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USD 377 bring mask mandate back to the elementary school
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A mask mandate is re-instated for all who are not vaccinated goes in effect Tuesday, Sept. 7 for all Pre-K through sixth-grade pupils and staff at Atchison County Community Schools.

USD 377 Board of Education members narrowly approved the mandate by 4 to 3 votes during a special meeting Wednesday night at the district’s central office. Board members Corey Neill, Greg Smith, and Kelli Bottorff voted in the negative.

The vote was taken following a review of the current statistics and a discussion with Superintendent Andrew Gaddis and School Nurse Katie Madden concerning a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the schools. Some of the discussion centered on the option for the Test to Stay Opt-in On-Site Screening consent forms and an explanation of contact and quarantine options. Board members voted 6 to 1 to approve the amended form to read bus can transport students in the afternoon who have tested negative with the past 24 hours, effective Friday, Sept. 3. Vice-president Barbara Chapman voted in the negative.

Chapman chaired the meeting in person, board members Nancy Keith and Greg Smith were also present at the office. Board President Lori Lanter, board members, Bottorff, Neill, and Jim Cormode were all present via Zoom platform as well as Gaddis and Madden.

Chapman emphasized that she was only speaking from her viewpoint, and shared her insight about the pandemic.

“My concern is I have a feeling we need to go back to a mask mandate,” Chapman said. “Masks prevent it (COVID-19). I’ve seen it at my job and I just lost a loved one all due to COVID. I’m for masking everybody.”

Keith seemingly wholeheartedly agreed.

Prior to the vote, board members also discussed the results of a teacher survey concerning wearing masks. The results showed more than half the elementary school teachers would feel more comfortable if students and staff were wearing masks. The junior-senior high school teacher survey indicated they were comfortable without a mask order.

Board members agreed that vaccinations are optional for the junior and senior high students-aged students. Lanter said that they will also have to remove their masks to participate in athletic activities and sports.

Smith conveyed his belief that most of the high-schoolers would likely take their masks off after they leave the school building and interact with each other.

Gaddis told board members that they can continue to re-visit the mask issue and other COVID protocols at their upcoming meetings.

Concerning other matters, board members:

Unanimously approved the proposed 2021-2022 budget as presented to authorize expenditures not to exceed projected expenditures of about $3.3 million with a 41.223 mill levy.

Before the budget was approved, board members passed Resolution No. 2021-27 that authorized the district to exceed the Revenue Neutral Tax Rate calculated for 2021-2022 in accordance with 2021 SB 13.

Unanimously approved a request from the Atchison County Community High School Student Ambassadors to sponsor the revival of the Homecoming Parade within the perimeter of a few blocks of ACCS facilities, and community members are welcome to the event.

The Ambassadors agreed the plans are that each class will be allowed to have a float and candidates will have a vehicle to ride in. The plans are that the parade will precede the Homecoming bonfire tradition.

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Kansas programs abounding for Atchison area

Some ongoing and recent improvements in the Atchison area are what Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has had in mind to foster vitality and economic development to benefit citizens and communities throughout the state.

The Office of Rural Prosperity has been introduced under Kelly’s administration to boost the economy and interests for the majority of the communities where most Kansas reside and shop daily focusing through the lens of the entire state instead of the few more populated urban areas.

Kelly said the initiative is one she campaigned on that has now come to fruition administered through the Kansas Department of Commerce. Its core is to encourage opportunities for entrepreneurship for the sustainability of the communities for the generations of residents to remain or relocate to rural Kansas. The ORP can also assist communities to identify needs for residences and encouragement to ensure fulfillment of some needs like a lack of childcare, broadband transportation infrastructure.

Through the ORP resources are made available to communities by cost-share projects and various programs.

The recent transition from the former Mall removal to the conversion of a two-street for vehicle traffic in the 500 and 600 blocks of Commercial Street was made possible by a cost-share program between the Kansas Department of Transportation and the City of Atchison.

These cost-share projects administered by K-DOT enhance the communities and allow communities to fulfill their need to improve and/or repair the needs of roads, sidewalks, and connecting links for all modes of vehicle and pedestrian travel.

The cost-share projects offer local governments opportunities to leverage their resources with the state for infrastructure improvements.

KDOT is preparing to host public Local Consult meetings as part of the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program part of the second round of cost-share funding projects. Participants will have to discuss their communities’ transportation priorities for expansion and modernization projects. Currently, the funding is awarded in 2-year cycles, Kelly said.

The Kansas Main Street Program has launched in Kansas in 1985 but discontinued in 2012 during Governor Sam Brownback’s administration. In 2019 Kelly’s administration reintroduced the program and sought applications from Kansas communities to be a part of the reinstatement by the deadline in December 2020. In early March, Kelly announced Atchison, Baldwin City, and Junction City are the newest cities on the Kansas Main Street block rounding out the number to 28 designated cities statewide.

Before Kelly’s Main Street announcement, work had already begun within weeks after the start of 2021 to remove the downtown Commercial Street Mall that was installed after the White Clay Creek flood events of 1958 devastated the downtown area. In 1963 the pedestrian mall was built, and numerous businesses occupied the building along the 400, 500, and 600 blocks of Commercial Street. Throughout the years some of these buildings have been vacated.

Kelly recalled a visit to Atchison sometime before her gubernatorial term.

“I can remember being in Atchison walking down the Mall and seeing some boarded-up buildings,” Kelly said, and added the sight at that time was a rather depressing sight.

The Main Street Program in Atchison, revitalization of the downtown resurgence fits hand in hand with the ORP concept to attract new businesses and grow entrepreneurship. Re-development of housing needs is also a focus and is a key element to revive the downtown core.

The State is engaging housing experts to study where the gaps in housing are and to encourage downtown developers about the downtown housing in rural Kansas communities.

Kelly said a recent workshop, “Upstairs Downtown” was attended by 125 potential developers, and focused on the restoration of the second story in the downtown corridors in rural communities.

Broadband infrastructure is another focus of the Kansas Department of Commerce the ORP and the Office of Broadband Development. Broadband and bringing its connectivity to Kansas communities is a key component to their economic development, Kelly said.

Atchison County has benefitted from funding earmarked for broadband expansion administered through the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas grant. Currently, underway is the installation to bring more high-speed internet connectivity and capabilities throughout Atchison city limits and to some rural communities like Lancaster and Effingham.

Through the Office of Broadband Development, there are Broadband Infrastructure Competitive Funding Opportunities for communities, development organizations, local leaders, and businesses.

Kelly said these are funding opportunities to make the broadband capability more affordable for families and small business owners and organizations of lower-income levels.

Kelly said she is also anticipating more federal funding will become available to address the infrastructure needs in Kansas to fill in gaps that will better ensure all Kansans will have broadband abilities available to them.

“Our intention is to broaden the reach,” Kelly said.

Introduced in time for the 2021-2022 schoolyear is the HB 2064 Kansas Promise Scholarship Act to provide scholarships for postgraduate students to attend certain programs at eligible community colleges, technical colleges, and some other accredited technical institutes.

The newly expanded Diesel Technology Program and some other existing programs offered at the Highland Community College campus in Atchison are good examples of the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act and its mission to provide higher education training with a focus on the industry needs, Kelly said.

As far as another education matter, Kelly said she is hopeful in-person learning continues throughout the school year, and that she appreciates the school districts doing all they can to keep the students well. She encourages all eligible people to get their vaccinations.

Prior to her tenure as Kansas Governor, Kelly served multiple terms in the Kansas Senate representing the 18th District comprising portions of Wabaunsee, Shawnee, and Pottawatomie counties.

Run/Walk for fallen soldiers coming Patriot's Day
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SPC Aaron Daniels, of the Kanas National Guard, 108th Aviation Division, and his sister Ashley Flory welcome all to and join a special run for an upcoming event to honor patriots, remember the fallen and ease the pain of loss.

The siblings and Kasey Cortner are hosting a 5k Run/Walk for Fallen Soldiers at 11 a.m. Saturday, at Atchison Riverfront Park.

There is no cost to run but suggested donations are appreciated and will go to benefit the families and children of the fallen soldiers and marines. All donations are designated to go to fallenpatriots.org and in remembrance of the 13 soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan to the fallen soldiers.org charity. “We were motivated to help the families of the fallen soldiers,” Daniels said. Because we recently lost a parent and we know the pain all too well.”

Flory agreed. “We recently lost our mother to cancer,” Flory said. “Although she didn’t fight for our country, the pain of losing her is still there. If we can help the families of the fallen, just a little, we want to do just that.”

The will be a rest stop/water break at the VFW. After the break runners/walkers and supporters will head back to the Riverfront.

Later at 5:30 p.m., there will be a Patriots Day Remembrance along the Riverfront near Veterans Memorial Park. Flory and Daniels invite the runners and walkers to hang around and remember the 2,996 lives that were taken on Sept. 11, 2001, and the many U.S. Military Service members and allies who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

Event T-shirts are available for purchase: The first round of purchase money is due Sunday, Sept. 5 to receive your shirt before the event; money received after Sunday will go to the second round of distribution of shirts after the 5k run event.

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Atchison student passes away due to battle from cardiac arrest
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Rocky Delfs, sophomore at USD 409 passed away Wednesday morning after having a cardiac arrest due to Brugada Syndrome while working out last week after school.

Delfs was found unresponsive along the track by a staff member at Atchison High School last Thursday. Atchison County EMS responded to the scene and transported the student by ambulance to a medical center for emergency care.

Atchison High School said in a statement on Facebook that there is no information on memorial services for Delfs at this time.

“The school’s Crisis Response Team will be available to help students work through any grief they may experience as a result of this news. Please reach out to the school if you have any questions. At this time, we do not have any information regarding memorial services, but we will pass that information along as it becomes available.”

Delfs is also going to be an organ donor according to the high school as well.