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Snowfall causes few problems, but big chill is coming

Rock County residents made it through a snowy New Year’s Day with few problems, but the area is in for some frigid temperatures in the coming week.

Snowplows were out across the county in full force Saturday as snow started piling up. The city of Janesville and other municipalities declared snow emergencies to allow for effective snow removal operations.

In Janesville, about 3 inches of snow was measured. In Delavan, 4.8 inches of snow was recorded. At the Rockford-Chicago International Airport, 4.8 inches of snow was recorded. By this time of the season, the area typically averages 7 to 10 inches of total snowfall.

The National Weather Service is forecasting mostly mild winter temperatures at the beginning of the week, but by midweek, they are expected to plunge below zero.

Monday will be sunny with high temperatures around 20 degrees with winds from the southwest at 5 to 15 mph. Lows Monday night will be around 12 degrees.

Tuesday will be partly sunny with highs in the lower 30s with south winds at 10 to 15 mph. Lows Tuesday night will be around 16 degrees. There is a 20% chance of snow Tuesday night.

Wednesday will bring a chance of light snow, possibly mixed with freezing rain. Highs will be in the lower 20s. Lows Wednesday night will be around 3 degrees. There is a 30% chance of precipitation Wednesday.

Thursday will be mostly cloudy and colder with highs around 11 degrees. Lows Thursday night will be around 8 degrees below zero.

Friday will be sunny with highs around 9 degrees. Lows Friday night will be around 2 below zero.

Saturday will be mostly cloudy with a 20% chance of light snow. High temperatures will be in the mid 20s. Lows Saturday night will be around 18 degrees.

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Bike shop helps people 'Dash' into 2022 with New Year's Day run/walk


New Year’s resolutions oftentimes consist of eating less junk food, going to the gym or reading more books. About 20 individuals ran (or walked) headlong in to 2022 by participating in the third annual New Year’s Day Bash Dash Run/Walk in icy and sub-freezing conditions Saturday morning.

Hosted by Velocity Multi-Sport and Cycling, 1327 N. Wright Road, the event included a 2-mile walk or a 5K run in which 18 people of all ages took part. The routes — shaped like the state of Wisconsin — spanned several blocks of the east-side neighborhoods around the shop.

Julia Jorgensen, a co-owner of Velocity since 2020 who called herself a support and nutrition evangelist, said she uses events like the run-walk to help champion and inspire people to chase their goals.

“I joke with my friends that this is not the place you want to come to be talked out of doing something,” she said.

Community plays a big role in attracting new customers, Jorgensen said. Many of her customers come to Velocity through referrals.

“(The) backbone of our business model is to be community-oriented and inclusive to individuals that are wanting to begin a fitness journey,” Jorgensen said.

Some use shorter runs like Saturday's to prepare for future races, as was the case for Janesville resident Zachary Dinkle. He said he got his start through Velocity and a running team in town. His decision to run, he said, was to support Velocity and his group, not start fulfilling a resolution.

“I live by lifestyle instead of just hoping for the best at the beginning of the year and seeing how long I can hold on to it,” he said.

For others, the run/walk was a family affair, despite the frigid conditions. Parker Weins, 11, said her motivation to run was the result of a friendly grudge

“I wanted to prove my dad wrong because he ditched me,” she said of her father's prior engagement.

Parker did run with her friend Shawn Fredricks, who said she did well.

“Fabulous first mile," Shawn said, “then we just sort of worked the rest of it.”

Later, as Parker saw her father, Chris Weins, arrive to see her finish the race, she jumped into his arms for a big hug. While he felt bad for not being able to run with his daughter, Chris Weins pointed out that it was the longest distance she has run up to this point.

“I rushed here this morning to get here, so to see her finish was worth it,” he said.

Dinkle, who finished his run in just under 40 minutes, said the road was slippery at times, but it was a good day overall.

“There’s not really bad days — unless you end up injured,” he said.

This story was edited to note that Fredericks is Parker Weins' friend.

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 3, 2022

Marie L. Albanese

Darlene H. (Holen) Christopherson

Jeremy Douglas Deegan

Arnold E. “Arnie” DeGarmo

Jerome Samuel “Jerry” Green

Michael Charles “Mike” Holley

Pamela W. Jeninga

Marilyn Janet Lewis

Mary E. Logan

Kevin S. Olle

Richard S. Ostrowski

Timothy M. Phetteplace

Donald Hughes Robinson

Carmen W. Saldana

Frederick G. Shadoski

Clara H. Teeter

Patricia A. (Carle) Wellhoefer

Wallace “Wally” Wilson

Alice M. Wood

Schools adapt for return from break as COVID-19 cases surge
Mask requirements are returning in some school districts that had dropped them

Mask requirements are returning in some school districts that had dropped them. Some are planning to vastly ramp up virus testing among students and staff. And a small number of school systems are switching to remote learning—for just a short while, educators hope.

With coronavirus infections soaring, the return from schools’ winter break will be different than planned for some as administrators again tweak protocols and make real-time adjustments in response to the shifting pandemic. All are signaling a need to stay flexible.

“Change has been the only constant in this fight,” Newark Schools Superintendent Roger León wrote in a notice to parents before break. He announced Thursday that students will learn remotely for at least the first two weeks of the new year. The virus, León said, continues “to be a brutal, relentless and ruthless virus that rears its ugly head at inopportune times.”

Long after the widespread closures in the pandemic’s early days, school and elected leaders say they are using the lessons and tools of the past two years to try to navigate the latest surge without long-term shutdowns, which had woeful effects on learning and students’ well-being.

Still, pressure from parents and teachers unions has added to the urgency surrounding safety measures as the omicron-fueled surge sends up caseloads and puts children in the hospital in close to record numbers.

“They say kids do well (if infected), but who’s to say my kid is not going to be that one,” said Rebecca Caldwell, who is considering petitioning her Charleston, Illinois, district for a remote option that would let her keep her four sons, ages 17, 10, 7 and 5, home through the winter.

The first half of the school year brought Caldwell’s family three scares from exposures. One, from a family member, kept the whole family in quarantine for 10 days. Her 17-year-old and 10-year-old saw classmates infected, and each underwent a nerve-wracking series of COVID-19 tests as part of a more recent “test-to-stay” policy.

“It’s really scary because you worry about the domino effect, too,” said Caldwell, whose own health issues led her to leave her restaurant job more than a year ago to lessen her risk.

In the nation’s largest school system, New York City, 2 million at-home test kits provided by the state will be used to increase testing following the break, officials announced this week. Students whose classmates test positive can keep coming to school as long as their at-home tests are negative and they don’t have symptoms.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City educators, questioned whether the new testing initiatives will be available in every school by the time schools reopen today.

“We are moving closer to a safe reopening of school next week, but we are not there yet,“ he said.

In Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school district, officials announced the purchase of 100,000 laptops over the holidays in case they are needed for remote learning in January, though district leaders said they hope to avoid a systemwide closure. The Chicago Teachers Union has proposed pausing in-person learning unless new safety measures are introduced, including negative COVID-19 tests for returning students.

Los Angeles health officials last week announced tightened testing and masking rules for all employees and students when LA County public and private schools return to campuses today. Concerned by a spike of the omicron variant, the county health department mandated that teachers must wear medical-grade masks in class and that students and staff must wear masks outdoors in crowded spaces. Schools will have two weeks to comply.

To help keep as many students in school as possible, the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona endorsed test-to-stay in December as an alternative to the previously recommended 10-day quarantines. Hundreds of schools have adopted test-to-stay policies for students who have had contact with an infected classmate.

“The goal remains to keep all schools open for in-person learning five days a week throughout the 2021-22 school year and beyond,” Cardona said in a message to schools marking the halfway point of the academic year. He said 99% of schools were open in-person in December, compared with 46% last January.

Out of more than 13,000 school districts nationwide, relatively few have announced plans to start remotely after winter break.

Like Newark, those districts generally plan to resume in-person instruction within a couple weeks. They include Cleveland; Prince George’s County, Maryland; Mount Vernon, New York; Taos, New Mexico; Chester County, South Carolina; and several New Jersey school systems.

Citing the city’s high infection rate, Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti on Friday extended the winter break for nearly 50,000 students through at least Wednesday and urged them to get tested through the district. Tests are required for employees.

Ronald Taylor, superintendent of the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, said a spike in cases and subsequent quarantining heading into the break had disrupted operations by forcing consolidation of classes where there weren’t enough staff. He said the district would be remote the first week back.

“Like many other school districts, we have seen a consistent trend, after each of our school breaks, both Thanksgiving and our fall break in early November, there has been a sharp increase in our student/staff population of COVID cases,” he said.

Masks also will make a return in some districts after break, including Hopkinton High School, the first Massachusetts public school to lift the mandate, in October. It was reinstated just before break.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where one in four people was testing positive for the virus, the school system announced Thursday that all employees, volunteers and visitors will be required to wear face coverings at schools and facilities, and students will be strongly encouraged to wear them. A state law prevents school districts from imposing mask mandates for students.

Some school systems are moving toward requiring vaccinations for students but not anytime soon. In the Los Angeles school district, which was among the first to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for students, a Jan. 10 deadline for students 12 and older was postponed until fall of 2022. Officials said the earlier date would have barred about 27,000 unvaccinated students from campuses.

The District of Columbia on Dec. 22 said all students, whether in public, private or charter schools, must be fully vaccinated by March 1.

Much about the omicron coronavirus variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta, and it is expected to become dominant in the U.S. by early 2022.

In Ohio, where hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit a record high this week, the Ohio Hospital Association is asking schools statewide to consider mandatory mask wearing as cases continue to spike.

The patchwork of responses also includes Woodbury, New Jersey’s plans to bring students in for half days for the first week, sending them home with lunch so they don’t have to remove masks in the building to eat.