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Teachers, parents and students speak out in favor of athletic reopening

BELOIT — Parents, coaches and students spoke out in favor of reopening athletics and extracurricular activities in the Beloit School District at a public hearing held Saturday afternoon.

Following Saturday’s hearing, the board will vote on the athletic and extracurricular activities reopening at its Tuesday meeting set for 7 p.m. at Kolak Education Center, 1500 Fourth St.

If the board approves the sports and extracurricular activities reopening on Tuesday, those activities could resume as early as February, Board of Education President Megan Miller said in an earlier interview.

Parent and basketball coach Joe Oberneder kicked off the meeting, saying that the district needs to give its student athletes hope and allow sports to impact student lives in a positive way.

“I’m sure we have lost student athletes that would be with us, and they may not come back to us. We can’t make an impact on their life when they are not with us,” he said.

Mother Brenda Plakans emailed the board which was read by Board Secretary Michelle Shope. Plakans said athletics and activities help students learn new skills, develop leadership capabilities, learn to work as a team and have fun at school under guidance of a trusted adult. She encouraged a reopening of athletics and extracurricular activities. She said there are models in surrounding communities for how to do it safely and a number of Beloit sports teams held practice this fall successfully.

Unlike teaching sitting in close quarters, Plakans said athletics can allow for action in smaller groups in larger spaces.

Soccer coach, educator and parent Brian Denu said the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has guidelines schools must adhere to and there are plans on how to screen, ride buses and more. He said he’s seen other teams compete with success. Every school in Rock and Walworth county is playing its winter sports seasons, and he said most Illinois schools have been given the green light to bring back athletics.

Denu said addressing the social and emotional needs of students is critical to their future. Students are missing out on developing lifelong relationships with peers, learning to be part of a team and relying on each other.

Denu said athletics and extracurricular activities help students stay focused on their academics and behavior. They are tools to open students to the academic world, especially for those who have a difficult time with school work. For many students, school is not just academics. It’s about being part of something bigger than themselves and having a support system of those around them working toward a common goal, he said.

Jeffrey Prowse said he was in support of full reopening of athletics and extracurricular activities proposed by Athletic Director Joel Beard and administration. He said it would offer Beloit students the same opportunities as other districts with the added benefit of being one of the more rigorous safety plans available.

The positives from being able to participate include improved mental and physical health.

“The future college prospects for many students are riding on these activities,” he said. “Athletics, music programs, theater programs and many unique clubs are the face of school districts to the public. Each day without these activities has been a loss to this district, but not nearly the magnitude of loss the students have borne.”

If the board approves athletic reopening, teacher, parent and hockey and golf coach James Hoey said winter sports might be able to have a small season, if only practices. He said boys hockey played for Beloit Youth Association and put together a team for guys in high school and most have been playing since early December with no problems. Other winter athletes such as basketball players, swimmers and wrestlers, he said, deserve an opportunity to at least experience part of their season.

Mom and school district volunteer Becky Wong submitted an email to be read by Shope. In six weeks she said Beloit kids would have been out of school for a year. She said the district needs to give the kids and parents hope and confidence that it’s serious about transitioning back to school safely.

Parent David Ramirez Jr. said the kids have to go back to school and the district has the resources to do it. He said a lot of kids have talents and have a need to express them. He questioned how many kids might fall through the cracks if there is no plan or direction. He said he’s not an athletic person, but wants to give his kids all the things he didn’t have.

Parent Jim Cronin said there is a divide in the district and community in regards to reopening. If schools stay virtual, he said there is no reason why athletics and activities couldn’t reopen. Many athletes are participating in sports at the club level and there hasn’t been any proof it’s contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

Student athlete Griffin Oberneder said he’s sat out his golf and football seasons. He said many other schools are playing sports right now. He said it’s frustrating to see friends in the Beloit Turner School District play throughout the winter.

“It’s very important for us to get our student athletes engaged. Having student athletes in the building will be a true test to see how we can be successful in returning back to in- person school,” he said.

Parent Scott Harmon said the district has had a year to come up with a plan. He said other area schools have made an effort to be in-person in some way.

“Children in our district are struggling academically and emotionally, and this board is thinking about extracurricular activities,” he said.

“There is a reason they are called extra. I have heard the arguments that it will help kids focus. What about the kids that are not in extracurriculars? We need to focus on all students’ needs, not just a few.”

He urged the board to “get it together” and get kids in the classroom.

Student Mekhi Horton submitted an Shope read. In it Horton said he can’t recall how many times he’s been told to stay off the phone and devices and to be physically active. He hopes to leave Zoom classes for a couple hours a day to play the sport he loves which is volleyball with his team.

Landon Daugherty, 8, of Beloit slides down Hospital Hill along Olympian Boulevard on Sunday afternoon. He was excited to tackle the giant slope with his mom and younger brother.

Mom Courtney Daugherty of Beloit barrels down Hospital Hill on Sunday afternoon holding her 3-year-old son Paxton, with her other son Landon, 8, in tow. Courtney said she hadn’t gone sledding in several years prior to this weekend.

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Beloit sees normal winter snowfalls as plow drivers work to clear up streets

BELOIT — After the area saw additional snowfall over the weekend, and another round of snow expected today, city officials are reminding residents to keep their vehicles out of the streets when possible.

Beloit Public Works Director Laura Williamson said in the middle of this winter season, the city “is in good shape” with salt reserves and equipment for plowing roads.

Each year, the City of Beloit uses on average between 2,800 to 3,000 tons of salt for an entire winter season. Williamson said the city is on track to match that amount of salt usage this season.

On average, the city sees about 27 to 28 snow events per year. So far this season, Beloit has experienced only 11 snow events, Williamson said.

Over the weekend, Williamson said public works crews were prepared for the snowfall heading into Monday.

On Friday afternoon, the City of Beloit declared a snow emergency from 8 p.m. on Saturday through 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The City of Beloit canceled its snow emergency as of 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, city spokesperson Sarah Lock said.

Residents were asked to remove their vehicles from roadways to allow for plows to come through.

Williamson said during any snow event, it is important for residents to remember to bring trash cans away from curbs, move cars into driveways and remove any other obstacles from the streets in order for plow drivers to squeeze through, particularly on narrow roadways.

“It really is helpful if people could please get off the streets whether there’s an emergency or not,” Williamson said. “Beloit snow removal crew members rely on local residents to move the vehicles so they can clear snow from all streets during bigger snow events. Our plow drivers work all day and all night to keep our community’s roads safe for travel—please help them out by moving your vehicle.”

Williamson said because this year’s snowfalls have so far been largely spaced out in one to two inches at a time, plow drivers have been out often clearing the roads.

In recent weeks, Williamson said the city has seen less snow accumulation, with more instances of freezing conditions.

“The freeze thaw is a lot more of a challenge for us,” Williamson said, adding crews are watching out for slick roads in need of treatment.

According to the National Weather Service, today will bring a 50% chance of light snow and high temperatures around 31. The chance of snow continues into the evening with lows sinking to around 27 degrees. There is a 100% chance of precipitation.

Tuesday will be mostly cloudy and bring a 40% chance of snow, with highs around 30 degrees and lows Tuesday night will be around 19 degrees.

Wednesday’s highs will be around 29 and lows Wednesday night will be around 11 degrees. The skies will be mostly cloudy with some winds.

Thursday will be mostly sunny with highs in the upper 20s and temperatures Thursday night drop to around 12 degrees.

Friday will be partly sunny with highs in the upper 20s and lows Friday night will be in the lower 20s.

Saturday will be warmer with highs in the upper 30s and lows Saturday night around 30. There is a 30-50% chance of precipitation.

Landon Daugherty, 8, of Beloit hangs ten while sledding backwards down Hospital Hill on Olympian Boulevard on Sunday afternoon. It was his first time going sledding with his younger brother.

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Vaccine rollout for 65 and up to get underway in Rock County

BELOIT — Beloit Health System will begin vaccinating those 65 and older starting on Tuesday, as the next phase in the critical rollout of COVID-19 immunizations gets underway across Wisconsin.

All vaccines will be administered at the auditorium at Beloit Memorial Hospital and be by appointment only. If you are an established patient at BHS, you are encouraged to use the MyHealth patient portal at beloithealthsystem.org/myhealth. If you are not a patient of BHS, call the vaccine phone line at 608-364-5663 to make your appointment.

“This is a vital next phase for battling the pandemic. As COVID-19 has more severe consequences in older adults, prioritizing this population is a direct effort to best protect our most at-risk patients. We will continue to keep you informed as we are eager to serve the entire community, said BHS CEO Tim McKevett.

Vaccines will be offered on the following dates:

Jan. 26 1:30—4:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 10 a.m.—1 p.m.

Jan. 30 6:30 a.m.—9 p.m.

Jan. 31 6:30 a.m.—9 p.m.

Feb. 6 6:30 a.m.—9 p.m.

Feb. 7 6:30 a.m.—2:30 p.m.

Additional vaccine clinic dates will be announced in the coming weeks, the health system release said.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin National Guard will assist the Rock County Health Department and Blackhawk Technical College in administering the remaining vaccinations for frontline health care workers and other essential personnel like police and EMS.

From Jan. 26 through Jan. 29, approximately 900 vaccine doses will be given out. The vaccination event is by-appointment only and those eligible must fill out the Phase 1A vaccination form in advance.

A direct link to the vaccination form that is required ahead of Phase 1A appointments at Blackhawk Technical College is available at forms.gle/upFZd7RHATRBW1j7A.

The health department has also established a vaccine hotline at 608-352-6727 to assist residents.

The national guard will return several weeks later to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

Beloit Public Library Head of Services Jeni Schomber places children's books into a mystery bag for a local family to pick up on Saturday morning. The mystery book bags were offered for participants in this year's Beloit Winterfest, which included a mix of in-person and virtual activities.