Statewide Iowa — The state teachers union is calling on superintendents and school boards to include teachers and other school staff in discussions about how districts plan to use the latest batch of 770 MILLION dollars in federal pandemic relief.

State law limits teacher contract negotiations to a discussion of salaries, but ISEA president Mike Beranek says U.S. Department of Education guidelines require all school employees to be engaged in meaningful consultation in how federal funds approved in March are used.

Allison Grier, a Spanish teacher at Newton High School, says this new batch of federal funds can be used in creative ways to address student needs and learning loss.

Kelly McMahon, a kindergarten teacher at Hoover Elementary in Cedar Rapids, says the money can help address barriers to student success.

The latest round of pandemic relief funds from the federal government can be used to do things like hire new teachers, mental health counselors and school nurses or to finance summer school programs.

May 12, 2021 - 1:54 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds says there’s no reason to fear COVID-19 any longer. She says COVID case numbers in Iowa are at a 10-month low, the number of Iowa hospital patients being treated for COVID is down 90 percent from the high point in November, and about half the state’s adults are fully vaccinated.

Reynolds says it’s time to lean FURTHER into normal and that’s why she has declared that the three-hundred extra dollars in federal benefits for unemployment Iowans will end June 12th.

House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard says the governor’s move is heartless and shows Reynolds is willing to use vulnerable Iowans as a stepping stone for her own political gain. Reynolds says regular unemployment will continue. And, to other critics who say more Iowans would join the workforce if businesses offered better pay, Reynolds says the market is taking care of that.

The governor says many state employees who’ve been working from home will be returning to their offices in the coming weeks. Reynolds says state agencies are assessing which jobs can be done remotely.

Reynolds says she plans to meet with businesses and organizations over the next few days to discuss how all can return to more normal work, business and entertainment experiences.

Reynolds made her comments late Wednesday morning during a news conference to highlight the state’s response to increased demand at food pantries and food banks. Officials say more than 400-thousand Iowans are food insecure and the need for food assistance is 50 percent higher than than it was two years ago.

May 11, 2021 - 4:03 pm - Posted in News

Sheldon, Iowa — Over 250 college students will graduate this week in Sheldon.

According to Northwest Iowa Community College officials, 276 students, to be exact, will graduate in commencement exercises there on Friday, May 14, 2021. They tell us they’re doing things a little differently this year due to the pandemic. There will be two graduation ceremonies — one for nursing students and one for other students.

The Nursing Graduation and Associate Degree Nursing Pinning Ceremonies will be held at 9:30 a.m. in the Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center on NCC’s campus. The Student Keynote Speakers are Anna Maassen of Hospers, who is a Practical Nursing graduate and Karen Sanchez Guillen of Rock Valley, who is an Associate Degree Nursing graduate.

The Spring Commencement ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. also in the Northwest Iowa Lifelong Learning and Recreation Center. The Commencement Address will be given by Chad Salaets of Hartley, who is an Associate of Arts Degree graduate. President Alethea Stubbe, who is retiring soon, will be presented with the President Emeritus Distinction.

The ceremonies are not open to the public this year, again due to the pandemic. Each graduate will receive five tickets. Both ceremonies will be livestreamed, however on NCC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NWICC.

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds says Iowa has “a severe workforce shortage” and she’s joining a growing list of Republican governors who are rejecting the extra unemployment benefits included in federal pandemic relief measures.

“It’s time for everyone who can to get back to work,” Governor Kim Reynolds said in a written statement announcing the $300 added to an individual’s weekly unemployment benefits will end June 12.

Reynolds said the extra federal unemployment benefits provided “crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” but these payments now “are discouraging people from returning to work.” The governor said with a 3.7% unemployment rate, Iowa “has more jobs available than unemployed people.”

There have been extended federal benefits, beyond the traditional 26 weeks of unemployment for laid off workers, and the governor is ordering those to end June 12 as well. Iowa Association of Business and Industry president Mike Ralston issued a statement praising Reynolds for making these moves. Ralston said the extra unemployment benefits “exacerbated” the workforce shortage Iowa was experiencing before the pandemic. The director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance said Iowa’s economy “needs people to safely and responsibly get back to work.”

“It makes no sense for Governor Reynolds to pull the rug out from under unemployed Iowans while there’s still a worldwide pandemic,” Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville said. President Biden said yesterday that any unemployed American who’s offered a “suitable job” must take it or lose benefits. Biden said Americans want to work and will, if they’re paid a decent wage.

Image: IWD March County unemployment rates

Sibley, Iowa — A Sibley soldier who died more than seventy years ago is finally returning home.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Army Cpl. Eldert J. Beek was 20-years-old when he was killed during the Korean War. The Sibley native’s remains were accounted for in April, 2020.

According to the DPAA, in late 1950, Beek was a member of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported killed in action on Dec. 1, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Following the battle, his remains could not be recovered.

On July 27, 2018, following the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently accessioned into the DPAA laboratory for identification.

To identify Beek’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Beek’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. Officials say a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Beek will be buried next month in George, according to the DPAA.

Sibley, Iowa — A new dance studio is set to open in downtown Sibley. The Shining Fame Performance Studio is located at 230 9th Street, Sibley’s main business district.

Robyn Murphy is the owner of Shining Fame Performance Studios, and says the Sibley studio will be her company’s third location.

Murphy says they’ll be offering different classes for several different types of dance.

We asked her what prompted her to choose Sibley as her latest location.

We asked Murphy about the Sibley studio’s class schedule.

Murphy says she invites everybody, regardless of experience or age, to come enjoy dance at the new Shining Fame Performance dance studio in Sibley.

If you’d like more information you can visit their website at shiningfameperformance.com

 

 

Northwest Iowa — The total number of positive COVID test results in the past week has dropped in the four-county area of O’Brien, Osceola, Sioux and Lyon Counties, but the news in two of those counties isn’t quite as positive as the overall total.

Thirty total positive test results were reported in the four-county area in the past week, compared to thirty-three the previous week, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Drops in the number of positives were reported in O’Brien and Lyon Counties this week, with Lyon County reporting NO new positive test results in the past seven days. O’Brien County’s positive number was cut in half from the week before, going from eight to four, with a 3% positive rate.

The news wasn’t quite as good in Sioux and Osceola Counties, however. In Sioux County, twenty new positive tests were reported, up from eighteen last week, with a positivity rate of 5%. Osceola County saw their positive test results jump from last week’s total of one, to six this week, with a 7% positive rate.

The best news from the report is that there were NO COVID-related deaths reported in the four-county area in the past seven days, leaving the total at 187 since the pandemic began: 74 in Sioux County; 56 in O’Brien County; 41 in Lyon and 16 in Osceola County.

There is just one long-term care center outbreak in Iowa this week. Urbandale Health Care Center, which is located in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, reports an outbreak involving 19 positive cases of COVID among their residents and staff.

Sibley, Iowa — Both drivers were taken to the hospital in the aftermath of a two-vehicle crash south of Sibley Saturday morning.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, the mishap occurred at the intersection of Highway 60 and 190th Street shortly before 11:00 Saturday morning.

Deputies say a 2001 Chevrolet Impala, driven by 37-year-old Heather Lee Kruger of George, was southbound on Highway 60, and a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix, driven by 34-year-old Kaila Rae Rasmussen of Sibley, was crossing Highway 60 at 190th Street when the vehicles collided.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Rasmussen was issued citations for Failing to Yield from Stop Sign, No Insurance, No Registration, and Driving While Suspended. Kruger was issued citations for No Driver’s License and Open Container.

Kruger and Rasmussen were both transported to the hospital by the Sibley Ambulance. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office was also assisted by the Iowa State Patrol, the Sibley Fire Department and Jeddeloh Towing.

Statewide Iowa — You may’ve heard the buzz about the mass return of the insect known as the cicada after 17 years in the ground. Iowa State Entomologist, Donald Lewis, says the emergence will be from Indiana to the east coast.  Iowa has to wait until 2031 for the periodical cicada to return.

Thousand of periodical cicadas emerge at one time and cover trees and other objects. Lewis says there is an annual cicada that we will soon see here.

He says you may also find the old shell of the cicada around the yard.

They then fly around until it is time to go back underground. There are not as many of the annual cicadas. Lewis says the purpose of the insects isn’t exactly known.

He says the periodical cicadas are about three-quarters of an inch long. Lewis says a raccoon or bear or some other animal may eat cicadas — but they are too big for most predators to eat. While they may seem imposing — Lewis says cicadas are harmless to humans.

If you want to see the mass emergence of the 17-year cicada, you’ll have to head east to Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and some coastal states. The nymphs surface during late May and June.

Washington, D.C. — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is among several members of Congress asking the US Army Corps of Engineers to make flood control its priority in managing the Missouri River.

Grassley notes that it’s not the first time he’s asked the Corps to make the change, but he’s optimistic he’ll be heard this time.

Grassley, a Republican, joined the bipartisan group representing Iowa and three other states in signing a letter to the Corps this week. The federal agency’s failure to prioritize flood control in the past is being called a “real problem” by the lawmakers, as the waterway is a vital resource.

The letter encourages the Corps to simply follow federal law with the Missouri River as outlined in the Water Resources Development Act.

Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Joni Ernst also signed the letter. On Wednesday, the southwest Iowa town of Hamburg, which was hit hard by Missouri River flooding in 2019, held a groundbreaking ceremony for a major project that will raise the levee eight feet.