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By Luke Nichols/Daily Sun sports editor 

Beatrice's Mikasa Lierman competes in a medley event Tuesday during a dual against Lincoln Pius X at the Beatrice YMCA

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One-room schools on display at Homestead

There was a time when there were thousands of one-room schoolhouses active around the country.

Nowadays, there are only a handful of one-room schools in operation, but a photo exhibit is now on display at the Homestead National Monument of America to recall the importance of one-room schools.

Homestead’s Education Center will feature the exhibit from now until spring. The exhibit, as well as a film festival hosted by Homestead about one-room schools, are part of preparations leading up to a conference for one-room schoolhouse enthusiasts this summer.

The exhibit offers a collection of photos of one-room schoolhouses across the United States. Taken by photographer Gloria Hawkins, the photos tell the story of a bygone era. 

Years ago, Hawkins decided to try and photograph all of the one-room schools in her home state of Kansas—where about 9,000 old school buildings remain—but she expanded her search to include the rest of the United States.

“She has traveled much of the country,” said Homestead park historian, Robert Marcel. “Visiting these one room schools and snapping photographs, trying to capture the feeling of these buildings.”

While the schoolhouses in the pictures no longer serve as schools, a lot of them have been re-purposed into homes or even businesses, Marcel said. There are many of the old buildings left, he said, but there are a lot of them that are in need of preservation.

Preservation is the main focus of the June convention of the Country School Association of America, a national organization made up of educators, school owners and one-room school enthusiasts, Marcel said.

Marcel attended last year’s conference in New London, N.H., and this year, the Homestead will be hosting the annual conference along with Southeast Community College in Beatrice.

The conventions feature talks on a wide variety of historical subjects, Marcel said, including preservation and conservation of the school buildings. They have speakers, storytellers, documentaries and hands-on demonstrations, he said, and it will also feature a bus tour of southeast Nebraska one-room schoolhouses.

The Homestead Monument is an ideal place for the conference, he said, because of the Freeman School that’s a part of the park. The Freeman School was in use from 1872 up until 1967 and became a part of the monument in 1970.

Even though it hasn’t been used as a school for more than 50 years, the Freeman School still promotes education among its visitors, Marcel said.

The school is a key resource for the monument, he said, and stressed the importance of education to the homesteaders and settlers who were heading west in the 1800s and early 1900s.

“We feel very fortunate that we're able to bring this event into our community here and to be able to share these pictures with everyone who comes by, and learn about how school used to be done,” he said.

The one-room schoolhouse photo exhibit is open to the public during park hours, as is the Freeman School.

“The overall experience is very familiar to just about anybody who's gone to school before,” Marcel said. “It's a real American story, educating your children, teaching them to read and write.”

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Gas station burglar makes off with smokes, snacks

A burglar made off with several hundred dollars worth of products early Monday morning after breaking into a Beatrice gas station convenience store.

The Beatrice Police Department responded at about 6 a.m. on Monday after someone broke the lock off the front door of Nick’s Shell station at 900 Court St., and got away with a bag full of cigarettes, snacks and drinks while the store was closed.

Owner Nick Neukirch said that the burglar forced the front lock open after being unable to pry open the side window next to the register. When the burglar turned around, however, outdoor cameras were able to get a good shot of his face before he pulled the strings on his hood tighter and headed to the front door.

Neukirch said that whoever broke in seemed to have a shopping list of sorts as they stole cartons of cigarettes as well as several individual packs of different brands.

“He got some cigarettes, then he whirled around there and got some food, snacks,” Neukirch said. “Then he went back to the cooler and we got him back there and he's looking for something. He opened one cooler door, didn't see what he wanted, so he closed it and went to another one.”

From the video, he said, it appeared that there was a second person outside acting as a lookout who could let the burglar know if cars were passing by.

Neukirch said the man got away with somewhere between $300 and $400 worth of merchandise, but wasn’t sure of an exact amount.

While police haven’t announced any suspects as of Tuesday afternoon, Neukirch said he thought they had a good idea of who it might be.

Neukirch said he’s offering a $50 gas card as a reward for anyone who can identify the suspect.

He said he was surprised that someone would try to break in, due to the store keeping the lights on and the cameras running during the night. It’s been awhile since they’ve had any break ins, Neukirch said, though he may have hexed himself about a month ago when he mentioned they hadn’t had one for a long time.

“Knock on wood, we haven't had a problem in quite a while,” he said. “The cameras really help. Luckily, it doesn't happen very much anymore.”

Past member seeking seat on School Board

A past member of the Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education is seeking another term on the board.

Monte Lofing filed this week for one of the upcoming vacant seats on the board.

If elected, Lofing said he would seek public input regarding the schools, and said he was opposed to building a centralized elementary school.

“I never really supported it, only because I felt that putting the elementary out there by the high school didn’t seem logical and it was so big,” he said. “I know people want smaller schools and I didn’t feel conformable with that size of school. We have the Beatrice 6 looming over our heads, and it’s going to be real tough to pass a bond. I don’t know what direction to go. I have different ideas, but want to get oriented again and listen to the public.”

Lofing previously served on the BPS Board of Education from 2008 to 2012. This marks the fourth time since that term he’s sought a position on the board, missing out after running in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

“It’s almost like a popularity race, which is kind of sad,” he said. “I’m hoping people would want to see different faces. For some reason, the same old folks get re-elected.”

If elected, Lofing said he wants to take a closer look at bullying in the schools, particularly cyber bullying, and study its lasting impacts.

“One pet peeve of mine, if elected, is bullying,” Lofing said. “I want to know more about cyber bullying. What’s the policy? What do they do about it? Do they report it the minute they do it? Is it addressed?

“Over the past few years, it seems like there’s been a lot of suicides in Beatrice. I’m wondering if some of these former students were bullied, and did this leave an emotional scar and could something have been done to prevent that?”

Lofing is the third to file for a seat on the school board, along with fellow non-incumbents Eugene Fiester and Eric Book.

The School Board currently has six members, though beginning in 2019, a seventh will be added.

Three current board members are up for re-election, and with a seventh seat being added, there will be four spots up for grabs in the 2018 election.

Board members whose four-year terms are up include Nancy Sedlacek, Jon Zimmerman and Doris Martin. None of the three have filed for re-election as of Tuesday.

The election system for the School Board is structured so the top four vote-getters will be elected.

If the number of candidates amounts to more than double the number of open seats, the election will be featured on the May 15 primary ballot.

Therefore, if nine or more candidates file for the four open seats, the race will be included on the spring ballot and the top eight vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where the four candidates with the most votes will be elected.

If eight or fewer candidates file for School Board seats, they will all automatically advance to the fall ballot.

Monte Lofing

Two arrested after disturbance in Fairbury

Two men were arrested on warrants in Fairbury after a disturbance was reported on Monday.

Douglas Beu, 48, and Jerry J. Barnes, 45, both of Fairbury, were each arrested on warrants. Barnes was also arrested for resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer, escape and attempted burglary following the incident.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Monday, officers with the Fairbury Police Department were dispatched to Maatsch’s Express on 14th Street for a disturbance.

According to a press release, police were informed that one of the subjects was Beu, who had an active warrant out of Jefferson County.

When officers arrived, they observed a male subject exiting the store and walking around the corner of the building. The officer was informed that the male subject that walked out of the store was Barnes.

The officers knew that Barnes also had an active warrant out of Jefferson County. When additional units arrived, they were directed to a white car on the eastside of the parking lot with a male subject inside who was identified as Beu. Beu was taken into custody without incident.

The officer looking for Barnes was contacted by the Jefferson County Dispatch Center and informed that a male subject matching the description of Barnes was seen running behind K&D Liquor, in the 1300 block of E Street. When the officer arrived in the area, he observed Barnes near the area of 12th and D streets.

The press release stated the officer exited his patrol unit and told Barnes that he was under arrest. Barnes ran from the officer, who eventually lost sight of him. When additional units arrived to search for Barnes, he was located running west in between houses.

Officers attempted to contact him in the alley behind the Fairbury City Museum, but when Barnes saw the officer, he turned around and ran eastbound. Officers then observed him running southbound on A Street towards 11th Street, where officers caught up to Barnes and placed him in custody after a brief struggle.

Later, after Barnes was released, police received a call from a residence in the 1100 block of B Street regarding an attempted break in. The officer was informed that a male subject, who was identified as Barnes, went to the back door of the residence and began banging on it. When the female answered, Barnes attempted to push his way into the house.

The female attempted to hold him back but she began losing her grip on him, according to the press release. After a short struggle, the family’s dog came charging into the back room towards the door. At that point, Barnes gave up and took off running from the residence. Barnes is being held with no bond and Beu has since posted bond. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are expected.