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Social Security Scammers Getting Creative-Beware

Social Security is fighting the latest wave of scammers.

     Jack Myers with Social Security in Springfield says those who want your money through illegal means are finding new ways to get into our pockets.

     Myers says the newest evolution uses names and numbers.

      He says the scammers are using names and badge numbers of actual Social Security workers. He says those being called will not be pressured by the actual workers, and if there is doubt, hang up and call the office back.

     Myers says Social Security does call clients. But, there has to be a reason.

        He says Social Security won’t ask for payment over the phone. Any attempt to get some type of payment is a red flag.

     Myers says one of the scams involves a claim that a person’s social security number is linked to a crime.

     If there is any doubt, Myers says hang up and call the social security office in Springfield at 1-877-279-2504. Suspicious calls should be reported to oig.ssa.gov.

Bainter is Optimistic

Morgan County Health Department leader Dale Bainter hopes Morgan County has turned the corner on COVID, but he remains cautious.

     The positivity rate continues to remain below the state numbers in Morgan County. But, deaths now total over 90, which Bainter calls a humbling number.

     Bainter says everyone must protect against complacency.

       He says it’s nice to see restaurants open back up, but he urges all to continue to wear masks and stay separated.

     Bainter says vaccinations have nearly completed the 1A phase. 1B is next.

     He says the vaccination process for those 75 and older went well yesterday. Over 440 people were vaccinated yesterday at the fairgrounds. He will not start vaccines unless he has enough for those who have made appointments.Bainter is gearing up for a vaccination effort for Jacksonville district 117 teachers and staff.

     He reminds those 75 and older to make an appointment by calling 479-1817. Bainter says it will open up to those 65 and older as soon as it’s determined the county has enough vaccinations.

Steve Ptacek says District 117 in good financial shape despite COVID

The impact of COVID on Jacksonville school district 117 finances is being felt, but the board anticipated this.

     Numbers presented last night indicate the school district has spent about 46-percent of the education fund more than halfway through the school year.

     Jacksonville school superintendent Steve Ptacek says some of this was anticipated.

      He says the school district is spending less than a percentage of what was in the budget. It includes COVID money. He says the school district will lose fund balance money.

     Ptacek says the district has been saving for a rainy day out of necessity.

       He says some money was set aside for the Washington School project but that money will more than likely help shore up the education fund balance over the next couple of years. The school district can’t borrow money because there was no debt when the cap was put into place years ago.

     Ptacek is NOT counting on additional COVID emergency funding from the federal government, until it actually happens.

Discipline Cases are Down at JHS

The Jacksonville school board learned last night that discipline reports have fallen dramatically from a year ago at Jacksonville High School.

            First semester cases totaled 11-hundred at JHS in the first semester in 2019. That number was 88 in the first semester in 2020.

            Jacksonville school superintendent Steve Ptacek says discipline cases are a broad description.

             He says the discipline cases can be as simple as a tardy or unexcused absence.

            Ptacek credits a lot of the dramatic change to changes the high school had to put in place to keep students in school during the COVID pandemic.

               He says students need to come in quickly, and leave quickly, there is one direction flow, little time for lunch, and the masks cause a separation of students that may help prevent bullying issues.

            Ptacek says some of the changes could be implemented even when COVID goes away. He says maybe an expansion of the alternative school to move negative impact students there where they might learn better, and eliminate some bullying issues that prompted some of the disciplinary reports.

            The school board last night learned school improvement, or SIP days have been eliminated for the rest of the academic year, because time is needed for the COVID instruction plan.

            The school district education fund is running at about 46-percent of the amount budget more than halfway through the year. Ptacek says the school district is still expecting to spend down from cash reserves.

            Ptacek told the board remote learning in the district is running at its lowest level of the year…around 13-percent now.

            And, the board recognized Gavin Cox and Catherine Ott for making the 2020 Illinois All State Choir. The board also recognized a $1-thousand contribution from Murrayville Baptist Church, which raised funds for student and teacher supplies at the Murrayville Woodson Grade School.

I3 Running ahead of schedule with Fiber Optic

The company putting in fiber optic cable throughout Jacksonville is getting done quicker than anticipated.

     The city of Jacksonville contributed substantial funding to I-3 of East Peoria as a way to move the community into the 21st century. Mayor Andy Ezard says its important to residents, but really important to the city’s efforts to attract business.

     Josh Bradbury is the director of sales and marketing for I 3. Bradbury says the outstanding weather has helped, and there’s still work left to do.

       Bradbury says about a thousand homes have been done so far, and another 3 thousand in the construction process. He says the company is working in the middle of town, and will radiate outwards.

     Bradbury warns residents to not bother the flags that mark other utilities. He says those help determine where the cables will be laid from a foot deep to several feet down.

     He says the speed of the service will amaze people.

       He says it now is a 1 gigabyte download, and will soon go to 10 gigabyte.

     Bradbury says those interested can go on line to I3broadband.com to see where the service is, and how to sign up for the service.

Washington Grade School Project Probably On Hold

Jacksonville school superintendent Steve Ptacek says planned improvements to the Washington school project will probably be on the back burner due to the current challenges with the impact of COVID 19 on the budget

     School district 117 doesn’t have the luxury of many other school districts to issue bonds for projects, because of the lack of debt 117 has now.

     Ptacek says the board was about ready to begin serious planning for Washington.

         He says the money was nearly there for the Washington project, but the district now must keep that money in reserve to protect against state and federal funding shortfalls

     Ptacek says the proposed changes in a school reform bill last week that would have added days to the school calendar would have cost 117 another $2-milllion. But, those proposals were dropped.

     He likes a lot of what he sees in what’s left of school reform.

   Ptacek says the requirement for a foreign language instruction has enough lead time. He liks a change in graduation requirements and the requirement to have grade school computer instruction make sense.

     Ptacek is not sure if the school resource officer, the cop in a school program will be axed by the bill.

     He’s also very concerned about the shortage of teachers. Ptacek gave an example of an area school district, which he did not identify, had a PE position open for two years, and still can’t fill it.

Jax Schools to get Shots for Staff early next month

Jacksonville school district 117 will set aside a day early next month to administer the COVID vaccination to teachers and staff.

     Jacksonville school district 117 has been very successful in keeping students in the classroom. Jacksonville school superintendent Steve Ptacek says attendance figures have actually improved in the 2nd semester.

     He and the staff are now preparing for a school wide vaccination program for staff.

     Ptacek says a day has been set aside in the first week of February.

      He says shots will be administered February 5th, and they are voluntary. He says it will easily take the full day, because of the time each shot takes. The second dose is administered 28 days later.

     Ptacek raves about the job that the staff has done, and the support of the Morgan County health department, who is led by Dale Bainter.

Ptacek says other school districts of similar size and bigger, such as Rockford and Quincy, have been successful in limiting the on line learning component.

     For the general public, the number to call for seniors 75 and older to schedule vaccinations is 217-479-1817.

Dean Relieved Ed Bill was Changed

An area school superintendent was relieved when a school reform bill last week eliminated extra days that were to be added to the school year.

     Triopia school superintendent Adam Dean was watching the bill closely. The reason..there was talk of adding days to the school year for the next three years.

     Dean wasn’t sure where Triopia would find money to pay for it.

“Basically there was a part of the bill with an extension of days for the next three school years. They were looking to add 20 days to the school calendar, and superintendents in our area started kind of calculating what that would cost.

Pie in the sky, I think this is an admirable thing to do. Some schools in the state have been closed since March and haven’t opened their doors, so they are trying to get kids into schools more. But when you start calculating the costs it’s concerning, especially for small districts.”

      The bill proposed that 20 days be added to the school year over the next three years. Dean says small school districts would have been hit hard.

     The issue was pushed by members of the black caucus who were seeing students outside the classrooms due to COVID. Dean says Triopia has lost only 5 days at the high school level to remote learning.

Dean says the others parts of the bill dealing with graduation, and other required new classes are a little easier to take.

“They have looked at graduation requirements, they are trying to, instead of just having science classes by 2024/2025 they want them to be lab sciences. They want computer literacy starting in the grade school and you can kind of tie that in with your regular curriculum.

Another thing that is kind of concerning with teacher shortages is by 2028/2029 they want foreign language as a graduation requirement for all of our students. We are lucky enough to have an excellent foreign language teacher but I know some districts in our area that do not have one so with the teacher shortage that is concerning. But we do have some time to kind of get that one figured out hopefully.”

    

       If signed, the bill eases graduation requirements, imposes new requirements for computer learning at the grade school level, and sets in place a requirement for foreign language learning in the next decade.

     Dean says the biggest challenge for the smaller school districts is the lack of teaching candidates. Dean would like lawmakers to add incentives to draw graduates to the teaching world.

Health Department Registering those 75 and older for COVID shots

The Morgan County health department is urging residents to call the right number when registering for COVID vaccinations.

     The health department is opening registration today for those 75 and older.

     Morgan County Health Department director Dale Bainter says people should not call the regular number. They should call 217-479-1817.

     Bainter says it’s 1 B registration now.

“1B is a very broad paint stroke including anyone 65 and older, educators, first responders, fire, police, grocery- it is a very large category. We summarize that as being about 12,000 individuals in Morgan County.”

       1B includes anyone 65 and older, educators, first responders, grocery workers. He estimates it’s about 12-thousand people here. Bainter says setting priorities allows the health department to control the vaccination flow.

     Bainter says once a shot is given, there will be an appointment at the same location before you leave.

     He expects the phone lines to hum.

“That is one thing, it is not an automated system we are using operators. We are using trained individuals so you will get a live person to talk to. I know that’s reassuring to a lot of people but it also does put a hurdle in place there that we can only answer the phones.

So it’s important that we stay in that group we are registering. We are currently registering individuals 80 and above. Starting today beginning at 9:00 am we will open that up to 75 and above.”

       He opened the appointment calendar to those 75 and older this morning. But, Bainter urges people not to tie up the regular health department line.

     He says the appointments are being scheduled as vaccinations arrive. Bainter has begun planning a more general distribution for later.

     Again, the number to call is 217-479-1817.

December Weather Story

The biggest thing that jumps from the weather page from last month is the lack of snow.

The only snow of the month was the dusting of snow on Christmas Eve. Beyond that, the number was 0 inches.

     Normal snowfall for December is 4 inches. And, the chance for the White Christmas here, was less than 30 percent. So, no surprise there.

     Precipitation was also lacking. We hit at 81-hundredths inches. That’s about an inch and 2 tenths less than normal.

     Normal Precipitation for the year is around 36 and 3 quarters inches. Precipitation last year hit just over that total..at 36 and 88 hundredths inches.

     Jacksonville was well ahead through July. But precipitation fell short of the average in August, October, November and last month.

     The average temperature last month hit just over 33 degrees. That’s about 2 degrees above normal.

     The mercury reached 50 of better nine times, and 60 or better twice. Jacksonville was in single digits, just once, 7 on the 25th. The warmest temperature was 67 on the 10th. None of the highs were record highs.

     WLDS-WEAI is a reporting station for the National Weather Service.