Gemma DiCarlo

Reporter

Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM. 

Gemma is originally from Harrisburg, Oregon, and is looking forward to covering all things Michiana. 

(Rebecca Green/WBOI)

As of Wednesday, Hoosier educators became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine through federal pharmacies, and some local school districts have already organized clinics for teachers and staff.

South Bend Community Schools Superintendent Todd Cummings says the school district partnered with the Meijer on Portage Road to offer over 1,100 shots to staff members at a clinic on Thursday.

 

JENNIFER WEINGART/WVPE

On Thursday, the Michigan Dept. of Treasury it would be issuing almost $10 million to local communities and municipalities based on revenue generated by local businesses selling marijuana since it became legal in the state for adult use recreationally.

That $10 million comes from the 10% state excise tax charged on the sale of recreational marijuana. 

 

Courtesy MACOG

St. Joseph County was recently recognized for being “solar-friendly” and for protecting pollinator habitats in its development projects. The county received the SolSmart Gold designation for meeting national benchmarks to encourage the growth of solar energy. 

SolSmart helps local governments meet those national benchmarks by streamlining zoning approvals and reviewing planning and zoning guidelines. St. Joseph County was recognized for having efficient permitting and zoning processes and training staff on solar energy codes, among other things.

Justin Hicks / WVPE Public Radio

Middle and high school students in the South Bend Community School Corporation could soon return to a four-day week of in-person classes. The school board approved a pilot program at its meeting on Monday, March 1.

Edison and Jefferson Middle School and Riley and Adams High School will be the first to send students back for a four-day week.

 

Chief Academic Officer Brandon White said the schools were chosen since their principals had already contacted him and expressed interest in participating in a pilot program. 

 

Screenshot captured via YouTube

The South Bend Community School Board approved the beginnings of a plan to turn around two underperforming elementary schools at its meeting Monday night.

(Joey Mendolia/WFIU/WTIU)

The CDC and FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use this weekend. Ahead of the vaccine's rollout, local health officials are encouraging residents to get a dose of any approved vaccine once they're eligible.

Captured via Facebook Live

At St. Joseph County and South Bend’s biweekly COVID-19 update Friday afternoon, South Bend Mayor James Mueller said officials feel that spring is on the way.

 

“It seems brighter, the weather’s warmer," Mueller said. "That’s both in terms of the actual weather, but also in terms of where we are in this pandemic.” 

 

Captured via Facebook Live

Berrien County health officials say they’re working to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine equitably throughout the county.

At the county's COVID-19 update on Thursday, County Health Officer Nicki Britten said both the health department and Spectrum Health Lakeland are working to form partnerships that will help get the vaccine to underserved populations.

 

WVPE News Stock Photos

Community members are continuing to express frustration over the South Bend School Board’s decision to close two elementary schools and “redesign” two others.

South Bend parents and community leaders spoke out at a meeting held by the Community Forum for Economic Justice to discuss the future of South Bend public schools.

 

Elkhart Community Schools students who have been learning on a hybrid plan will soon be able to return to fully in-person classes.

According to information released by the school system, K-6 students will go back to in-person classes starting Monday, March 8. Students in grades 7-12 will follow on Monday, March 15.

 

Courtesy Heidi Prescott, Beacon Health

When the Indiana Department of Health opened vaccine eligibility to individuals age 60 and up on Tuesday, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson said he signed up for his shot right away.

“I’m here, I am on it," he said. "I showed up day one, calling, ‘Can I get in?’”

 

Roberson said he wanted to get his shot publicly to help ease people’s fears about the vaccine. He said he understands vaccine hesitancy, especially in Black and Brown communities. But, he said protecting one other should be the community’s primary concern. 

 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

The South Bend Housing Authority has two weeks to relocate about 40 remaining residents from the Rabbi Shulman Apartment building. The complex was declared unsafe in November.

Housing Authority Executive Director Catherine Lamberg said the majority of those residents are still living in the Rabbi Shulman building. She said issues with the building’s gas line haven’t “escalated to the point of emergency,” and residents in units without gas have been moved to units with gas.

 

Captured via YouTube

Members of the South Bend School Board voted to close two elementary schools at their meeting on Feb. 22. The decision comes roughly a month after school corporation officials first suggested closing the schools.

The school corporation recommended in January that the school board close Hay and Tarkington Elementaries, which both utilize a low percentage of their building space. That way, school officials said, they could stop paying to operate “half-empty buildings” and instead spend the money on teachers and students.

 

Berrien County Health Department logo

The Berrien County Health Department will postpone all vaccine appointments scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23. Those appointments have been rescheduled for Monday, March 1.

(Read the full release from the health department below.)

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

The St. Joseph County Health Department was able to keep its vaccination clinic open on Feb. 22, despite missing a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the state.

The delayed doses arrived Monday morning, along with word that the health department’s vaccine allotment is expected to increase soon. 

County Health Officer Dr. Bob Einterz said the health department was expecting a regular shipment of 2,500 doses on Friday, Feb. 12.

 

Logo of the City of Elkhart

The City of Elkhart is looking to establish a grant program to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashley Elsasser, the city’s assistant director for economic development, said local businesses have struggled to compete with large delivery services and ecommerce companies during the pandemic. 

 

She said the Small Business Innovation and Adaptation Program would help level the playing field.

 

COURTESY OF BILL SPALDING

Almost a year after they first closed to the public, the Morris Performing Arts Center and the Century Center in downtown South Bend are reopening for live shows and events. The city announced the reopening Friday as St. Joseph County’s COVID-19 case count and test positivity rate continue to decline.

Jeff Jarnecke, executive director of venues for the City of South Bend, said the city had to furlough the majority of staff members at both venues when the pandemic began last March. 

 

He said Morris staffers returned to work Feb. 1, and while part of the Century Center staff is still on furlough, Jarnecke said they hope to bring the rest back in the coming weeks.

 

“Knowing that it’s starting to feel like some sense of normalcy may be coming back to us is incredibly exciting,” he said. 

 

Jarnecke said each event on both venues' schedules will be independently reviewed by the health department, and attendance will be decided accordingly.

Jarnecke said all event dates are subject to change based on the county’s COVID-19 status, but as of now, the Century Center’s first events are scheduled for March, and the first shows at the Morris are slated for April. Reduced seating capacity and social distancing will remain in place. 

UPDATE (Feb. 19):

John Glenn School Corporation Superintendent Christopher Winchell released the following statement on Friday in response to the passage of House Bill 1367. 

Justin Hicks/WVPE

As of Thursday, Feb. 18, new COVID-19 restrictions are in place for Notre Dame students, including reduced seating in dining facilities and limited visitation in residence halls. The restrictions come as new daily case counts among students are on the rise.

According to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been four days in the last two weeks where the university reported over 45 new positive daily cases. 

 

Screenshot captured via Microsoft Teams

After months of deliberation and community feedback, the city of South Bend has a new Police Use of Force Policy. The Board of Public Safety approved the policy on Feb. 17 on the condition that it would be updated frequently.

The new policy was first introduced just over a year after Eric Logan, a Black man, was shot and killed by a white South Bend police officer in 2019.

 

City of South Bend

South Bend entrepreneurs who are operating out of their basements, garages and living rooms may have a new opportunity to scale up their businesses. The city announced Tuesday it will launch a three-month training program to help local small-scale manufacturers grow.

Executive Director of Community Investment Santi Garces said “manufacturing” doesn’t have to be large-scale. He said it could also look like someone producing hot sauce or T-shirts in their home and selling them to friends.

 

(AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

The distribution of ashes at Notre Dame’s Ash Wednesday services will look a little different for this year.

According to the university’s Campus Ministry site, ashes will be sprinkled on the head, rather than marked in the sign of the cross on the forehead.

 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

With Mardi Gras parades cancelled this year due to COVID-19, many in New Orleans have decorated their houses to look like parade floats, complete with lights, props and, of course, beads. The Carnival spirit has spread beyond New Orleans, with “expats” around the country also decorating their homes – including a few in South Bend. 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Some South Bend faith leaders are calling for the city to strengthen its Police Use of Force policy, which will come before the Board of Public Safety next week.

The policy was first introduced last August, just over a year after Eric Logan, a Black man, was shot and killed by a white SBPD officer near downtown South Bend.

 

https://www.facebook.com/schoolcityofmishawaka/photos/a.296574170546563/694180190785957/?type=1&theater

As St. Joseph County’s COVID-19 metrics continue to improve, another local school district has decided to send some students back to the classroom full-time.

 

The School City of Mishawaka voted on Wednesday to begin a phased reopening for middle and high school students.

 

Screenshot captured via Facebook

Berrien County health officials are urging residents to be diligent about following COVID-19 safety protocols after the more contagious UK strain of the virus was identified in neighboring Van Buren County earlier this week.

County Health Officer Nicki Britten said while the county’s new daily case count and hospitalizations continue to decline, the variant could drive those numbers back up if residents aren’t careful about masking and social distancing.

 

South Bend activist groups once again called for more transparency in the policing process at the Community Relations Committee meeting Tuesday night.

Committee Chair Lori Hamann said the purpose of the meeting was to commemorate Black History Month by having an open conversation around police reform. 

 

Black Lives Matter – South Bend member Mya Perry said while the Common Council acknowledged the need for community policing initiatives, it has yet to implement any. 

 

WVPE News

South Bend Mayor James Mueller updated the South Bend Common Council on the financial state of the city on Monday, Feb. 8.

Mueller said while the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the city’s economy, the impacts haven’t been as drastic as officials feared.

 

“There’s a lot of work ahead as a community with residents needing opportunities, but we certainly could have fared far worse,” he said.

 

FILE PHOTO/WFYI

UPDATE (Feb. 9):

At their meetings on Monday, Feb. 8, both the South Bend and Penn-Harris-Madison school boards voted to approve their districts' plans to return certain students to full-time in-person instruction.

PREVIOUS POST (Feb. 8):

Two local school boards will vote on whether to return certain students to full-time in-person learning.

(Provided by IU Health)

A pair of Elkhart County community organizations have partnered to promote the COVID-19 vaccine through social media.

Elkhart County Community Organizations Active in Disasters, or COAD, is a network of Elkhart-area organizations working to prevent and mitigate crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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