Student athlete concussions are a hot topic these days, and the Knoxville school board agreed this week to participate in a concussion research project with CTE Hope of Indianola. Participation by athletes will be voluntary – students taking part will have a saliva swab taken before the season, after the season, and after any concussion occurs. The project will begin this spring with the Knoxville soccer teams, and is taking place in conjunction with Harvard Medical School. Superintendent Cassi Pearson says the district is hoping to find out how concussions affect the physically developing body of a teenager. Pearson says the district is also excited to give parents and student the opportunity to take part in the study.
Facing the possibility of layoffs, officials in the Newton Community School district are keeping a close eye on the state legislature this week. Last week, the house and the senate moved forward with education funding bills, a priority for governor Kim Reynolds. The governor had budgeted a 1.5% increase in school funding; the house passed a 1% increase and the senate added an additional $14 million to that amount to address transportation issues in rural districts. While superintendent Bob Callaghan said the district has been planning for a zero percent increase in supplemental state aid, the amount proposed still falls short of meeting the district’s needs. NCSD teachers are in the midst of a two-year contract, with a guaranteed 2 percent raise each year. Balancing the district’s budget may mean layoffs, and district administrators have targeted eight positions across the district to potentially be cut – four at the elementary level, three at the middle school, and one at the high school.
It was a record making week for snow in South Central Iowa, with one of the busiest winter weather stretches in recent history. According to the National Weather Service, 3-5″ of snow blanketed Marion County Saturday morning, with a final total of 5″ in Knoxville and 3.5″ in Pella. Another 1-3” fell overnight into Sunday morning, with Knoxville officially reporting 2.3″. Last week overall, between 10-14″ of snow fell in the region. The Des Moines Airport recorded measurable snow each day from February 4th through the 11th, the most consecutive days (8) with snow since 1965 and 2nd most ever on record – A much drier and more mild week is in the forecast ahead.
Family-owned and operated Lee’s Hallmark Store is slated to close this spring upon the sale of the building at 635 Franklin St. to ATI Group, a real estate development company. Lee’s Hallmark Store offered greeting cards for special occasions, unique household items and gifts for nearly four decades. The building at 635 Franklin St. was first purchased by Lee and Mary Louise Vriezelaar in 1949. With hard work and perseverance, Mary Lou became a successful business woman. She continued to grow and expand beginning with Lee’s Variety and later opening Lee’s Hallmark Mary Lou’s daughter, Jan Vande Voort, and her husband Jim, purchased the Hallmark business in 1989. In recent times Jan tried selling the business, hoping to keep a Hallmark store in Pella, but to no avail. Vande Voort said she will miss all of her wonderful customers and treasured employees, but feels this is the right time to retire.
Pella Christian High class of 1991 graduate Rachel Brand is stepping down from her post as U.S. associate attorney general, according to the New York Times. Brand became the associate attorney general in May 2017 and would be next in line of succession after deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel’s inquiry into the Russian influence in the 2016 election. Brand is reported to be taking the position of global governance director at Walmart, the company’s top legal position. President Donald Trump is reported to have considered getting rid of Rosenstein, which would leave Brand in charge of the special counsel. In a statement released on Feb. 10, Sen. Chuck Grassley said Brand is an “incredibly talented lawyer” who served the U.S. very well.
Not many people can say they came through Ellis Island when they immigrated to the United States. But one Pella resident can. Francene (Schilt) Poortinga doesn’t remember much of her family’s stop in Ellis Island, but she does remember the 12-day ship ride to the U.S. and the three-day train ride to Percy, Iowa. She was eight years old when she, her father, mother, brother Gerrit and sister Lena emigrated from the Netherlands. Poortinga, who turned 104 years old on February 10th, attended a one-room school house until the eighth grade – her father was a farmer in the Netherlands, and continued to farm when the family moved to Iowa – first to Percy, then near Prairie City, and finally on land west of Pella in 1935. Francene married her husband Francis in 1939; during WWII she sewed clothing from feed sacks. Poortinga still resides in Pella and has six grandchildren, 12 great-grand children and one great-great-grandchild. Her advice for living a long life? “Keep breathing.”
Over 20 people in Knoxville needed a place to go last week when back to back fires affected their homes, and thanks to efforts from local volunteers, everyone had a place to stay for the night. In one of those fires residents in an apartment building were forced to leave their homes for 24 hours as smoke needed to be ventilated from the building. Chuck Reeves with the American Red Cross says every person affected by the fire had a place to go when tragedy struck, thanks to a collaboration among Marion County Emergency Management, Marion County Public Health and the Red Cross. Reeves says he’s thankful Kim Dorn and her staff at Marion County Public Health along with Marion County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson for working together to help out the people in need.
Two Knoxville High School students accepted an invite to the Hawkeye Boys State Camp presented by the Batty Tucker Post 168 of the American Legion Thursday. Juniors Elliot Schmidt and Nyan Baker were chosen by the legion to attend the camp; The week-long event gives the young men a hands-on experience in the operation of the democratic form of government, the organization of political parties, and the relationship of one to the other in shaping Iowa government. Baker says learning about government is important to him and should be important to students today because they will shape the future and it’s important to continue to learn from their past. The camp will be held June 10th through the 15th at Camp Dodge in Des Moines.
The flu outbreak continues to be deadly, both across the nation and right here in the Hawkeye state. As of January 27th the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) reported 77 deaths in Iowa as a result of the flu. Nurse Judi Van Hulzen with Marion County Public Health says influenza usually lasts about seven days and includes symptoms such as fatigue, fever, congestion and cough, as well as body aches. Van Hulzen says the flu can result in pneumonia and sometimes death – She recommends people get the flu shot as well as cover their cough, wash their hands and stay home when sick. The CDC is also reporting 33 schools in Iowa that have 10% or more students absent due to the illness.
State Representative Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa) announced today that he will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2018. First elected in 2010, Vander Linden represents House District 79, covering portions of Mahaska and Marion counties, including Oskaloosa and Pella. Why quit now? After more than three decades of public service, Vander Linden felt the time was right to step aside and allow someone new to serve. Vander Linden serves as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a role he has held for the last two years. Prior to that, he was Chairman of the House State Government Committee from 2013-2014; he’ll will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends January 1, 2019.