Jax Public Schools Foundation Asking For Masks Donations

The Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation needs immediate help in collecting new, cloth face masks for students this year.

On the heels of the announcement by Governor J.B. Pritzker today mandating universal indoor mask usage at all public and private schools, Amy Albers, Executive Director of the Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation, issued a press release asking for help to collect masks for District 117 students prior to school starting in two weeks.

Albers says the district needs hundreds just to start the year. She has asked with anyone with the ability to sew cloth masks for students to contact Sue Fox at Times Square Sewing via email at or by phone 217-245-5445 to pick up material.

Albers asks if you can make a donation to purchase reusable masks, help cover material costs or to be used to purchase disposable masks, donations can be made at or checks mailed to the Foundation office at 211 W. State Street in Jacksonville. Albers says if you would like to purchase masks directly for students, donations can also be dropped off at the Jacksonville Schools Foundation offices.

Pritzker Mandates Masks Inside Schools, Long-Term Care; Orders Congregate Setting State Workers To Get Vaxxed

Governor J.B. Pritzker has mandated all schools in the state to follow masking requirements indoors today. He also has mandated that all state employees that work in congregate living facilities be vaccinated.

Masks will also be required in all long-term care facilities. Pritzker says the state needs to protect the state’s most vulnerable populations: “Because the vaccine has not yet been approved for children under 12, because there are many people who are reluctant across some of the [school] districts to adopt the CDC’s guidance; effective immediately all P-12 schools and day cares in Illinois must follow the CDC guidance of universal masking inside regardless of vaccine status. My goal has always been to safely bring all kids back into the classroom at the start of the school year.”

Pritzker also announced that IDPH is making testing at all schools free and making masks available to all districts that need them. Athletes who participate in outdoor sports will not be required to wear masks during competition, however, all indoor sports will require them. Pritzker says that individual districts can impose their own specific mandates beyond the CDC guidance if they wish.

Pritzker also asks the vaccinated population to talk to those in their family and social circles who have not been vaccinated to urge them to get the shot.

The indoor masking mandate has received support in released statements from both the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Pritzker says state workers in congregate living settings have fundamentally let those in their care down by refusing to be vaccinated and now must get the vaccine as a term of their employment: “Illinois will require vaccinations for all state employees who work in congregate facilities such as our Veterans’ Homes, our corrections facilities, and the Department of Human Services’ Developmental Centers, and psychiatric hospitals. Our most vulnerable residents, such as our veterans, who can’t live on their own, and adults living with developmental disabilities have not choice but to live amongst these workers. By and large, residents of these state-run facilities have done what they can do to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, and yet many of the long-term care facilities’ employees have themselves not been vaccinated. They run the risk of carrying the virus into work with them, and then, it’s the residents who are ending up seriously sick, hospitalized, or worse. It’s a breach of safety. It’s fundamentally wrong, and in Illinois, it’s going to stop.”

AFSCME Union leaders have yet to release a statement on the mandate. Pritzker says state employees will have 2 months to comply with the vaccination mandate before action will be taken.

Pritzker says that universal masking will take place in all public and private long-term care facilities: “Finally, I’m announcing a universal mass mandate in all long term care facilities all long term care facilities across Illinois, including those that are privately owned and operated. This means everyone vaccinated or not, must wear a mask when you’re in a facility with long term care patients and residents. This is already standard practice in much of the industry. But while the Delta variant rages on, I want to leave no doubt on the need for compliance.”

All of the other mandates go into effect immediately.

JSD 117 Bond Sale Successful

Jacksonville School District 117 approved a $13 million bond sale in July. Superintendent Steve Ptacek said that the bond sale was highly successful, generating just a little under $12.5 million earlier this week.

Ptacek says the district got more money and a better interest rate than was forecasted: “We got more money with a lower payment. Right now, with our sales tax [revenue] for the first two months of this fiscal year are totaling $116,000 extra compared to two years ago, and we received somewhere around $2.4 million, adding on another $116,000 just in two months. At that pace, we will easily make the bond payment and probably have some access funds left over for some other projects.”

Under Phase 3 of the Vision 117 plan, proceeds from the bond sales will go towards district renovations on at least two buildings with one being Washington Elementary School. Five percent of the sale has to be used within the first 6 months.

Ptacek told the District 117 School Board in special session last night that first 5% will be placed towards renovation and replacement of the roof at Jacksonville High School. He said the current money allocated to the project will be allocated back into the district’s Health, Life, Safety Fund for another project to be determined.

Decisions on how to use the rest of the bond proceeds will be forthcoming through a community engagement process in the next several months.

Jacksonville Main Street Wrapping Up Summer Concert Series This Week

Jacksonville Main Street winds up their summer event schedule this Friday. The Harmons take the stage for the final concert of the Downtown Concert Series featuring their family bluegrass talents on Friday at 7PM with beverage and food opening at 6PM. Main Street’s Judy Tighe says the Harmons are a huge local favorite.

The bookend to the weekend is a local favorite event with the Craft Brew Festival on Saturday afternoon. Tighe says that about 20 craft breweries and home brewers will be on hand for the event on Saturday.

Tighe says they have separated out the Artisan Fair and have returned it to a stand alone event that will return in October: “We have separated the Artisans from the Craft Brew Festival. It is a stand-alone event on October 9th. We are looking for vendors for that, so if you know any artists let them know. It’s going to be a juried art fair. We are bringing that back and we’ve separated the event, so we will have yet another event in October.”

Tighe says to visit Jacksonville Main Street’s website or Facebook Page to find out ways to sign up for the Artisan Fair in October. Tighe says that Jacksonville Main Street is grateful for the massive support in return this year from the community.

Allmon Releases Identity of 10-Year Old Killed in ATV Crash in Menard County

Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon has released the identity of the 10-year old boy killed as a result of an ATV Crash in Menard County on Monday night.

10 year old Grant Rucker of Springfield was pronounced deceased at 7:42PM Monday in the Emergency Room at HSHS St. John’s in Springfield.

Menard County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ben Hollis told the State Journal Register yesterday that the ATV overturned as it was going up a hill on private property near the 10000 block of Boy Scout Trail close to the border of Menard and Sangamon counties, south of Petersburg. Hollis says there was no apparent reason for the crash but the ATV overturned and landed on its top. Hollis said that the child lived in Springfield but was on family property in Menard County at the time of the crash.

Allmon says a preliminary autopsy report revealed that Rucker died as a result of blunt force head trauma sustained in the crash.

The death remains under investigation by the Sangamon County Coroner’s Office and the Menard County Sheriff’s Department.

Lake Jacksonville Duck & Deer Site Drawings Set For Next Week

The Lake Jacksonville Archery Deer site and Duck blind drawing will be held next week.

The Jacksonville Parks & Lake Department announced today that the archery deer site drawing will be held Wednesday, August 11th in the Nichols Park Pavilion; doors will open at 6:00pm with the draw taking place at 7:00pm. The draw is for 21 deer site locations and is a two-year allocation. Applicants must show proof of a valid driver’s license or State of Illinois I.D., 2020 or 2021 hunting license with habitat stamp, reside in Morgan County, and be a minimum of 16 years of age to enter the lottery. The fee for the two-year allocation is $50 per year per site.

The waterfowl blind drawing will be held Thursday August 12th in the Nichols Park Pavilion; doors will open at 6:00pm with the draw starting at 7:00pm. This draw is for 13 waterfowl blinds and is a two-year allocation. Applicants must be a minimum of 16 years of age, show proof of a valid driver’s license or State of Illinois I.D., reside within the city limits of Jacksonville, and possess a 2020 or 2021 hunting license with Federal and State Duck Stamps (2021 stamps are available at Farm and Home). The fee for the allocation is $200 per year per blind location.

If applicants have any questions or concerns please feel free to call Jacksonville Lakes Superintendent at 217-479-4644.

IDPH, IDHFS Partner to Expand Medicaid Coverage for Diabetes Programs

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced announced yesterday that Medicaid coverage is expanding for key diabetes programs.

CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Programs can enroll as Illinois Medicaid providers to deliver the program to eligible participants by administering services during regular sessions over the course of the year, including dietary and nutritional counseling, fitness assessments and educational sessions on how to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

To be eligible to enroll in the DPP program, individuals must be aged 18 to 64, be enrolled in the Illinois Medicaid program, have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that exceeds a certain level and either have elevated blood-glucose levels or a history of gestational diabetes mellitus. Enrollees who were previously diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or who are currently pregnant are not eligible to participate in the program.

Health care providers and Illinois Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCO) are able to refer participants to the program, but a referral is not required to participate. Eligible enrollees can directly enroll with a fee-for-service or an MCO’s in-network, CDC-recognized DPP provider by supplying blood test results from within the past year indicating a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or gestational diabetes mellitus.

The second program, Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) provides services to prevent the progression of diabetes and promoting a healthier lifestyle.

DSMES must be recommended by a medical provider or a practitioner licensed to work with individuals to halt the progression of diabetes. Services may include counseling on long-term dietary changes and nutrition, increased physical activities, skills for diabetes self-care and behavioral strategies for weight control. Services can be offered via telehealth, in-home or in a health clinic or outpatient facility.

In order to be eligible for DSMES, individuals must be aged 18 to 64 and have a documented diagnosis based on certain criteria of Type 1, Type 2, or gestational diabetes. Participants must also receive a written referral from a qualified provider, which could be a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or advanced practice nurse.

Participants are eligible to receive up to 18 hours of services during a 12-month period.

HFS and IDPH are collaborating with the Illinois Public Health Institute, with support from federal partners the CDC and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, on a Medicaid State Plan Amendment to add coverage for these two programs. The expansion is pending a final approval from the federal government.

Winchester EMS and Scott County Commissioners Remain At Standstill on Funding

The Winchester EMS remains in a holding pattern for funding to pay their staff.

The Scott County Commissioners have stalled on finding a permanent funding solution.

Randy Dolen, President of the Winchester EMS, says that staffing for multiple calls is at dangerous levels. He says that a multiple-call day, like the one this past Sunday, led to struggles to get EMS to two separate locations: “I guess basically we are still waiting on an answer from [the Scott County Commissioners] to our side. What we are struggling for is a permanent resolution. We are fine where [the EMS] is at right now except for the fact that we can’t afford to pay the help. That’s our struggling issue. If we get more than one call at a time like we did Sunday morning where we had a wreck with 3 injuries and got another call right in the middle of it, we kind of struggled getting an ambulance [to the second call]. We did get it pulled off. Basically, we are just waiting for [the Commissioners] to sit down and talk to us and see what direction we are going to go and move forward.”

Winchester EMS representatives have said they have tried multiple times to reach a funding solution with the county to remain in operation and to keep staffing levels adequate. Proposals have included creating a special service area or using Federal American Rescue Plan funding to help the funding and staffing issues on a temporary basis.

Attempts to reach the Scott County Commissioners have not been currently returned to WLDS at this time.

JSD 117 Returns To Learning With Full Indoor Mask Mandate

Jacksonville School District 117 will require masks indoors at all school buildings and full school days will return this Fall.

The District 117 School Board announced last night during a special meeting that they are following the recommendations in letters from Passavant Area Hospital CEO Dr. Scott Boston, the school’s insurance company, and the school’s general counsel that they should follow the recommended new guidance from the CDC and IDPH.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek revealed that the community survey on masks were generally split down the middle on the topic. He says that the school board decided to follow what the experts recommended and the district will “stay in its lane” when it comes to COVID-19 and mitigations: “We followed the same strategy that we did last year in that the statement was we stayed in our lane and followed the recommendations, and that allowed us to open up school when other people were closing. This year we are going to follow recommendations and those recommendations are as we start up the school year, full masks with no exceptions for vaccinations. We will be having full school days at JMS and JHS, so we are having lunch and are having full school days. When students are quarantined, we will provide a form of remote instruction for those students. It will not be virtual or online, but we will provide a way for them to interact with their teacher through probably email or packets. We are hoping we doesn’t happen much. Last, we are looking at a testing service that the state is offering, a SHIELD Testing for people who have been in close contact to try to keep them in school, and those are the four big parts of the plan that the Board approved.”

Ptacek says he cannot commit to it right now, but vaccination clinics may be coming to the district’s schools. He says that the SHIELD Testing program would be paid for by the state and that the district will continue to closely monitor the virus situation in all of the schools in hopes that the district will stay in session all year long like it did last year.

Jacksonville Housing Stock Project Begins Tomorrow

The City of Jacksonville and volunteers will be out walking neighborhoods tomorrow.

The volunteers and members of the city will be taking photos as a part of the housing stock project in conjunction with the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

The housing stock project is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to fight blighted properties and also as a part of the Community Revitalization Strategy that accompanies the Community Needs Assessment Survey.

If you would like to volunteer for the project, call 217-479-4620 or email Jacksonville Community Development Director Brian Nyberg at for more information.