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Gage McCarthy

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BPS talks bus contract

Beatrice Public Schools will likely continue to work with its current bus provider for another school year.

The BPS Board of Education discussed its current contract with Mid States School Bus, the company that provides bus services for BPS.

During Thursday’s committee of whole meeting where the board meets to discuss items without taking action, Superintendent Jason Alexander said the district has built a solid relationship with Mid States that he thinks should continue.

“Just over the course of the last few days, and not to mention the first part of the school year, they’ve just made a lot of necessary changes in meeting our requests and our demands to make it a more efficient model all the way across,” Alexander said. “We started a great relationship per se just in this year of being able to communicate back and forth.”

BPS assistant superintendent Jackie Nielsen said one thing Mid States has done that the district approves of is implementing new software to improve the efficiency of bus routes.

“They’ve already put all of our routes in it and are really working with it to figure out, first of all, how we can get rid of the middle school hub,” she said. “It has gotten so much better this year than it has been, so much safer for our students, but we also know that it gets chaotic in the mornings.

“They have been really working with us this year, which is kind of the reason we talked about holding off for one more year and seeing if we can get our routes where we need them.”

Because of the good relationship, Alexander recommended that the board consider working with Mid States for another school year, rather than request proposals from other companies for bus services.

“With everything we’ve done, we feel like we’re operating with the three principles we said we wanted to at the start of the year: safely, more equitably for everybody and more efficiently,” he said. “I could delve into a bunch of minutia about why I think we’ve done those things, but those were our goals when we sat down at the start of the year, and I think we’ve accomplished them.”

Discussions regarding the bus contract will likely continue at future meetings.

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Community tunnel kicks off Great Kindness Challenge

A group of Stoddard students explained to their peers Friday morning what The Great Kindness Challenge is before giving high fives to members from the Beatrice community before starting their day with smiles on their faces.

Students received challenge sheets to accomplish within the next week, with items including smiling, giving high fives and complimenting others. Members from the schools’ PTOs will be there in the mornings to help students with more difficult items on their checklists, like sending a thank you to the superintendent and bringing a penny for Pennies for Patients.

Jill Rice, counselor for Lincoln and Stoddard Elementary schools, said  it's been three years since Beatrice Public Schools has participated in the Great Kindness Challenge.

“We did it at Cedar Elementary and Lincoln Elementary, and then after that we got busy doing other projects and different things,” Rice said. “So this year we decided to bring it back, and now all three get to do it. It’s the first year for Stoddard, first year for Paddock Lane, but for Lincoln kids it’ll be the first time for them, too.”

Rice said the goal of the Great Kindness Challenge is to promote that students need to be aware of how they’re treating each other every day.

“Really, just promote the idea of respect, teamwork and community and just reducing tension between people to understand that we’re all in this together,” Rice said. “The more we have respect, the less we have bullying, the less we have conflicts. People are able to understand ‘oh hey, you have an opinion, I have an opinion, and I can be kind to you and respect that, but let’s work it out.’”

Paddock Lane and Lincoln will be holding their Community Tunnels on Monday at 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., respectively. Both schools will have a kickoff assembly 15 minutes beforehand.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a nonprofit organization that began in 2006, with the goal of kids making the world a better place. The challenge is now being done by schools nationwide.

According to the group's website, The Great Kindness Challenge focuses on a belief that kindness is strength and that as an action is repeated, a habit is formed.

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Fun and games to end the day

Beatrice Middle School instituted a ninth-period activity or enrichment time  last school year and it continues to be a popular choice for students.

The period runs for 3:15-3:45 p.m., and each quarter there are new classes to choose.

During the third quarter there are 18 opportunities with an average of four per day of classes that students choose.

“We have choir, yoga, coding, football history, a couple of book clubs, and an agriculture literacy class, among several others,” said Pam Henning, Beatrice Middle School Assistant Principal.

“We also have jigsaw puzzle and board games classes. It’s kind of a lost art and it’s fun to see kids working together to solve problems and have conversations with friends."

Henning said the school implemented the enrichment program so students to have a place to go to feel like they belong. She said data shows that kids who are engaged will do better with attendance and grades. 

“The second reason for doing this was it allowed for teachers to have more time for individual intervention time with students that needed extra help and encouragement,” Henning said.

“If students did not sign up for a class, they always have the option of going and asking if there is space for them in a class. If they’re waiting for the bus, they will often play board games or sit in groups and talk."

Matt Anderson, an eighth grader, attends an activity most quarters.

“I like to learn different things and sometimes the teachers bring snacks," he said.

Classes are offered by Beatrice Middle School teachers and community members.

Medical marijuana battle comes to Capitol

Brooke Lawlor turned 26 on Friday.

Here's how the young woman who has suffered seizures since she was an infant wanted to spend her birthday: At the Capitol with her parents, providing support for a reincarnation of the medical marijuana bill (LB110) introduced by Lincoln Sen. Ann Wishart.

So she came in the morning, with her service dog Bear, and sat in the Rotunda to watch her mother, Sheri, lobby on behalf of the bill.

Brooke Lawlor had some thoughts on the fact that Gov. Pete Ricketts' office was to host a news conference at noon with former Husker football coach Tom Osborne and others to talk about Wishart's bill.

He and the governor shouldn't be so scared of the drug that could help her and others with epilepsy, she said.

Her parents want her to have the option of the medical cannabis drug. Now she takes more than 500 pills a month, more than 6,000 a year. These drugs have dangers in and of themselves, they said.

Sheri Lawler has been a longtime advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, lobbying senators on behalf of her daughter and others in the same health dilemma.

"How many more years do we have to wait for this when so many states have seen the light," she asked Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth Friday. "It's not the big bad bogeyman. It actually can help people."

Osborne and those that will appear at the news conference — Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc, Department of Health and Human Services Division of Behavioral Health Director Sheri Dawson — are expected to say otherwise.

Wishart said that while Osborne is a legend in Nebraska in many ways, on the medical cannabis issue he is on the wrong side of history.

"I think what you'll see that is glaringly missing at their press conference is the 70 percent of Nebraskans that support this issue across the state," she said. "And if people want to meet them, they'll be at the hearing."

The Judiciary Committee hearing begins at 1:30 in the Warner Chamber. Wishart's is one of four bills being heard.

"I anticipate we'll have a pretty large hearing," she said.