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August 6: News from around the Driftless Area
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‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

 – The Westby School Board approved the 2020-21 start of school plan recently. District Administrator Steve Michaels said school will be held five days a week for face-to-face instruction, with a daily 45-minute early release. He said 80 percent of parents who were surveyed this month indicated they were in favor of face-to-face instruction. The second part of the plan is a virtual option offered by the school district. Michaels said 20 percent of the families who responded to the survey indicated they were leaning in that direction. The third part of the plan is that families can enroll their children in the Rural Virtual Academy or another online program outside of the district, or homeschool… Friends of Vernon County Parks presents a safe, outdoor music series on Wednesday evenings to bring awareness to one our counties greatest natural assets, our county parks, as well as allow the greater community to come together (but apart) to enjoy live local musicians this summer. The next concert will take place on August 12, 6 p.m. at Sidie Hollow County Park, E6051 County Road XX, Viroqua. The event will feature ‘High and Rising with Tim Eddy.’ Bring your own lawn chair, drinks, picnic. Social distancing is required and masks encouraged. Free-will donations accepted and will go to directly support our musicians… The Vernon County Historical Society is planning a small number of outdoor events in the month of August. On Saturday, August 29, they will grill burgers and brats between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. outside of Nelson’s Agricenter. On Saturday, August 22, the Sherry-Butt House will celebrate its 150thbirthday with a birthday party. The house will be open for its regular summer Saturday hours of 1-5 p.m., with light Victorian-era refreshments served outside. Seating will be limited and socially-distanced. On Wednesday, August 26, there will be a Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration. On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified ratification of the 19thAmendment, which prohibited denial of the right to vote on the basis of sex. The celebration will run from 4-6 p.m. outside of the Vernon County Historical Museum building in Viroqua, under the Gingko tree. Cupcakes will be served, and a small informational pop-up exhibit called ‘Rightfully Hers,’ created by the National Archives will be on display. At 4:30 p.m., partygoers will recreate a suffrage-era march on the sidewalks around the museum… The Vernon County Board held a special meeting to hear from representatives of Dairyland Power about the upcoming closure of the Genoa Power Plant and its economic impacts. The plant will be closed down between June and December of 2021. Brian Rude, Vice President of Dairyland Power, explained that the railroad contract for hauling coal was ending on December 31, 2020. Rob Palmberg, Vice President of External and Member Relations explained that the plant is 51 years old, and that coal is not the future for environmental reasons. He stated that Dairyland Power plans to use renewables for 28 percent of their power generation by 2028. John Carr, Vice President of Power Supply told the board that the facility would be torn down quickly after closure. Dairlyand will retain ownership of the property, and the nuclear storage facility on the property will remain. He welcomed ideas for economic development of the site, with current ideas being a barge fleeting area, solar arrays or condos.

LA FARGE –The LaFarge School Board approved two resolutions regarding upgrading their buildings. The first was a resolution authorizing General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $5,500,000. The second provided for a referendum election asking voters to approve authorizing the bonds be issued for that amount… The LaFarge Schools held their commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 on Friday, July 31, at 7 p.m. The event was limited to graduates and a small number of personal guests. While the event was closed to the public, it was livestreamed… Summer school classes began at the LaFarge Schools week before last with all the appropriate protective measures being practiced by students and staff. These included wearing masks and social distancing. It was the first time the students had been back in the school building since mid-march.

ONTARIO – The Royall Board of Education approved the administration’s draft reopening plan, but Superintendent Mark Gruen noted that the document is subject to change as circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic evolve. Royall will have in-person school five days a week, with virtual options available through outside services. The district will still be able to include virtual students in its enrollment figures. Children will be required to wear masks, and if they don’t have one then the district will provide one. No guests will be allowed in the building, including parents… At present, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District plans to offer in-person instruction five days a week, with virtual options also available. Superintendent Travis Anderson noted in a letter to parents “with the complexity and uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want everyone to understand that whatever plans we have in place can literally change overnight based on health department regulations and mandates that our district will have to follow…” Coordinating efforts with the Monroe County Dairy Promotion Board, the Royall school lunch program brought dairy products to children week before last at the Kendall Depot. Each family received a bag of cheesecurds, and each child received a goody bag with cow erasers, pencils, a coloring book, stickers, a dairy cup, and a book on how cheesecurds are made.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –The Mississippi River has been, on average, high for the past five years and counting. Last year, the wettest on record in the Upper Midwest, the river got down to near nine feet at the McGregor gauge for about two weeks, then shot right back up to 13 feet and stayed there a long time. In fact, the river was high throughout the winter of 2019-20, and as spring approached, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was very concerned about the potential for huge flooding. The huge flooding didn’t occur, but the river has gotten down to around nine feet only for a brief period this summer due to continuing high amounts of rain in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin… On July 24, at about 6:30 a.m., the Clayton County Sherriff’s Office, along with the Garnavillo Fire Department, were dispatched to a chemical spill on Kale Avenue just south of Highway 52. It was determined that a gate had malfunctioned, causing a crate containing Headline fungicide to slide off the truck and onto the roadway, where approximately 150 gallons of the chemical spilled… After being damaged by severe flooding in September of 2019, the Prairie Rod and Gun Club gun range reopened on Saturday, July 25, after recent flood repair work was completed. The flooding stripped turf from the 100-yard target berm south to the parking lot, and a washout covered the area with debris… Five weeks into the free Fridays at the Fort program at the Fort Crawford Museum, Dan Lybarger brought his Native American storytelling and music to a small gathering of children as well as adults interested in the interactive educational experience.

RICHLAND CENTER – Richland School District electors approved an 8.03 percent reduction in the tax levy during a short annual meeting recently. Only 14 electors attended the meeting, which was also available on Zoom. The meeting lasted only 30 minutes… Recently, some Richland School District teachers, along with area businesses, community members, and Southwest Partners, have volunteered to create a donation fund called Splash Kids to help ensure that all families are able to try the new Woodman Aquatic Center this summer. This has been a difficult time for our area youth, as many activities have been cancelled and shut down due to COVID-19, and the project volunteers believe that it is important that local kids and families know they are supported and that we are all in this together,