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USD 475 will move Franklin Elementary students, staff

After a special meeting of the Unified School District 475 Board of Education last week, students and educators from Franklin Elementary School will be moved to other schools.

According to USD 475 legal counsel Mark Edwards, this is related to a feasibility study the district is conducting on its facilities.

“I just want to assure the public that no building is proposed to be closed at all,” he said. “Nothing’s going to be shuttered. We just need to determine — we have a lot of roofs in our school district and maybe after the conclusion of the feasibility study it will be determined that we’re going to have to relocate some students. So that’s where we are at this time.”

USD 475 Superintendent Reginald Eggleston said the study should be concluded within 90 to 120 days, after which the discussion could continue and decisions could be made.

“We’ll be looking at bus routing, zoning, looking at growth and decline in particular areas all throughout the district in order to determine if there’s a need to consider any repurposing of any facilities,” Eggleston said.

He said the school and other facilities in the district would be “reviewed and assessed.”

“Franklin Elementary School will be looked upon as an open building,” he said. “But we will look at vacating immediately — students and staff — and relocated to another school.”

According to Eggleston, the “statutory process is not required” in the case of Franklin because the school will not be closing.

“Franklin will be part of the feasibility study for repurposing and multiple options are to be considered in this study, which might include functions currently operating out of district facilities,” he said. “The recommendation would be that we move forward with the feasibility study as well as take any and all actions as far as the placement of staff and students throughout our district.”

Eggleston talked about a teacher shortage taking place in USD 475 — and in the state at large. There are roughly 41 positions still open with the district according to USD 475 Assistant Superintendent Deb Gustafson. The changes at Franklin lowered this number from 57 as staff from Franklin were offered positions at other district buildings.

“Every building that currently has vacancies, we’re going to have to have a contingency plan for what our decisions will be in the event we aren’t able to fill those positions,” Gustafson said. “But after today it will look a little bit better.”

Eggleston said he believed the feasibility study would “allow or assist us with filling some of those vacancies throughout the district.”

The study will be conducted by USD 475 COO David Wild.

According to Gustafson, the Franklin students will have the option to transfer to other schools where space is available.

Fort Riley’s impact will be included in the feasibility study.

Edwards said the 1st Brigade is preparing to deploy which will leave the community with roughly 3,500 fewer soldiers until next spring.

“We don’t know how that’s going to impact our enrollment this fall,” he said.

Chamber honors community contributors at annual banquet

The Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner July 1.

During the yearly banquet, the Chamber recognized people who contributed to Junction City community over the past year with awards.

Terrah Stroda was recognized with the Mayor’s Community Impact Award.

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about,” Master of Ceremonies Ashley King said. “When the COVID-19 pandemic became reality in Junction City, Kansas, time began to stop. Fear and anxiety took over many businesses and households and left some wondering how they could ever feel the strength of our community again. It was also during this time that a local woman began the biggest fight of her life with a breast cancer diagnosis. Knowing that a strong support system from family, friends and especially her community was a must (Stroda) went to work.”

Stroda turned the annual July 4 Freedom Run race into a fundraiser for that woman — Stroda’s friend Lisa Nabus — by leveraging relationships in the community. Stroda renamed the race JC Strong and “called on everyone to be at the table and created a sense of community despite the six feet of space between each one,” King said.

More than 400 runners took part in the race, raising funds and awareness for Nabus’ cause.

“In July of 2020, Terrah Stroda helped Junction City discover what it cared about,” Mayor Jeff Underhill said. “We care about each other.”

Executive Director of the Society of the 1st Infantry Division Phyllis Fitzgerald was honored with the Seitz Family Military Community Award for her commitment to the military members of the community.

City Commissioner Nate Butler presented Fitzgerald with her award.

Fitzgerald started and maintained the Home Away from Home program which pairs young soldiers with community members to serve as surrogate families and sewed more than 900 cloth masks for veterans in the United States and around the world since the start of the pandemic, at her own expense. She also paints barn quilts which she donates to fundraisers for military-related and community organizations while also serving as a liaison between the Junction City community and Fort Riley. Fitzgerald is a veteran herself.

“(Fitzgerald) exemplifies what it means to support our military members and their families,” Butler said.

Leon Osbourn received the Eldon Hoyle Award which was presented to him by one of Hoyle’s daughters, Leslie Guerra. Hoyle served as both a city and county commissioner, as a chair on the Economic Development Commission and as Junction City’s mayor during his life and the award named in his honor is handed out to those who make contributions to local economic development.

“This year’s recipient spends endless hours sitting through committee meetings and board meetings, offering his expert advice and opinions on new developments, EDC project proposals and assisting ongoing businesses to grow in our community,” Guerra said. “He works relentlessly to keep up with the demands of those wanting and needing his professional services with a great number of those services being offered as a volunteer. He is described as a man of few words and when he speaks, there’s cause to listen.”

Geary Community Hospital Board of Trustees Chair Cecil Aska received the Outstanding Citizenship Award, presented by Willie Thornburg.

“I’d venture to say that since his retirement, he’s been busier than he was when he worked full time — naps excluded,” Thornburg said of Aska. “He has volunteered countless hours to organizations over the years. He’s a founding member of the Junction City Community Baseball Club, the Junction City Brigade — an organization that has brought collegiate level baseball back to the beautiful and historic Rathert Stadium — serving as the Brigade’s general manager since 2014. Beyond baseball, he’s dedicated to several other organizations here in Junction City.”

In addition to the GCH board, Aska sits on the housing authority, the library board, serves on the Geary Community Healthcare Foundation board and chairs the community corrections advisory board.

“His service as (GCH) trustee has included bringing new leadership to the hospital and returning them to financial viability,” Thornburg said. “Through both organizations, his goal is to ensure that the Geary Community Hospital remains viable and is the hospital of choice in our community … He has the heart of a true servant and our community is only the better for it.”

Owner of Magnolias Boutique Beverly Davis was recognized for the ways in which she kept her downtown business alive during the worst parts of COVID-19. Chamber Director of Member Relations Dawn Stephens presented Davis with the Business Resiliency Award.

During the worst of the pandemic, Davis sold clothes online using Facebook Live, added shipping options and offered contact-free local delivery. Magnolias took part in Power Up JC — a program put in place by the Chamber to increase interest in local shopping — donating funds back to the program for the second round of the event.

“Magnolias started as a dream,” Davis said. “An idea — something I created from nothing — that I felt like Junction City needed.”

She said she was proud and pleased to be there and spoke about what brought here there in the first place. Davis recalled the uncertainty that came alongside COVID-19, of stocking up on product as California began to shut down and of starting the online aspect of her business.

“One of the key components to running a business is innovation,” Davis said. “To constantly think and grow and to be prepared and to take your business to the next level when everything is changing in the blink of an eye.”

Unified School District 475 was presented with the Community Resiliency Award, which was presented by Joel Poole.

Poole praised the district’s response to COVID-19.

“While the school district finished the 2019-2020 school year remotely, it did everything necessary to ensure it wouldn’t happen for the 2021 school year,” he said. “In record time, district leaders met with Fort Riley stakeholders, school principals and nurses, county health officials and the janitorial cleaning service to devise a pandemic plan. This plan resulted in minor calendar changes and led our teachers and students into a year that allowed every school in the district to keep its doors open while serving those that needed a bit more protection by also providing remote learning.”

Economic Development Director Mickey Fornaro-Dean took a moment at the annual dinner to speak about the EDC, comparing economic development to a jigsaw puzzle — something that looks simple on the outside but that takes time, effort and the help of friends to put together.

“It takes patience, it takes a team and it takes knowing what it looks like out here but being willing to work to get that picture at the end … I do appreciate the support of this community,” she said. “What we’re trying to do and the efforts we make. We have a lot of assets — or as I would say, a lot of good puzzle pieces — here to build on and we will continue to keep doing that.”

Veterans remembered in ceremony during Sundown Salute

Sundown Salute may have been smaller this year, but it took place nonetheless drawing crowds to the parade, concerts and car show — among other things — Saturday.

A salute to veterans took place in Heritage Park following the parade.

Commanding General of Fort Riley Maj. Gen. Douglas A. Sims spoke of the history of the Fourth of July.

“Today, the day before Independence Day, we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776,” he said. “Throughout the country, we celebrate with parades, fireworks, barbecues, family reunions and so much more. Shortly, we’ll do that here in Junction City — all to remember the day the 13 American colonies announced to the world they were no longer colonies of the British crown. The Declaration may be 245 years old, but its words ring true today as they did in Philadelphia where they were first penned.”

Sims spoke of the sacrifices made during the eight years that spanned the Revolutionary War — of the 4,000 to 7,000 soldiers who died during that time.

“Victory was anything but guaranteed for our young nation as we faced the greatest army and navy of the day,” but that did not stop American soldiers from fighting, he said. “They pledged everything they had — their lives, their fortunes and sacred honor — for victory. And we continue to do this at home and abroad through every war, every conflict, every hardship.”

Lt. Gen. (Retired) Perry Wiggins spoke as well, talking about his love for the Fourth of July — his favorite holiday growing up and even still today. He recalled a Fourth of July parade where veterans marched in uniform.

“The last comment my dad made while I was sitting by that fire hydrant was ‘this is our nation’s most precious resource — the sons and daughters of America,’” Wiggins said. “‘Those that are willing to wear the cloth of the nation and stand up for what’s right. The ones who stand a little straighter when the national anthem’s played.’’

He recalled a next door neighbor — a Marine — who spoke with Wiggins about being a Vietnam veteran. Wiggins said at the age of 15, he didn’t understand much of what his neighbor had to say, but he would come to understand when he was older.

“I was too busy thinking about the barbecue, the fireworks, the party and so it didn’t really resonate until years later,” he said.

Sims and Wiggins laid a wreath at the Kansas State Veterans Memorial in honor of veterans throughout the ages — those who died in action.

“Today we lay a wreath to honor those who lived up to those words,” Sims said. “To all those who sacrificed for the United States in an effort to preserve the independence asserted nearly 250 years ago.”

Six Restaurant to open in Bartell building

A new restaurant is coming to the Bartell building on the corner of Sixth and Washington Streets.

Caleb Edwards, the owner of Five Restaurant in Manhattan, has purchased a portion of the building and plans to move a new eatery — called Six Restaurant — into the building.

Edwards announced his new business venture at a Junction City Main Street board meeting last week.

He did not offer a timeline for the new restaurant.

“As far as getting into a lot of the specifics on everything, there will come a little bit more as teasers over the next couple months as work is done on the building to make that into the space that we want it to be,” Edwards said. “But I can at least assure you that we are aiming to do something that is a little bit different than anything else that we have here right now and anything — I think t’ll be different — than what Manhattan has right now.”

Edwards said what Six did wouldn’t be quite the same as what Five offered, but did not go into detail about what that would be except that he would be “using local ingredients, local people, hopefully having a partnership with Fort Riley and the surrounding communities for events and staffing and all that kind of stuff. (We) utilize as much local farming and local produce as we can throughout the year and (we’re) just wanting to continue to do that here as well.”

Edwards said he looked forward to opening the new restaurant. He talked about his family’s history with the restaurant business.

“One of the reasons we called our restaurant Five was because we traced our restaurant experience back to five generations ago when our great-great grandmother had a small little cafe,” he said.

JC Main Street hosts state Main Street director

Kansas Main Street Director Scott Sewell stopped in Junction City last week to meet with members of Junction City Main Street.

Junction City is among the first three Kansas communities to be accepted into the state’s Main Street program since Gov. Laura Kelly revived it. The program is in place to help small communities revitalize their downtowns. It’s largely a self-help program, meaning participating communities’ programs will eventually be expected to become self-sustaining.

“We provide a lot of training and technical assistance and resources to the local programs, but it’s really designed to be a self-help program” Sewell said. “You have to want to do it yourself, because as many times as I can come to the community and meet with people and talk about issues and help kind of guide you, it’s up to the local people here to make that happen because they’re the ones that live here. They have ownership in it.”

This is Junction City’s first time in the program.

“Junction City’s application was top-notch,” Sewell said. “It’s easy to just look at an application for a program like this and check off the boxes, but they didn’t just check off the boxes. They went above and beyond to make sure that the people that were reviewing the applications — and they made a presentation — they really left no doubt in any of our minds that they’re ready and capable of being in the program. So far, they’re doing great.”

Though Junction City was accepted into the program in February, he said last week was the first time anyone from the state had been able to come to the community and meet the Main Street board members in person in part because of COVID-19.

“We’re super excited to be here visiting the community for the first time,” Sewell said. “We’ve met with some people that are current business people, we’ve met with investors who are doing some cool things downtown or will be. There’s just a ton of excitement here in Junction City and that’s just going to snowball as we keep going.”

Sewell forsees shaking off the COVID-19 economy and sustaining its current businesses will challenge Junction City and other similar communities. But he said he felt the past year and the pandemic that colored most of it had presented new opportunities as well as challenges.

“It kind of revealed those businesses that maybe need to improve their e-commerce platforms, may need to look at new ways of selling and doing business than just opening your door from 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.),” Sewell said. “That’s the way we’ve looked at COVID. Yeah, it was difficult for all of us. It didn’t single anybody out. It was worldwide. But we look at it that if you don’t learn from something like that and get better for it, then you’ve missed out on an opportunity. So Junction City’s going to have some of the same problems that almost any downtown in the country has — just keeping downtown healthy and viable and making sure that people want to come downtown on a regular basis — not just to shop but to eat, to play, to have fun.”

Sewell said he expected the local program to help businesses learn to weather economic downturns. While he said he does not expect there to be another pandemic along the lines of COVID-19 anytime soon, economic hardships are always a possibility and the local Main Street program should be able to help with that to some extent.

Junction City Main Street has people from multiple sectors working together toward the same goal — something Sewell said is what makes a successful Main Street program.

“For whatever reason over the years, that probably hasn’t been the case here in Junction City,” he said. But “when you get that excitement and that cohesiveness and people all start thinking on the same page, that’s when you do things like this … It’s the people in the community. Right here in Junction City is a perfect example. It’s the people that have a commitment to downtown, that understand the downtown is really the heart of the community and they want to make sure it stays like that and gets better over time. So it’s really about the people and that’s what’s exciting about being here is meeting people in person — not over Zoom — and visiting with businesses and people who are investing in the community.”

Sewell said he believes support for local businesses and having “an open mind” about and embracing Junction City’s historic downtown and unique aspects will help make the local program a success.

“We’re excited to be here and really excited that Junction City is part of the program,” he said. “I think the future here is great and there’s a lot of exciting things happening and we’re looking forward to having a small role in helping that happen.”

On the subject of things happening downtown, Junction City Main Street will be hosting several upcoming events this year.

Aug. 15 there will be a Cinderella Social in front of the C.L. Hoover Opera House. This fall, Junction City will host an Oktoberfest celebration and a Volksmarch — a German walking 5K.

Keep an eye on the Junction City Union for further information on upcoming events.

Healing board suspends ex-JC High athletic trainer's license after sex crimes arrest

The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts has indefinitely suspended the license of a former Junction City High School athletic trainer accused of sex crimes involving a minor student.

The board suspended Brandon Martino’s license on June 21.

Junction City police arrested Martino on Jan. 29, charging him with sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 18 and promoting obscenity to minors.

According to the joint consent order provided by the healing arts board, Martino was treating a minor student when he began sending the student explicit text messages, including a nude picture of himself and a video of himself masturbating. Martino sent these messages while acting as the student’s athletic trainer, according to the order.

The documents indicated Martino “admitted no wrongdoing,” but he did not provide the board with “evidence in opposition” to these accusations.

USD 475 Superintendent Reginald Eggleston didn’t respond to requests for comments.