained non-threatening-injuries and were transported to a local hospital for treatment, ISP said.

There were no other occupants in the vehicle involved in the previous crash, ISP said.

So far this year, ISP said there have been 16 squad cars struck in relation to the Move Over Law and seven troopers have sustained injuries from Move Over Law-related crashes.

Scott’s Law

Scott’s Law states when approaching an emergency vehicle, or any vehicle with their emergency or hazard lights activated, drivers are required to slow down and move over.

A person who violates Scott’s Law faces a fine of no less than $250 or more than $10,000 for a first offense.

If the violation results in injury to another person, the violator’s driver’s license will be suspended for a mandatory period of anywhere between six months and two years.

Injuries prove fatal for rescue horse spooked by fireworks

BOURBONNAIS — The owner of an animal sanctuary near Bourbonnais said a rescued horse died last week from injuries sustained when suspects in a vehicle shot off fireworks and spooked the horse in his stall.

Steve Coats runs Coats Farm Animal Sanctuary, which takes in abused and neglected livestock and rehabilitates them.

Coats said the incident occurred at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15.

The horse, Jimmy shoes, was in his stall, Coats said.

“The fireworks were loud and spooked Jimmy,” Coats said.

Being that he was severely neglected by previous owners, Jimmy panicked and tried to get away from the firework sounds and attempted to jump his stall gate, Coats said.

Jimmy’s leg was caught in the attempted jump and he flipped and fell through a wall. Coats said Jimmy tried to get back up but injured himself more in his head and legs.

They were able to calm Jimmy a bit. They called a veterinarian, Coats said.

Coats said he and friends attempted to get Jimmy back standing.

“Jimmy was exhausted from the attempts and was unable to stand. We tried rolling him on his other side, hoping he could get back on his feet but failed,” Coats said.

The veterinarian told Coats they could put Jimmy down or wait until morning to see if he regained his strength and was able to stand.

Coats stayed with Jimmy all night.

Jimmy passed away at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 16. A retired racehorse, Jimmy was 8 years old.

“Jimmy was our newest rescue along with his sister and a stallion,” Coats said. “We have only had him a couple months, which was part of the reason he was still so nervous.”

Bourbonnais Deputy Police Chief Dave Anderson said they took a report about the incident.

Officers are making extra patrols in the area. The investigation continues, Coats said.

They are adding security cameras to the farm, he said.

Two days after the incident, Coats said the same vehicle came back and people in it were yelling and screaming.

Three times over the course of a few months the same people have driven by shooting off fireworks, he added.

The night of the Aug. 15 attack, the offenders were driving a dark colored Dodge/Chrysler minivan (late 1990s/early 2000s) with black steel wheels, Coats said.