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NEWS 9.21.21: College Student C-19 Death, Co-Op Targeted, Minority Housing Help, Blue Ribbon Schools


A 21 year old student at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids has died of COVID-19. According to the school, Ashley Hudson was studying education and was an aspiring kindergarten teacher. Mount Mercy held a vigil for the student last night.

Social media posts indicate Hudson had been hospitalized and fighting the disease for weeks.

State data shows that 6,401 Iowans have died of COVID. Sixty-five percent of Iowans aged 18 and older have been fully vaccinated.

Floyd Valley Healthcare in Le Mars is requiring all of its employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination by the first of next year. Medical and religious exemptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to hospital officials.

Siouxland District Health issued a statement on social media concerning COVID-19 booster shots. It says they are not recommended for people 65 and older with normal immune systems. On Friday, an FDA committee voted to recommend boosters for that demographic, but the FDA and CDC still need to approve.

A ransomware attack has forced a cooperative of Iowa corn and soy farmers to take their computer systems offline. But a person close to the New Cooperative says it has created workarounds to receive grain and distribute feed. The cooperative that serves parts of Siouxland, said in a statement that the attack was “successfully contained” and that it notified law enforcement. The attack hit just as Iowa’s corn and soy harvesting is getting under way. New Cooperative did not say whether it had paid a ransom. A security researcher said the criminals had demanded $5.9 million.

Nebraska lawmakers will have to negotiate new legislative and congressional maps now that both of the original Republican-backed measures have stalled in the Legislature.

Opponents blocked the proposed legislative map with a filibuster Monday, and the congressional map stalled on Friday amid similar objections.

Critics say the maps unfairly benefited the GOP by making it harder for Democrats to win in certain districts where they might otherwise be competitive.

The votes came as no surprise, given that Republicans don’t have the super-majority they need to overcome a filibuster in the one-house Legislature, as they did during the 2011 redistricting. That means lawmakers will have to reach some sort of compromise.

A public hearing surrounding political boundaries for Iowa took place at noon today.

Five people spoke during the first virtual hearing last night.

Most of the speakers urged the state to keep Iowa’s redistricting process as nonpartisan and as fair as possible. None of the speakers commented directly on the proposed redistricting maps.

The meeting lasted for about half an hour even though three hours were scheduled for people to comment.

The third public hearing is tomorrow at 6 p.m. Iowans can also submit written comments. Public hearing and comment information is available on the Iowa Legislature’s website. 

The company that operates the Dakota Access oil pipeline wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appellate ruling ordering additional environmental review. Energy Transfer says the review puts the line at risk of being shut down. A Circuit Court of Appeals panel in D.C. earlier this year supported the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes’ argument that the project deserves a thorough environmental review and is currently operating without a key federal permit. The study will determine whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissues a permit for the line to cross the Missouri River in south-central North Dakota.

The Rapid City Council has approved an ordinance which establishes rules for medical marijuana dispensaries in the community. The rules go into effect Oct. 2 following the council’s 8-1 voted Monday night. The ordinance limits the number of dispensaries to 15 within city limits. Council member Bill Evans cast the only opposing vote, saying he believes the market should decide the number of dispensaries, or the city should have its own facility. Businesses who apply for a medical cannabis and receive a license will have one year to get the business up and running. Licenses cost $5,000 and require an annual renewal fee of the same amount. 

Iowa is testing out a new program to help racial and ethnic minorities buy homes. The loan assistance program will go toward down payments and closing costs.

The Minority Down Payment Pilot Program is part of a larger statewide investment in housing relief.

About one million dollars was awarded to the program from federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The Iowa Finance Authority is partnering with about 400 lenders. Applicants will work with their direct lender to have the funds distributed.

One Siouxland School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School. The U.S. Secretary of Education today recognized 325 schools, including five in Iowa. Spencer Middle School is on the list including schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa City, Bettendorf and Bedford. The award is based on overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Five Iowa Schools Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona today recognized 325 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021, including five schools in Iowa. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Secretary Cardona made the announcement during his Return to School Road Trip, while visiting an awardee school, Walter R. Sundling Jr. High School, in Palatine, Illinois.

The Iowa schools named as National Blue Ribbon Schools were:

  • Bedford – Bedford Elementary School, Bedford Community School District. 
  • Bettendorf – Pleasant Valley High School, Pleasant Valley Community School District.
  • Council Bluffs – Lewis Central Senior High School, Lewis Central Community School District.
  • Hills – Hills Elementary School, Iowa City Community School District. 
  • Spencer – Spencer Middle School, Spencer Community School District. 

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Secretary Cardona. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”
The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites National Blue Ribbon Schools nominations from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photographs and brief descriptions of the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at https://www.nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov/.

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