If things go as they’re being proposed right now, secondary school students in the Kelso School District will start school ten minutes earlier in the 2015-2016 school year, while elementary school student will be in class ten minutes longer, as the district works to comply with state law. School Board President Patty Wood says that this might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually quite significant. State law now requires 1,027 instructional hours, effective in 2015-2016, up from 1,000 hours in the current school year. Business Director Scott Westlund says that a large and diverse group of teachers, classified staff, parents and others worked on this issue for more than a year, finally settling on this proposal to add ten minutes to the school day. Westlund and Wood also say that this slight tweak will also help to ease pressure on bus drivers, giving them more time to complete secondary school bus runs before having to transport elementary school kids. The recommendation was presented as an information item at last night’s Kelso School Board meeting; action is expected in the near future.
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Music students from high schools all around the area will be spending quite a bit of time at Lower Columbia College during this week, taking part in regional competitions. Today, the Regional Band Competition will be going on all day long at the Rose Center for the Arts. Tomorrow is the Regional Orchestra Competition and Thursday will be the Regional Choir Competition. All three events are day-long competitions.
A class for adults who need help in learning how to use their personal computer, laptop or tablet may want to head over to the Longview Public Library this evening, as a Computer Class for Adults gets under way. The class starts tonight, and will be held Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Library Auditorium. The classes are scheduled to run from 6 to 7:30 pm. You do NOT need a Longview Library Card to participate, but there is a limit of 18 participants. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Call Elizabeth Partridge at 442-5321 for more information, and to get signed up.
Organizers of several fundraising events in support of a Winlock family who recently lost three family members in a house fire say that they raised more than $11,000 to help support the survivors. This past Saturday, there was a yard sale, a motorcycle poker run and a benefit lunch, all being held with the intent of raising money to help Felix Cuvreau and his two young sons. They survived a house fire in Winlock late last month, a fire that resulted in the deaths of Samantha Koehler, 31, Bethany Cuvreau, 4, and Tabitha Cuvreau, 2. The poker run reportedly brought in about $7,000, while the yard sale and lunch at Winlock Elementary School collected another $4,300. Donations for the Cuvreau family is still being accepted at any Umpqua Bank branch.
This past Friday, the Longview Fire Department held its first-ever Firefighter Awards and Recognition Banquet, honoring a number of firefighters for outstanding service and contributions. Master Firefighter Graham Lasee and Master Firefighter Luke Amos were presented with Community Service Awards, along with the team of Lieutenant Derek Stabell, Master Firefighter Kevin Broschat and Firefighter/Paramedics Dan Jones, Seth Cornelius, Aaron Flemens and Dave Lamb, honored for their work with the Spencer’s HeartStrong Foundation. Years-of-Service milestones also went to six members of the department. Firefighter/Paramedic Dave Lamb is the 2014 Firefighter of the Year, honored for his work as a firefighter and for his work in the community.
The American Red Cross reports that they’re assisting two adults and a dog after a Saturday night fire at a home in the 100 block of Burma Road, east of Castle Rock. Few details are being released at this time, other than to say that the Red Cross provided lodging, food, clothing, “comfort kits” and other information about disaster relief and mental health services. Additional information should be coming out later today from Cowlitz Fire Districts 3 and 6.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is announcing that the Commander of the Northwestern Division has signed off on a “record of decision” for the Final Environmental Impact Statement connected to the Double-Crested Cormorant Management Plan. This R-O-D documents the decision and rationale for adopting the plan to reduce the numbers of endangered salmon and steelhead that are being eaten by the Cormorants. “Reasonable and Prudent Alternative action 46” calls for a reduction of predation by Cormorants, focused on reducing the numbers of birds nesting on East Sand Island. The goal is to reduce the number of breeding pairs on the island to between 5,300 and about 6,000, and they say that this plan gives the best route for achieving that goal. Full details about the plan are now posted on the Corps of Engineers web page.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is reporting that there are some preliminary discussions under way to “downlist” the endangered Columbian White-Tailed Deer. In the Wahkiakum County Eagle, managers of the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Refuge say that deer populations are up along the river, increasing after some deer were moved from the Refuge to areas like the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. After some initial setbacks, those deer appear to be thriving. They say that it will be time for another assessment in a year or so, and if the numbers are still positive, there could be some additional discussions about moving the deer from “endangered” to “threatened.”
A Friday search warrant from the Longview Police Street Crimes Unit ends up with two more people behind bars. Detectives served the warrant at a home in the 600 block of Peardale Lane in Longview, and claim to have found meth, heroin, scales, paraphernalia and other items connected to illegal drug sales. Scott William Johnson, 53, is now under arrest for possession of heroin and possession of meth. Jessica Leora Demoss, 34, is also under arrest, charged with possession of meth. The investigation is continuing.
While the Port of St. Helens is once again being denied an ConnectOregon allocation to renovate the dock at Port Westward, two other Columbia County projects are getting dollars from that program. Teevin Brothers Land and Timber is being awarded $2.3 million for expansion and upgrades of its intermodal shipping facility at the base of the Lewis and Clark Bridge. The money will go for property acquisition, extended rail service, an all-weather operating surface, utility upgrades and security improvements.
Columbia County Rider is also getting $543,000 for development of a new transit center in Rainier. Currently, CCR is using the old Estby gas station on Highway 30; this money would help pay most of the costs for construction of a new transit center on that site. The total project cost is put at 678 thousand dollars.