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Mask requirement to stay awhile at USD 409
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The masking requirement will remain in place for the Atchison Public Schools for a while even into the New Year as agreed by a consensus of school board members during their regular meeting.

Masks and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the school's buildings among students, staff, and Atchison County were among the topics discussed Monday, Dec. 10 at Central School.

Dr. Renee L. Nugent, superintendent of 409 schools, said the district held steady throughout the semester with no more than one or two positive COVID cases at one time until November when the cases climbed to three positives. After Thanksgiving, the number doubled from three to six. As of Dec. 6, there were 11 positive cases. Countywide the COVID count also reflected an upward trend. Board members agreed they have concerns that during Christmas there might be greater risks of infection as families gather, and possibly it might be a better time to re-visit the issue in January.

Nugent and board members that included outgoing Board Member Rep. John Eplee, MD, credited the school principals for keeping their masks on and diligently testing to make sure the kiddos and students can stay in school during the pandemic.

Eplee strongly recommended the mask requirement at this point due to COVID activity in the community as a whole that appears to be increasing as related to new variants. “The masks are more a benefit than a risk,” Eplee said.

Before Eplee left his seat at the USD 409 Board of Education table, his colleagues bid him adieu accolades of appreciation for his service throughout his three 4-year terms.

Board President Carrie Sowers presented Eplee with an engraved plaque to mark his years on the board and thanked him.

Eplee has been a great mentor and a great friend to the district, Sowers said.

Eplee reflected on some of what he considered to be accomplishments throughout his tenure, like to see an evolving ability to make the district more tech-savvy, and a bond levy to improve the quality of education for all students as well as some structural and capital improvements.

“This is not a rubber-stamp board,” Eplee said as he referred to the rounds of mascot controversy and the emergence of the Phoenix, a mascot that seemingly is an uniter. Eplee also credited his years on the school board for his inspiration to pursue a seat in the Kansas Legislature in an effort to ensure education is adequately funded. He shared his belief and confidence the matter is currently on track for the foreseeable future.

In January, Deborah Eplee will fill the seat Eplee, her husband, vacated. She was successful in her bid to run as a school board candidate for a 4-year term as a result of the general election in November.

Board members observed a moment of silence in a memorial tribute to Ramona Wilson, a first-grade teacher at Atchison Elementary School who unexpectedly died a few days prior to the meeting.

Concerning other matters, Board members:

Excused themselves from public sessions go behind closed doors for 15 minutes to discuss matters of non-elected personnel with Scott. Board members returned, and after the public meeting resumed, they unanimously took the following action:

> Accepted resignations from Atchison High School Head High School Volleyball Coach Liz Harris; AHS Assistant Volleyball Coach Jodie Stillwell; Ethel Lynne Ball, in-school suspension and National Honor Society sponsor; and Paraeducator Kathryn (Kathy) Estes all effective at the end of the 2021-22 schoolyear. Ball and Estes are resigning for retirement purposes. Ashley Funk – the fourth-grade spring lunch supervisor at Atchison Elementary School resignation was effective Dec. 17.

Board members accepted resignations from the following paraeducators: Alexandria Denton, effective Nov. 11, and Regan Magee, effective Dec. 3, both from Atchison Middle School; Ann Smith, effective Dec. 16 from AES; and Carley Chase, effective Dec. 10, AHS.

> Made recommendations for employment: Kathryn Johnson to serve as COVID Tester, for USD 409, a 2-year position, effective since Nov. 15; and Tina Denton, AMS custodian, since Nov. 29.

> Approved transfers: Peyton Nigus from kindergarten special education teacher at AES to Ninth-12th grade, Special education teacher at AHS, effective Monday, Jan. 3, 2022; and Annalese Schelvan, AES, from kindergarten teacher to special education teacher, at AES, effective Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

> Approved supplemental contracts for Taylor Funk – AHS assistant wrestling coach; Elliot Smith – AMS eighth-grade lunch supervisor; and Payton Nigus – women’s assistant wrestling coach at AHS.

Concerning other matters, board members:

> Heard a report and from Director Lucas Hunziger, Technical Education, Highland Community College, about activities and updates.

> Heard a report from Principal LaTisha Downing, about the Central School classes, activities, and transition from the former building to the new location in the formers Roosevelt Building at 301 ½ North Fifth Street. Student activities include Poetry Cafe, The ARK, Random Acts of Kindness Club, and numerous service projects. Downing said 57 students are served at Central School, the visible learners rise and shine and start each day with a creed, and successful family engagement activities.

> Re-appointed Jim Smith to serve another 4-year term on the Atchison Recreation Commission. Smith was the only patron to express an interest to serve on the Commission Board. Smith’s current term expires Friday, Dec. 31.

>Heard from three different individuals address the board during the time set aside for public comments. Laura Calhoun about inclusion training; Mary Beth Wohlgemuth, a speech paraeducator, expressed concerns between students and classified staff; and Allison Marschean about diversity and inclusion, and potential risks associated with a lack of masking hygiene.

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Theaters hope for big sales from upcoming blockbusters
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As a rocky year for the movie business comes to a close, sequels to “The Matrix,” “Spider-Man” and “Sing” are giving local cinemas hope.

At the Fox Theatre in Atchison, Kansas, executive director Travis Grossman said while business is better than 2020, it remains unpredictable.

“We’ve hit a couple of snags through there with just people not coming out for whatever reason. It’s just hard to kind of put a bead on it,” he said.

With the holiday movie season in full gear, he’s looking at releases like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Sing 2” and “The Matrix Resurrections” to help steady the ship as it goes into 2022.

“We’re just stacking them up. When it rains, it pours. It just is what it is. And you know what? Good problem to have compared to last year at this time,” he said.

At this point in 2020, cinemas across the country were hit hard. Cinemaworld, which runs Regal Theatres, including the Hollywood 10 in St. Joseph, had temporarily shut down all of its chains.

While the Fox Theatre remained open, its movie choices were slim. On Dec. 25, it got the anticipated “Wonder Woman 1984.” The catch: It was the first movie to be simultaneously released on HBO Max, via Warner Brothers and the streaming platform’s year-long deal. Grossman said that decision took the wind out of the sails of other WB movies like “Dune” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

“That was a huge (blow to business). In fact, it’s still a contributing factor,” he said. “We noticed ... When I do have a first-run film and (movie studios) wait to stream it a couple of weeks (after), it makes a huge difference. Our box office is so much more robust. When they streamed those movies at the same time, it’s flat.”

Grossman said the theater saw successes with cinema-exclusive movies like “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Clifford The Big Red Dog” and the animated “The Addams Family 2.”

The same could be said for the domestic box office, with the biggest money-makers being films that weren’t available on streaming, like “No Time to Die,” “F9: The Fast Saga” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

Grossman considers 2021 a “break-even” year, as opposed to months of hemorrhaging money, like in 2020. While it’s an improvement, it’s still not optimal.

“We can’t take it on the shorts and expect that’s the new norm, because nobody’s gonna stay in business. We don’t show up to break even. We need to make money so we can move forward,” he said.

With the HBO Max deal ending at the start of 2022, as well as several future blockbusters on the horizon, Grossman said he expects business to steady in 2022.

“I think (studios) are starting to kind of figure things out,” he said. “We just need folks to come back out to the theater. It’s a huge industry nationwide. A lot of jobs depend on it. A lot of products depend on it. And I think Hollywood understands that. I think that they realize they make more money at the box office than they do streaming.”

For Grossman, he said beyond the holiday season, the upcoming spring 2022 slate looks promising, with “The Batman,” “Sonic The Hedgehog 2” and a certain delayed Tom Cruise movie.

“We’re looking forward to ‘Top Gun: Maverick’. That got pushed back twice,” he said. “Hopefully this will all get better in the long, but we’ll be hanging in there. There’s hope on the horizon.”

Tiger leaders tweak school calendar
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Some changes are in store for the near future at the Atchison County Community Schools by way of the recent action taken by USD 377 Board of Education members.

After some discussion, board members amended the 2021-2022 school calendar to change Dec. 20-21 from student contact days to Staff Development Days. The amendment passed by 5 votes in the positive, Corey Neill abstained and Greg Smith was absent.

Board members also voted to set the first regular board meeting date in the New Year to 6:30 p.m. for Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Superintendent Andrew Gaddis suggested that in the future it would be of more interest if teachers and facilitators would present curriculum feature and updates about their classwork and projects. Board members agreed by consensus that would be insightful to them.

The board members also accepted recommendations regarding personnel from the consent agenda. Joy Brown was hired to serve as the new business board clerk and business manager. The job will commence Jan. 1 at $45,000 a year salary.

Other personnel matters include: approval of supplemental for: Mike Eckert – assistant junior high girls basketball coach; and Cole Olberding as assistant junior high boys basketball coach.

Accepted the resignation from Paul Thomas as assistant wrestling coach; and made salary adjustments for Dwight Myer, Earnie Bautista and Cy Wallisch.

Concerning other matters, the following students, teams and/or organizations received recognitions for their accomplishments:

NEK All League Volleyball – First Team, Natalie NItz and Honorable Mention for Aleah Wallisch; NEK All League Football – First Team: Linebacker Landon Brown; Wide Receiver, Returner and Defensive Back Kieran Courter; Offensive Line Dalton Damon; and Defensive Line — Canyon Tull; Bricen Lee was named First Team Defensive Specaialist and Second Team running back; and Colton Myers earned first Team Defensive Line and Second Team Running Back: and Honorable Mention Defense — Ty Crossland;

The Atchison County Community School Sixth-grade Honor Choir participants performed Dec. 4 in Topeka, choir members who attended were: Camelia LaHue, Aubrey Wiedmaier, Alexis Ellerman, Emily Carlson, Mason Bottorff, Kaden Handke, Houston Schletzbaum, and Landyn Thomas; Kimber Worley, Madisen Mount, Brayden Sinku and Ashleigh Trichel served as alternates.

Honor Choir Director Amy Eckert was named the 2021-2022 Northeast Kansas Outstanding Middle Level Music Educator. The award was presented to Eckert the same day as choir performed.

FFA Horse Judging Team garnered a second place finish in district competition to qualify at the state competition later in the school year. Team members and their respective placings are: Third High Individual Jenna Pitts. Mace Behrenes and Emma Lanter tied for 13th place overall, Kori Wagner, Rena Vessar and Franklin Pantle.

Winning the first place team for the 1A and 2A Division at Washburn Math Day are first-place Conner Simmers; Mai Behrnes, second place and Ashtyn Jolly in third place.

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Atchison Middle School KAY Club among the tops in Kansas
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Six members of the Atchison Middle School KAY Club recently attended the Area One KAY Regional Conference, and came home with the state gold.

The AMS Club received the Gold Award, recognizing their student leadership and service to their school, community, nation and world for the 2020-21 school year. The conference was Nov. 2, at Santa Fe Trail High School in Carbondale. The recent recognition marked the third consecutive year, The AMS KAY Club has earned the Gold Award distinction at the state level.

The Kansas Association for Youth, commonly known as KAY, is a character-building, leadership training program directed by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. This nationally acclaimed organization provides students an opportunity to learn how to assume their citizenship responsibilities and enrich their personalities through well-organized programs. These programs emphasize four areas of service: school, community, nation and world.

The theme for the 2021 Regional Conference was “THE POWER OF ONE”!

KAY Club Board members from AMS, Jack Bilderback, Jackson Snowden, Zachary Tschauder, Celine Healy, Emma Finnegan and Grady Clark attended the conference to represent the AMS Chapter.

AMS Math Teacher Stephanie Affield serving as KAY CLUB sponsor, accompanied the group.

“I am so proud of the members and their service to others,” Affield communicated by email to the Globe.

The conference affords opportunities for student leaders and sponsors from neighboring clubs to share successes and challenges, as well as exchange ideas. Sessions in leadership training and organizational skills are also offered. These conferences inspire delegates to return to their clubs to challenge their local members.

KAY members can earn KAY Gold, Blue or Red service award for projects they work together on as a club to provide leadership, service and to promote school spirit.

The Gold Award is the equivalent to winning a state championship, said Assistant State Director Annie Diederich, of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Diederich praised the AMS KAYS Club and its board members for their efforts during the recognition at the conference.

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Main Street Kansas pays Atchison a visit
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Main Street Kansas personnel paid a visit to Atchison for a working session and a look at the progress on the downtown area. The improvements are substantial with the canopy coming down and store fronts beginning to take on a life of their own.

Main Street Kansas is a self-help, technical assistance program that targets revitalization and preservation of downtown districts through the development of a comprehensive strategy.

The local staff, board of directors for Main Street Atchison and local business leaders are all participating. Meeting with the staff and board of directors took up most of the morning and then everyone toured downtown.

After lunch at Lickity Split, meetings were held with city, county officials plus key community stakeholders. After that meeting the business owners and property owners and developers will have a time to also meet.

A wrap up session was held on Thursday morning.