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Adair County Free Press

‘You have to use potato chips’

Caleb Nelson

Well, that’s a wrap on county fair season for us. What an amazing time it was celebrating the hard work of a lot of young people here in Adair County.

It was a hot one, but the new show arena made livestock shows much more bearable than it would have been with no covering. I always learn so much from watching those shows, seeing what the judges are looking for in various classes. Thanks to all those who made that facility possible. It’ll certainly be a great asset going forward.

I was glad to talk with Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, while he was at the fair.

He was elated to see that Adair County’s youth had a chance to show at the fair, though it wasn’t a normal fair.

Naig was joined closely at the fair by Rep. Ray Sorensen II (R-Greenfield), Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) and former Rep. Clel Baudler. I also saw David Young at the fair, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.

Naig told me how important he feels county fairs are.

“This is our next generation, right? These young people are the ones who will take over for us [someday]. I grew up in northwest Iowa and we farm up there. I showed all kinds of livestock,” Naig told me. “These projects teach you about responsibility, learning how to compete. Maybe you do well, maybe you don’t do well, but these are great life lessons.”

We’ve put as many pictures as we can in this week’s edition, highlighting on the front the top winners from some of the livestock shows that occurred. On the back are an assortment of candid shots from the week. We’ll have all the results from the fair in next week’s edition.


One event I didn’t get to over the last week was a Zoom conversation Warren Varley was in on regarding the current times in education. It seemed like a newsworthy conversation to cover and I was sad to miss out.

Varley, a farmer and attorney from the Stuart area, is a candidate for Senate in November running against Chapman.

Others on this Zoom call were Mike Beranek, the current president of the Iowa State Education Association; Kinsey Bryte, guidance counselor at Adel-DeSoto-Minburn; Clark Wicks, superintendent at Perry; and Steve Smith, retired superintendent at Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center.

I’ve talked to people on both sides of the political aisle — sometimes I feel like that’s more of a great divide — and many of us agree that going back to school in some way is a good thing. In a phone call I had Tuesday with Varley getting his recap on this Zoom call, I think he agrees with that.

Varley relayed to me that he had three takeaways from the meeting. The first one was about the proclamation Governor Kim Reynolds made last Friday.

The proclamation strongly pushes for in-person learning and limits schools a little from making their own decision on when they can pull away from in-person learning if they need to for a time. Parents may make the call for their family, public health officials can step in and do it in a blanket fashion for a district, a school may do it in conjunction with public health officials for individual students or classrooms, or schools can go online for severe weather to avoid spending snow days.

Secondly, Varley said he’s worried about funding issues schools will have because of the items they’re having to buy to keep schools safe, like ionizers or disinfectants. He told me schools have long been underfunded, in his opinion, though he did admit increases in funding have been made each year. They just don’t stand up to inflation, in his estimation.

Thirdly, Varley said he’s concerned that people continue to social distance, hoping that possibly the public’s cooperation with social distancing measures would make up for the increased contact that will happen when school returns.

Lastly, Varley said that while it’s true that large schools may have more concerns inside the school’s walls in keeping contact down between students, smaller schools like Nodaway Valley could find more of a problem in transporting those students to school. Good point, I often rode the bus more than an hour to get to school.

Varley stated that if the Governor would allow a little more flexibility, it would give the Department of Education school districts the ability to be granted waivers if they feel less than 50% in-person learning is needed for their district.

Those are Varley’s concerns.

When I saw this news release come across, I thought of a cooking show I watch where they tell the contestants what they’re going to be cooking and then they always throw a wrinkle in to stump them, like, “You’re going to cook your favorite pasta dish, but you have to use potato chips.”

I’ve appreciated Reynolds’ leadership in many ways during this pandemic. I wouldn’t want to be in her role because we’d be in worse shape yet. I was sad to see this interjection at seemingly the last minute. I know that it’s based on legislation that was passed June 29, but at the close of the baseball season, this certainly came as a “curveball” to many, I am hearing. Many districts were well into formulating plans for the school year.

Do I think COVID-19 has been overblown at times? Yes. Do I think it’s a big deal that we should take seriously? Yes. Isn’t that the world we live in today?

The three words “Return to Learn” are everywhere these days.

Everyone knows what they mean and many people have opinions about what school should look like in August. Some parents are like, “Get my kids out of here, send them to school.” Others are like, “There’s no way I’m sending my kids to school.”

Save for transportation and funding — which are huge factors in all of this, I realize — I hope smaller schools like Nodaway Valley, who seem to be aiming primarily for in-person learning anyway because they recognize the academic and mental health benefits of it, will be less affected by Reynolds’ mandate than others that are larger and felt the best thing for their district may have been to be almost all online.

Time will tell how all this shakes out. The Nodaway Valley School Board was having a work session Tuesday night. Those ladies and gentlemen are doing a great job. I’ll make sure to have a recap in next week’s newspaper. The school board and Superintendent Paul Croghan seemed to say they would be aiming for releasing information the first few days of August.

In the meantime, we all need grace for each other.

We can do this. You’re doing great.

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