08-13-2020 Focus on school reopening fills Coloma School Board meeting;



50th wedding anniversary celebrated by Dennis & Shirley Churchill

Dennis and Shirley Churchill celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Aug. 1, 2020. Due to COVID-19, a party planned by their son and daughter-in-law, Jason Churchill and Cynthia Orlaske, had to be canceled. In lieu of the party they spent a wonderful day with Jason and Cynthia at home. Dennis and Shirley met in October 1969 on a blind date, introduced by a mutual friend. Shirley grew up in New Troy, Michigan and was in the first graduating class of River Valley High School in 1967. Dennis was born and raised in Benton Harbor and graduated from Benton Harbor High in 1965. Dennis entered the United States Air Force in 1965 and served four years as an Aircraft Mechanic. After their marriage they resided in St. Joseph until May of 1974 when they moved to a small farm in Watervliet. In 1988 they moved closer to town in Watervliet where they remain today. After the birth of their son Jason in 1973, Dennis and Shirley built their lives together and enjoyed many hobbies. While living in the country in Watervliet they had horses, with Dennis, Shirley and Jason, all showing their horses. In the summer they had swimming pool and volleyball parties at their farm. It was a fun place to raise a family. Once they moved closer to town they took on the hobby of collector cars and going to car shows. At this point their son had joined the United States Air Force in 1991 and eventually made a career of 20 years, retiring in 2011. Through the years Dennis and Shirley continued to be active, riding motorcycles, doing numerous motorcycle trips, riding ATVs in the Upper Peninsula, and now traveling the country. Their favorite place to travel is out west where they have made eight trips. Dennis worked at Whirlpool Corporation for 19 years and lost his job when the plant closed. He then went to Gast Manufacturing where he worked for 17 years. After leaving Gast Mfg. he worked at Home Depot for 10 years until he retired. Shirley worked at Gast Manufacturing for two years and then took time off to raise their son. After Jason started school Shirley worked at RESA for six years and then went back to Gast Mfg. for another 20 years until retirement. Besides traveling Dennis and Shirley love to spend time in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and enjoy the Backcountry Trails on their 3-wheel recumbent bicycles, getting together with their family and friends and spending time with Jason and Cynthia. Life is good.


Focus on school reopening fills Coloma School Board meeting

By Annette Christie The Coloma School Board meeting held on Monday, Aug. 10, contained a lot of discussion on the school re-opening scheduled for August 31. Each principal shared that a lot of time has been spent getting the classrooms ready, removing extra furniture and personal items, and cleaning, sanitizing, and cleaning and sanitizing. Some of the administrative staff is returning to the buildings and communications are in the works with the families that have selected virtual learning. Teachers and staff will be working on doing virtual Back to School nights, as well as providing introductions and tours of the buildings. This will help especially with the students that are switching to an upper grade school. The videos will be put on the district’s YouTube channel and will be emailed to all the students. Intermediate School Principal Karra Hafer reported to the board that the summer migrant program went very well. There were 52 students enrolled and it was estimated that 30 were on site. The morning program was better attended than the afternoon program. Hafer noted that all the staff, teacher teams, and food service employees were great in their support of the program. Superintendent Dave Ehlers announced that it is estimated they will have 15 students enrolled in Coloma Community Schools as a School of Choice student. There are 76 students enrolled currently for Kindergarten classes. The district will play host to a backpack giveaway sponsored by the Berrien Community Foundation. From 4-6 p.m., on August 18 helpers will be on site to handout backpacks and other resources to students and families. Virtual will be the way for several upcoming events including staff first day back and professional development. The new staff orientation will be held August 24 & 27. The district is still in search of a band director, speech pathologist and some paraprofessional positions that recently became vacant. During the maintenance update, Ehlers said that all the faucets have been upgraded to touch free options. Many hand sanitizer stations have already been installed in all of the buildings, and they will continue adding those to make sure they are easily accessible by students and staff. The paving outside the high school has begun and the gym roof replacement is almost done. The board did approve spending $4,040 for a core sample analysis of the east high school parking lot. School Board President Heidi Ishmael said she and the superintendent have been collaborating with a lot of other school boards; there has been a lot of discussion with all the superintendents of the Berrien County districts working on the school re-opening which is really a moving target. She commented that there has been a lot of unity going into this as they are trying to be cohesive with all districts in the county. “Three weeks from today we are opening schools,” Ishmael said. Town Hall recap Last week, Ehlers held a school town hall live on Facebook. He explained that the last several months of planning has been challenging especially with the ever changing guidelines. Ehlers said, “There is no easy way to do this.” The Governor’s Safe Start Plan is currently in phase 4; however, if the Governor puts the state back to phase 3 of that plan, the district would have no choice but to go with an overall e-learning plan. Ehlers said he expects that for most of the school year it will be in phases three and four. The district sought out input from several sources in order to create the documents used to develop the plans. Included in that input was a Wellness Committee, staff surveys, parent surveys in which parents overwhelmingly said get their kids back to school as safe as can be, collaboration with area superintendents, the Governor’s Executive Orders, MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-2021 Return to School Road Map, and in consultation with the Berrien County Health Department. “The difficult part is to balance safety and education, and we have done as good of a job as we can to find that balance,” Ehlers said. They anticipate constant re-evaluating of the plans. As noted earlier, staff has done everything they can to create as much space between the desks; however, they cannot get them six feet apart with the resources and space that they have. From a personal protection standpoint, and as required, every student will wear face coverings when on a bus and in common spaces. Students in grades K-5 don’t have to wear them in the classroom as they will remain in their classroom all day; however, secondary level 6-12 must wear them all day except when eating. The district will be providing additional lessons on hygiene, cover hand washing, and noting the installation of a lot of sanitizers throughout all buildings. Parents will be asked to self-screen their students before sending them to school. Staff will all be self-screening as well. Food service for the students will be handled differently, as expected. Lunches will be provided in individual boxes with whatever the offering is for the day. Elementary students will eat in their rooms, while 6-12 grades will pick up their lunches and be spread out to social distance. In addition, the secondary level has added a third lunch serving time to help spread kids out. As for extracurricular activities, those than can meet virtually will be able to do so. As far as athletics, the district will do whatever MHSAA determines and are waiting for guidance. Ehlers assured those watching that if they had to go to the e-learning option, due to the state returning to phase 3, the district will try to do this as close to in-person learning as it can be.

Chronic Pain PATH workshop offered virtually

Region IV Area Agency on Aging will offer the Chronic Pain PATH (Personal Action Toward Health) workshop delivered virtually by Zoom, beginning Aug. 18. Chronic Pain PATH is a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program that was developed and tested by Stanford University. The workshop is a six-week program that teaches practical skills for living a healthy life with chronic pain. The focus is on self-care, learning new coping strategies and sharing personal experiences. Some of the things participants will learn are how to: exercise to maintain and improve strength, flexibility and endurance; overcome stress and relax; and pace activity and rest. Classes are scheduled to meet every Tuesday online Aug. 18 until Sept. 19 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Cost for the class is FREE. Donations are gratefully accepted. Family members, friends and caregivers are also encouraged to attend. Class size is limited, and pre-registration is required. For more information or to register for the class, contact Julie Schwarz at (269) 982-7759 or julieschwarz@areaagencyonaging.org.

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