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Area schools announce plans to reopen

As COVID-19 case numbers continue to tick upward, area schools have announced their plans to bring students back to classrooms, but many officials say things could still change.

“This is a such a fluid situation,” Peru Schools Superintendent Sam Watkins told the Tribune on Friday.

Watkins has published his district’s plan to resume classes on Aug. 6.

Though that plan is still pending the School Board’s approval on July 21, Watkins talked a little about what has been proposed, including when and where students were going to be asked to wear masks.

“The elephant in the room is should we be mandatory on those,” Watkins said.

They won’t be, according to the proposal but are “highly recommended” in all areas that students and teachers can’t socially distance, he said.

Watkins said the proposal came after much consideration including where the Governor’s Office and state health department have come down on the issue.

They are not mandating masks either, though Watkins said Friday he would not be surprised if that comes.

Nevertheless, he said, he believed that the community “will do the right thing” and expected he would see up to 90 percent or more wearing masks once classes resume.

The plan, Watkins said, also includes enhanced sanitation and cleaning guidelines and allows for students with health needs or family concerns to attend classes virtually.

The “temporary virtual option” is being offered because parents had said it was something they wanted, Watkins said. Those courses area available after consultation with the building principal and those who opt in can still do extra curricular activities, he said.

Plans for schools in the county don’t look all that much different.

At North Miami, the plan, published on the corporation’s website, is for students to return on August 11.

Masks are recommended and virtual classes are also available for those with health needs or concerns.

“They have the option to reach out to one of our principals,” Superintendent Kenneth Hanson said Thursday.

The published plan includes guidelines for parents and students to screen for COVID-19 symptoms and lists changes that would be made in the cases of low, moderate and “substantial” spread of the disease in the buildings.

Hanson, too, said that things cold change in the coming weeks as the state and local officials monitor rising numbers and eye hot spots across the country.

“We are still working through it,” he said.

At Maconaquah Schools, masks will be required “on the bus and in the hallways” when students return on Aug. 2 Superintendent James Callane told the Tribune on Thursday.

“And if we can’t social distance in the classrooms, they will be required,” he said.

Callane said officials chose to take that step after consultation with the Miami County Health Department and the state officials.

In a “frequently asked questions” section of Maconaquah’s published plan, the district addressed the requirement in light of the state not mandating mask usage.

“The current CDC guidelines recommend that all students wear face coverings when social distancing guidelines cannot be met,” the document says. “The Indiana State Department of Health cited a 40-60 percent reduction in COVID-19 transmission when masks are used by all, which is why we are requiring them for certain portions of the day. This is especially important since some carriers of COVID-19 may not have any symptoms. Children, despite being generally less affected by COVID-19, expose school staff and adults at home who may be more at risk. Students who cannot or will not wear a face covering during the required times at school will need to utilize online learning at home.”

For more information about each corporation’s plans to reopen schools visit:

North Miami – www.nmcs.k12.in.us/

Maconaquah – www.maconaquah.k12.in.us/

Peru – www.peru.k12.in.us/

'WE DID IT': North Miami celebrates Class of 2020

The North Miami Class of 2020 took some time Sunday during an outdoor graduation ceremony to look back on their 12 years of school together and take in all that their final year threw at them.

“We’ve lost a lot, some of the best parts of our senior year,” valedictorian Thomas Lane told his fellow classmates, reflecting on the end of the school year.

But cancelled events and weeks away from classmates at the end of the year are not necessarily all to take away from the experience and the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, Lane said. Class members have their “shared experiences to look back on” and the things that they have gained through the adversity like the ability to “tackle change, head on.”

“In fact, we may be better because of what happened,” Lane said.

Those sentiments were echoed throughout Sunday’s speeches delivered from a home plate podium on the high school’s baseball diamond and broadcast with an online video to those who could not attend.

High School principal Matt Storm took advantage of the outdoor setting to make things a little different for the ceremony.

He called each graduate by name and invited each to come to home plate and walk the diamond’s bases, as they made their lap, he read out each student’s achievements and their plans for the future before they crossed home plate and received their diploma.

Superintendent Kenneth Hanson then declared them graduates before Class President Hannah McVay spoke about the year’s challenges.

Students, she said, didn’t know that March 13 was was going to be their last opportunity to enjoy a normal school day, but that was the lesson.

“We never know when our last time is, but there is a last time for everything,” McVay told her class, before making what she said was her one request for them all.

“Enjoy life,” she said, “make tons of memories and always be happy.”

Much like others, McVay said students could be upset about what they missed, but she had chosen to look at the positives that being home during the last weeks of school brought, including extra time with her father and free time to take on another job to save some extra cash.

“Perspective changes everything,” she said, before bidding her classmates farewell for the day.

“Class of 2020, we did it,” she said, “and I can not be more proud to be a warrior.”

Local artist contributes murals to community tennis courts

A local artist is spending some of his downtime this summer beautifying the local tennis courts.

“I kind of had a vision that maybe I would like to paint a mural,” Patrick Redmon told the Tribune on Wednesday. “I just proposed the idea and it was embraced.”

Redmon was at the Thrush Tennis Courts, taking a break from his coaching duties at the summer tennis clinic with a paintbrush in one hand and a clipboard in the other.

On the clipboard was a photo of a tiger with a grid carefully drawn over it.

That same grid, only larger, was drawn on a door on the courts’ office building, and Redmon was busy transferring the tiger’s image from the clipboard to the larger grid on the door.

Tigers, the Peru High School mascot, are not new to the office building. There’s a painting of one hanging in a display box on a nearby wall and Redmon said that tigers had also been on the doors in years past before they were replaced.

He has already finished one tiger mural on a door on the east side of the building and he says he has his eye on other projects once the current project is completed.

“I have in mind doing some professional athletes on these,” he said motioning to a large wall near the south courts.

That may have to wait until next year.

Redmon, who also owns Redmon Chocolate Company and is an art teacher at Maconaquah Middle School, is busy these days.

He is coaching at the clinic in the mornings, which is something he says he has enjoyed doing for nearly a decade.

And he is scheduled to teach an art seminar at a local gallery next month.

That happens Aug. 8 at Miami County Artisan Gallery as part of a new series of quarterly seminars there supported by a recent grant from the Regional Arts Partner System of the Indiana Arts Commission.

For more information about those seminars, contact Mickelson at 765-244-3242 or marlenemickelson compton1@gmail.com.

Commissioners to vote on CAFO changes Monday

The Miami County Board of Commissioners are expected to vote on changes to the county’s zoning ordinances concerning large animal raising operations.

The agenda item on confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, is a carry over item from the board’s July 6 meeting when County Attorney Steve Downs suggested proper notice for the meeting may have not been given.

That came after county resident Bonnie Arrick raised concerns about not seeing a legal notice in the Tribune.

Downs explained in the meeting that the published legal notice was only required in the paper for the public hearing held by the Planning Commission on the matter. Once that body approved the proposed changes to the ordinances, the matter simply had to be sent to the commissioners and placed on their next agenda at least 48 hours ahead of the meeting.

Though that notice went out on a Thursday morning ahead of a Monday meeting, Downs said that with the Fourth of July holiday closing offices on Friday may not have left sufficient time for proper notice.

If they vote then to adopt the changes it will bring to an end a months-long process to review local ordinances concerning the hog barns.

That began in October when more than 40 county residents showed up raising concerns about the proliferation of the large buildings. Those who spoke at that meeting and others since have raised worries over not only the smell of the barns, but concerns about property values, potential environmental impacts and stress on narrow county roads and the potential costs of repairs, as well.

In response to that meeting, the Planning Commission formed a seven-member study group to review the current county ordinances and offer proposed changes to any of them having to do with the CAFOs.

That group forwarded its recommendations earlier this year. The proposal has since seen changes over the course of public meetings and work with Downs.

The result of that work was a final document that County Commissioner and Planning Commission member Larry West has said “did not change too much with respect to confined feeding operations” but rather consolidated items regarding their building into one spot.

Gone from the document are once-proposed provisions requiring, or suggesting, operators to build hedges or tree blinds around the buildings to help reduce the smell or block sight of them.

Language that had been proposed about what types of residential structures could be built in certain districts zoned for agriculture as well as provisions that sought to limit objections to permitted agricultural use is also not in the document.

The draft does include a new item that would require an operator to notify the planning office that he or she has submitted an application to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management seeking a permit to build a CAFO. As well as some changes to setback requirements for churches, schools and towns.

Other items on Monday’s agenda include:

Discussion of hiring county engineer

Discussion on cost of dirt for purchase at Highway Department

Ratification on Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy claim.

Community Information

To help keep residents informed during the ongoing health emergency, this section is continuing to evolve.

Though many events have been canceled, some, like mobile food pantries and blood drives, will continue to take place. The top portion of this section will list such events and be updated daily. Cancellations and closures of various events, agencies and public buildings will be listed below those items.

Testing available

The state of Indiana, in a partnership with OptumServe Health, has opened a coronavirus testing site at the Indiana National Guard armory at 77 German St. in Peru. Individuals who are symptomatic or COVID-19 or close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 positive patients are eligible for testing. Residents will not be charged for testing and insurance is not required, but those with insurance are asked to bring information with them. For more information or to schedule a test, visit lhi.care/covid testing or call 888-634-1116.

Events and information

The Peru Public Library has reopened to the public with social distancing guidelines and other precautions in place.

The United Way of Miami County is now accepting grant applications for money from a coronavirus relief fund made possible by the Lilly Endowment. Money from the $225,000 dollar fund is expected to paid out in three phases – for immediate relief to longterm recovery – and is targeted to help “human and social service nonprofits on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.” To apply, visit the local United Way website at www.uw miamip.org.

July 18

The Miami County Health Department will begin offering walk-in vaccinations for children ages 5 to 18 on July 18. Only those with Medicaid or without private insurance are eligible. Vaccinations will be available between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Health Department is located at 35 Court Street. For more information, call 765-472-3901 ext. 1216.

The Miami County YMCA will host a “Family Water Games” event on July 18 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Eck Park (corner of Hoover and Ruth). The event is free and will feature water balloon games, slip and slides and water soakers. For more information contact Cassie Korba 765-472-1979.

July 20

The Miami County Board of Commissioners will meet July 20 at 9 a.m. in the G.A.R. Room.

July 21

The North Miami School Board will convene an executive session on July 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the central office. A public meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

The Peru Community Schools School Board will convene an executive session on July 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Peru High School. A public meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The City of Peru Board of Public Works will meet on July 21 at 5 p.m.

July 25

The fifth annual Sara’s Run for the Rocks, 5K fun run and walk, will be held July 25. Race begins at 9 a.m. near the Anytime Fitness just off the Nickel Plate Trail. Packet pickup and registration is from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Registration is $20 and includes a T-shirt.

For more information call Lori Herrell at 574-298-4385 or email lori herrell71@gmail.com.

Miami County reminds residents to update dog tags

Dog tags are available at the Miami County Courthouse, Room 107, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fee is $5 per dog.

Residents can also mail payment to Miami County Courthouse, 25 N. Broadway, Room 107, Peru, IN 46970. They are asked to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and tags will be mailed along with a receipt. Please make checks payable to Miami County Treasurer.

For questions, call 765-472-3901 Ext. 1860.