Pritzker says he’ll consider withholding federal funds from local governments that don’t follow his reopening plan

(The Center Square) – Some communities around the state have made it known they plan to open for business soon, despite a stay-at-home order and the governor’s reopening plan.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Pritzker says he wants to see schools open in the fall

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he hopes to see schools in Illinois welcome students back in the fall.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Some Illinois counties draft their own reopening plans

(The Center Square) – Some local elected officials want local businesses to open safely far sooner than Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan would allow.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Restaurant owners frustrated with Pritzker’s reopening plan

(The Center Square) – With the prospect of waiting until June 26, many Illinois restaurant owners are wondering if their businesses will be able to stay afloat through the pandemic and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase plan to reopen the state.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Problems filing for unemployment in Illinois persist

As the number of people seeking unemployment benefits continues to rise in Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic, many say they are still experiencing problems filing claims.
Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Amelia Morris named 2020 recipient of Rebecka Garavalia Lab Choir Award

Amelia Morris is the 2020 recipient of the Rebecka Garavalia Lab Choir Award.

Amelia Morris


This prestigious annual award is given in memory of beloved Benton educator, Rebecka Garavalia who died suddenly just before the beginning of the 2002-03 school year. Lab Choirs under the direction of Mrs. Garavalia were always rated superior and excellent at Music Contests and Festivals. The criteria for the Lab Choir award is based on the standards of excellence Mrs. Garavalia demanded of her choir members including excellence in responsibility, discipline, leadership and musicianship.

Chosen by her fellow choir members, Amelia exemplifies all the criteria for this award, according to music teacher Alisa Leffler.

“She is a leader in the classroom, a responsible student and an excellent musician,” Leffler said.

A four year chorus member Amelia also performs in local theatre. She is active in Pyramid Players, Artstarts and Kre8ive. She has also appeared on the Rend Lake College stage. Amelia was slated to appear as Sharpay Evans in the 2020 Benton Grade School production of High School Musical Jr. The show was cancelled due to the COVID19 Pandemic. Amelia is a three time Superior soloist in Music Contest and often performs The National Anthem at local events. She is a member of the Jazz Band, a student of dance and participates in the music ministry at First Christian Church Benton. The daughter of Matt and Joelle Morris, Amelia is the big sister to twin siblings Rachel and Willis.

“It will be hard to fill the hole Amelia will leave in the Lab Choir. She is an outstanding vocalist and will be greatly missed. It has been an honor working with Amelia and being a part of her vocal training” says Leffler.

Recent recipients of this award include Benton High School students Mady Darr(2016), Trinity Price(2017), Kadinz Wilson(2018) and Delaney Leffler(2019)

Replacing ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ with social distancing: A message to the Class of 2020

A message to graduating high school seniors — the Class of 2020:

Before we get to the reality of this moment in time, let me begin by saying: Congratulations on your graduation, it’s a great accomplishment and regardless of what is happening in the world around us these days, it’s a milestone in your life, one of a handful of events that you should cherish. And you will realize as you get older that there are only very few real milestone-moments in your life … and because of something completely out of your control, an unseen virus that originated thousands of miles away, you are going to lose one of them.

As we roll into the month of May, it’s unprecedented that schools across the nation are closed, caps and gowns are still in boxes and gymnasiums where commencement exercises would be held are dark. As seniors you have lost the wonderfully independent days of April and May, days that should have been spent with classmates you started kindergarten with 12 years ago. Sadly, shelter-in-place, social distancing and online learning have replaced “Pomp and Circumstance” and graduation joy across the nation.

Like virtually everybody, I feel sad, I feel bad and I am highly disappointed for you. But, with that said, there will be no weeping, no wailing and certainly no hand-wringing from me concerning this particular hand that you have been dealt. Instead, I want to use this message to point out that you have been given the priceless opportunity, at a very early age, to learn two of life’s greatest lessons. The first lesson is that life is not always fair and the second lesson is that things happen, sometimes bad things, that we have no control over.

Many of you have lived your entire life within the safe and secure walls of your home, your school, your church, your circle of friends and your extra-curricular activities and you have never experienced real adversity – adversity that is totally out of your control. Well, even though you’re only 18 years old, let me join with many other seasoned, old folks and say: ‘Welcome to the real world!’

I recently heard a person refer to the cancellation of graduations as a “tragedy.” Let me be clear with you, here in the real world, this does not rank as a tragedy in your life. A tragedy is a young couple being told their child has a terminal illness. A tragedy is a young person dying in a car accident. A tragedy is finding out that your young child has special needs that will require medical treatment the rest of their lives. A cancelled graduation is a disappointment. Understanding the difference between a disappointment and a tragedy will help you throughout life to sort through adversities that come your way – and they will come your way.

I believe this positive message I bring to the Class of 2020 is far more important than anything else you have learned in the classroom during your four years of high school and it’s a message that will carry you a long, long way in life.

That simple message is that what you do throughout your life with adversity, setbacks, problems and crushed dreams will either make you or break you. It’s very important for you to understand that you have only two choices in life when adversity strikes, you either curl up in a ball and cry about your misfortune and blame somebody else, or you square your shoulders, hold your head high, rely on every ounce of inner strength you have, trust in God and then use the setback, the problem, the adversity for motivation to move forward and turn an obstacle into an opportunity and a mess into a message. In the end you become the victor and not the victim.

There is an old saying that states: “The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. In other words, it’s not about circumstances but it’s what you’re made of that will sustain you in every aspect of your life.” That last line is worth repeating: It’s what you’re made of that will sustain you in every aspect of your life.” If you take nothing else away from these words remember that previous sentence.

In closing let me offer a laundry-list of advice in no particular order – get a job, work hard, give back, don’t whine, ask questions … ask lots of questions about everything, be kind to others and be kind to yourself, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, have a purpose and understand that poverty of purpose is worse than poverty of purse, stand up for what you believe, say what you mean and mean what you say, assume nothing, learn to laugh at yourself, dream big, smile at people you don’t know, make your bed every morning because that way you’ve accomplished something before you ever get dressed, laugh often, do more with less, look people in the eye when you talk to them, remember there is always two sides to every story, never forget that you are capable of much more than you think and learn to accept responsibility when you screw up … and in case nobody has told you … you will screw up. That’s life! And last and most important … trust and thank God every single day – regardless of a lost graduation – because you have the world at your feet and the amazing good fortune to live in the greatest nation in the world!

God bless you on your journey Class of 2020, you ARE the future and we’re counting on you! There is a big world with unlimited opportunities and challenges out there waiting on you. Make us proud!

IHSA makes it official – all spring sports statewide cancelled

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for their April meeting via a video conference call on Tuesday, April 21, where the Board of Directors announced its decision to cancel all IHSA spring state tournaments. The decision to cancel the spring state tournaments comes in conjunction with Friday’s (April 17) announcement by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education that all Illinois high schools will complete the 2019-20 school term from home via e-learning.

“We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring, ” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as for the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic.”

The IHSA offers state tournaments in the following sports and activities in the spring: Girls Badminton, Boys Gymnastics, Bass Fishing, Boys & Girls Track & Field, Boys & Girls Water Polo, Girls Soccer, Boys Tennis, Boys & Girls Lacrosse, Boys Volleyball, Baseball, and Softball.

The Board also determined that summer contact days are suspended for this year, unless state government and medical leaders indicate such gatherings are safe. At that time, the Board indicated a willingness to reconsider how summer contact might be conducted and whether opportunities for schools to conduct some kind of spring athletic events might occur.

“Once it is determined safe to return, we will provide a detailed outline to our schools on the plan for summer contact days and possibly some kind of spring athletic events,” said Anderson. “Including if the number of days and dates that coaches can meet with athletes has been altered. At this point, though, all that is dependent upon state government and medical leaders giving the go ahead for such.”

“Our thoughts right now are with all the impacted students, coaches and communities. Especially the seniors,” said Anderson. “It will be difficult for them to find a silver lining in all of this, but we stress that even if they don’t get the chance to compete again at the high school level, they are better for having been a part of their respective high school teams. By participating in high school sports and activities, they were exposed to life lessons in teamwork, leadership, and overcoming adversity that are difficult to replicate elsewhere. The latter is applicable now more than ever. We hope that we can band together and refocus all our efforts on supporting the doctors, nurses, first responders, and all the other essential personnel who are putting their health and safety on the line each day to keep us safe.”

The IHSA will continue to communicate with and monitor briefings from state officials, and based on those timelines, provide updates to its member schools as it relates to potential spring participation and summer contact days.

“The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure,” said Anderson. “If we are able to offer this opportunity, no student-athlete would be restricted by having already practiced or competed with a non-school team.”

Corps of Engineers extends facility closures at Rend Lake

Rend Lake – Due to the shelter-in-place order in effect in Illinois and in an effort to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff members, the Rend Lake Project Office and Visitor Center, all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps of Engineers) campgrounds and many day use areas at Rend Lake will remain closed until further notice. It continues to be imperative that people remain vigilant and continue to shelter in place and practice social distancing until further notice.

As a result, all camping reservations made in any of Rend Lake’s four Corps of Engineers managed campgrounds through 30 April have been cancelled. These campgrounds include North and South Sandusky, South Marcum and Gun Creek Campgrounds. In addition, all shelter and group camp reservations in Rend Lake’s Corps of Engineers managed areas through 30 April have also been cancelled. Individuals with affected reservations will be contacted by email, and a full refund will automatically be processed.

If Illinois’ shelter-in-place order extends past 30 April, additional reservations may need to be canceled. In this event, the Corps of Engineers will initiate the cancellations and will ensure that customers receive a full refund. The Corps of Engineers asks that customers do not cancel their own reservations because a cancellation fee will be automatically charged.

The South Marcum and Dam West boat ramps, the Dam West and Spillway Day Use Areas, and Corps of Engineers managed outlying access areas remain open. In addition the portions of the Rend Lake bike trail that run on Corps of Engineers managed lands remain open. This includes the portions of bike trail that run from North Sandusky to South Marcum, and from the Rend Lake Golf Course to North Marcum.

All special events, interpretive programming, Earth Day Celebration, Small World Programs site visits, and public meetings will continue to be put on hold until further notice.

The Corps of Engineers regrets any inconvenience caused by these closures, but must keep the safety and health of all visitors as well as its employees as our priority. These measures, triggered by the shelter-in-place order, allow the Corps of Engineers to continue to best deliver its other critical services uninterrupted during this challenging time.

Dr. Jeannie Mitchell named 2020 Outstanding Faculty Member

INA, Ill. — She organizes campus-wide cooking competitions. She started a project that allows people to buy gifts for students who may not receive any for the holidays. And on top of everything, she is a dedicated and innovative educator.

Here’s a link to the story.

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