BRADLEY — It started out as a get-together of the Creative Styles Salon stylists.
The women had not seen each other for weeks. They decided on Monday night that they were simply going to get together, share a meal and talk on Tuesday at the salon, 1022 W. Broadway St., Bradley.
One stylist, however, brought a large United States flag and a sign reading “Honk if you want salons to open.”
The gathering at the business owned since 2007 by Melinda Love, of Limestone, quickly turned into something not anticipated by nearly all the eight stylists.
Fed up with not being allowed to earn a living due to COVID-19 restrictions and disgruntled as they watch other businesses such as golf courses and dog groomers opening to customers, the ladies took to the sidewalk outside the Bradley shop to voice their displeasure and frustration.
And the vehicles passing by honked with agreement.
“I hope this can start a trend,” Love, 49, said as she stood along the sidewalk in Tuesday afternoon’s warm sunshine. “We’ve been told we are not an essential business. How can a golf course be an essential business? That wasn’t essential to me. A dog groomer? Why is that essential? The governor is not being fair to people.”
Actually, dog grooming businesses are not essential businesses under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency order. Pet supply stores, however, are considered essential.
Through the executive order, all businesses considered non-essential were closed beginning 5 p.m. March 20.
Love’s 1,200-square-foot salon has been shuttered since March 23. And because all the stylists working at the location are self employed — meaning they rent space from her to conduct their trade — they receive no benefits from Love.
Through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, self-employed workers and independent contractors are eligible for financial assistance.
But, of course, hair stylists make more money by cutting, coloring or styling someone’s hair, rather than not providing that service. Period.
They have tried talking to those within Bradley Village Hall. The administration, however, notes these are the orders from the state and that the village cannot pick and choose which businesses can open and which ones must remain closed.
“There is nothing I can do as mayor to override the governor’s decision,” said Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson. But, he said, he certainly understands the issues businesses are facing and is hopeful that Pritzker is listening.
“We have to find ways within the social distancing guidelines to open these businesses,” Watson said. “We have to help these proprietors back on their feet. We certainly don’t want to lose them. It will take baby steps to get the economy going again.”
Watson said he salutes what Love and the stylists did Tuesday.
“It takes brave people like her to disagree and express themselves in the proper way,” he said.
Regardless of how the brief demonstration originated or in what matter it was conducted, there is growing frustrations among business owners regarding the need to reboot the economy and get Main Street back in business.
Stylist Ashley Jastrzemski, of Manteno, has been working at the salon for 13 years. She said common sense must begin to take hold. She said the salon is willing to require everyone wear the surgical masks and keep chairs and customers a proper distance apart.
Diane Sarowatz, of Bourbonnais, said as small, independent business operators they are left to fend for themselves and the government has taken away that ability. It was her idea to stage the demonstration.
“No one wants people sick. We understand that,” she said. “But we have to be allowed to make a living. At some point we are all going to take a leap of faith to go back to making a living. We will follow whatever health guidelines they want.”
Love added that no person is being forced to make a hair styling appointment. People will return as they feel comfortable.
“We need to open up,” she said. “No one is being forced to come in here. But we need our own sanity as well and this is part of it.”
What effect will the demonstration have? Love shrugged her shoulders.
“It’ll probably get nothing accomplished,” she said. “But we just want people to hear us. We are getting zero income here. I’ll do what I need to do to keep this going. Whoever thought something like this would happen? We have to figure out how to keep our economy going. We have to make a living.
“I hope this can start a trend.”
The Farmers Market in downtown Kankakee makes its return on Saturday, but it won’t be business as usual.
In order to get the market open on time despite coronavirus-related restrictions, the market will operate on a drive-through basis to follow social-distancing guidelines.
Peggy Mayer, executive director of the Kankakee Development Corporation, said in an effort to support local farmers but also keep shoppers and vendors safe, organizers have been working closely with the Kankakee County Health Department.
Here’s what will be different: You will not get out of your car. Vehicles will enter on Dearborn between Merchant and Station. There will be a staffer waving you through. Cars will exit onto Schuyler Avenue.
The picnic tables will not be out. There will not be music or entertainment. No special events are planned.
Here’s what will be the same: The spring market will have 11 vendors including regulars offering such items as packaged popcorn, wrapped cheese, produce, honey and baked goods. She also anticipates sales of flowers and herbs, which come up early in the spring. Mayer says that all food sold will be pre-packaged.
Shoppers will be encouraged to make their selections in advance by browsing downtownkankakee.com. But as you drive through the market, if you see something that you would like to buy, Mayer anticipates that you will be able to purchase it.
As of today, vendors say they have breads, asparagus, lettuce varieties, plants, strawberries and more ready to go for Saturday’s season-opening market.
Each vendor will have different standards of payment: cash, check or credit (often using a Square). Mayer says the Farmers’ Market is working on accepting Link cards for the summer market but that system will not be ready for the spring market.
The Spring Farmers Market is set for the Saturdays of May 2, 9, 16 and 23. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to noon.
Mayer says it is too early to know what will happen when the summer Farmers’ Market starts Saturday, May 30.
Illinois is one of several Midwestern states that has deemed farmers’ markets to be essential services.
Mayer says she’s spoken with representatives of other markets, including some in New York, which still has walk-up markets. Many outdoor markets are reporting a robust business. The key seems to be informed consumers ready with their choices to keep the line moving.
A variety of sources, including the University of Illinois Extension and the Ohio State University Extension, have reported findings that COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness.
Thought it’s been widely reported that it is extremely unlikely someone will acquire the virus through eating, the Illinois Farmers Market Association nonetheless does have some recommendations on food safety and include the following:
• If you bring your own reusable bags, regularly wash them at home.
• Use hand sanitizer, maintain social distance guidelines of 6 feet, wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
• Vendors should clean and disinfect surfaces where food is stored every four hours. There should be a no-touch policy. Hands-off unless you are taking it home. No inspections.
• Once you have the food home, Illinois Farmers Market Guidelines say to wash all products thoroughly before eating.
In-person learning in Illinois schools has been halted since March 17, and it’s unclear whether an end is in sight.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday that educators should be prepared to extend e-learning into the fall in case schools have to remain closed.
“I would prepare for both [remote and regular classes] because it is still unclear what things will look like,” Pritzker said in his daily press briefing on Sunday. “I would encourage administrators and teachers to work very hard on making sure that’s available just in case, and also because I think that in the future, we’ll be using e-learning more and more, even in the absence of a pandemic, along with in-person learning.”
Pritzker also said state funds were available to help school districts with the transition.
Meanwhile, the leaders of local private schools, which rely on tuition rather than state funding, have been faring the storm with some unique challenges.
GRACE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
When Pritzker first announced all schools in the state would have to close until the end of March, Grace Christian Academy in Kankakee moved its spring break up a week to give teachers time to prepare before easing into an e-learning curriculum.
Teachers were able to test the waters the first week with a school-wide assignment in which students would research various facets of the pandemic and post to a discussion board.
“E-learning is really difficult to do well,” said Principal Aaron Most. “It’s not something where you could just hand someone a computer and say, ‘Go do this.’ It takes a lot of training and practice.”
Grace Christian Academy has 225 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.
Most said school funding will be taking a “big hit” this year with the cancellation of the school’s annual dinner auction.
}In effort to keep tuition affordable, the school has hosted a dinner auction for the past dozen years which raises about $100,000 annually. The event would have brought hundreds of community members to campus April 18.
Fortunately, the school has money in reserves and is in a good place financially.
“That’s been a big challenge knowing that we missed out on a big chunk of change we are often able to have,” Most said.
Despite an all-around difficult situation, Most has been able to find some positives. Students are learning life skills like time management, self-motivation and navigating family dynamics that will stay with them long after the pandemic. At the same time, teachers are building tools they will be able to use to enhance future instruction.
“I have teachers here who’ve been teaching longer than I’ve been alive and would have never imagined publishing videos on YouTube,” Most said. “It’s stretched everybody.”
ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN SCHOOL
One of the main concerns for Jim Krupski, principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Bourbonnais, was that the school might lose students because parents wouldn’t want to pay tuition while their children are learning from home, particularly preschool students who now have to be in daycare.
So far, that has only been the case for a few students. The school currently has a little over 200 students. Krupski said he’s not anticipating a big decline in enrollment just yet.
“I’m praying we start back up at the beginning of the school year,” he said. “I just can’t see us starting a new school year online.”
Teachers have had their struggles as well, particularly with trying to find a balanced workload that doesn’t overwhelm students and their parents. A practical solution has been to provide instruction four days per week and use Friday as a catch-up day.
“We really want the kids to be achieving to where they’re supposed to be by the end of the year, or at least [be] ready for next school year,” Krupski said. “Obviously, the [learning] deficit will be showing up next fall for not having been in school for five or six months.”
As a private school, St. Paul’s is not bound by Illinois State Board of Education guidelines. However, school administrators chose to adopt the recommendation that grading be non-punitive for the rest of the school year.
Another of Krupski’s concerns is that there will be a need to evaluate students’ educational progress before they move on to the next grade level. He said he’s encouraging parents to continue practicing math and reading skills with children during the summer.
“We pray this [shutdown] gets over in a hurry,” he said.
Terry Granger, principal of the Bishop McNamara Catholic School in Kankakee, said the schools’ crisis team convened to prepare for a possible shutdown two weeks ahead of Pritzker’s announcement that schools would close.
“We did a lot of planning ahead of time,” he said. “When we finally got the order was when we began the process of remote learning.”
Bishop McNamara schools include sites in Bourbonnais, Bradley and Kankakee. In total, the schools have 850 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.
Nicole Gernon, principal of the Bourbonnais school, said teachers have been using creative ways to stay connected with students, such as driving by a student’s home on their birthday, in effort to maintain their social/emotional health.
“They’re very sad right now that they can’t return,” Gernon said. “I know students are feeling that way all over.”
Sister Maureen Fallon, assistant principal at the Kankakee school, said administrators and teachers will have to take time to address the “emotional toll” the pandemic has had on students in the coming weeks and months.
“Some families, even some of our juniors and seniors, are essential workers,” Fallon said. “They live in the fear on a daily basis of, ‘What if I get the virus? What if somebody in my family gets the virus, and how do I respond?’”
Granger agreed that students’ social and emotional needs must be addressed as students shift back into in-person learning — whenever that might be.
“We don’t just educate the mind: we educate the whole child,” he said. “Not being able to see our kids in the buildings on a daily basis, it’s been very difficult for us to come to grips with.”