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Something to celebrate

CTA students throw their hats in celebration after commencement last week. Courtesy photo.
CTA valedictorian Hannah Hofstra gives her commencement speech. Courtesy photo.

With school ending early this year, and students missing out on many of the end of the year activities due to COVID-19, the class of 2020 at Creative Technologies Academy finally had something to celebrate last week.

The CTA class of 2020 held their commencement ceremony on June 23 at Red Hawk Stadium at the Cedar Springs High School. Eighteen students graduated, with 15 of them participating in the ceremony.

The school adhered to state guidelines of outdoor gatherings of less than 100 people. Students were allotted to bring a certain number of guests. 

Students, staff and board members were all spaced the recommended 6-feet apart on the stage and track, while families in the stadium sat spaced with their immediate group. 

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, served as the guest speaker and shared words of wisdom with the students as he encouraged them in their future endeavors. Superintendent Dan George encouraged the students to “Change the World” as has been his mantra during his tenure at CTA and this was his last graduation before his retirement. Former elementary principal Autumn Mattson has now taken the reins as Superintendent/School leader.

CTA is proud of the Class of 2020 and thankful for their flexibility during these unprecedented times.

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Governor releases MI Safe Schools Roadmap

Roadmap includes guidance on PPE, hygiene and cleaning protocols, athletics, and more

On Wednesday, June 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap” [https://www.michigan.gov/documents/whitmer/MI_Safe_Schools_Roadmap_FINAL_695392_7.pdf ], a comprehensive document to help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall. The Roadmap outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governors MI Safe Start Plan. The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall.

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19, said Governor Whitmer. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap will help provide schools with the guidance they need as they enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families. I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial support from the federal government. This crisis has had serious implications on our budget, and we need federal support if we’re going to get this right for our kids.”

“The most important thing we can do as we prepare to reopen school buildings in the fall is closely examine the data and remain vigilant in our steps to fight this virus,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “I will continue to work closely with Governor Whitmer and the Return to Learn Advisory Council to ensure we continue to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. We will remain nimble to protect students, educators, and their families.”

Executive Order 2020-142 requires school districts to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The Roadmap offers guidelines as to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase. In recognition that these protocols will cost money, the Governor also announced that she was allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the governor announced Tuesday. 

The safety protocols detailed in the Roadmap includes guidance on the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics, and more. The Roadmap also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on students and educators mental health, and offers guidance on how schools can address this issue.

Governor Whitmer will continue to use the MI Safe Start Plan as the highest-level governing framework for determining if and when it is safe to resume in-person instruction.

On June 3, the governor announced a group of 25 leaders in health care and education to serve on the COVID-19 Return to Learn Advisory Council. The council includes public health experts, a pediatrician, educators, school administrators, school board members, community leaders, parents, and students. The Council will continue to work closely with the governor as she continues to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. On June 17, 2020, Governor Whitmer announced that Michigan schools may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, with strict safety measures in place. (We are currently in phase 4.)

The Advisory Council was created to identify the critical issues that must be addressed, provide valuable input to inform the process of returning to school, and ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school. The Council will act in an advisory capacity to the Governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education, and will continue to develop recommendations regarding the safe, equitable, and efficient K-12 return to school in the Fall. 

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Pavelka signs to play volleyball at Mott

Grace Pavelka, the daughter of Eric and Julee Pavelka, and a member of the Cedar Springs Public Schools class of 2020, has signed to continue her volleyball career at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. A small outdoor signing ceremony was held at Cedar Springs High School on June 25 to commemorate the event.

According to CS Athletic Director John Norton, Pavelka was a highly decorated, four-year varsity volleyball player at Cedar Springs High School, earning numerous post-season accolades, as well as having a very successful club volleyball career.

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Kent County Animal Shelter Provides Guidance on Pets and Fireworks

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 30, 2020) – The Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) is advising pet owners to take precautions in the days leading up to 4th of July as fireworks may disrupt the behavior of animals. The KCAS has published a video with steps on how to help pets cope with fireworks.

“This can be a difficult time for pets and pet owners,” said Namiko Ota-Noveskey, program supervisor, KCAS. “We want to make sure pet owners know what to do in case their animal becomes anxious and who to call if they see stray animals who may have run away from home.”

Ota-Novesky offers the following fireworks tips for dog and cat owners:

  • Keep your pets indoors during fireworks to prevent them from running away.
  • Walk your dog during the daylight hours so you can keep them inside at night when people are most likely to use fireworks.
  • If you know your dog has a hard time with fireworks, talk to your veterinarian about medications that might be able to help with your pet’s anxiety.
  • Make sure your pet has access to a comfortable place to hide and do not try to move them from their hiding space as this can cause additional stress.
  • Muffle the sound of fireworks by closing all window and doors. You can also turn on music or the television to help soften the jarring noises.
  • Consider staying indoors with your pets to offer them comfort and reassurance.
  • Make sure your animals have an ID tag or chip in case they get lost and that the information connected to your pets’ microchip is up to date.

Pet owners can also register their pets for Finding Rover’s facial recognition software by uploading a picture of their pet to www.FindingRover.com. A person who finds a lost animal can take a photo of them and the website will do a facial recognition search, showing owners the lost animals that look similar to their pet.

In Kent County, fireworks are generally allowed from June 29 to July 4 after 11 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. but local township ordinances may differ. To report a violation of the fireworks ordinance, residents should call the non-emergency number of their local police department.

For concerns regarding a loose animal or animal welfare during normal business hours, residents should call (616) 632-7310. For concerns after hours and on holidays, residents should call the non-emergency number of their local police department.

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Avoid foam on lakes and rivers with high levels of PFAS

Photo of PFAS foam in Rogue River, at Rockford, on April 6, 2018. Photo taken by AECOM during the sampling event.

LANSING, Mich. – With the summer recreation season here, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is issuing a reminder that everyone should avoid foam on Michigan lakes and rivers known to have per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water.

Foam on these water bodies can have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water, and swallowing foam with PFAS could be a health risk. Health advisories for foam exist on some waterbodies and specific advisories can be found in the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

“Although, current science indicates PFAS does not move easily through the skin, it’s best to rinse off foam after contact and bathe or shower after the day’s outdoor activities,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “None of this information changes recommendations for water use at home.”

An MDHHS evaluation of how young children might recreate on lakes and rivers shows a health risk could exist from repeated, prolonged whole-body contact with foam containing high amounts of PFAS. Repeated prolonged contact is considered to be three hours per day, five days per week, over three months of a year, representing a summer season. MDHHS’ recommendation to avoid foam with PFAS is protective of everyone, including young children.

Swimming or bathing in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is typically low compared to the foam. Although swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it in your body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not a health concern.

The amount of PFAS in lake and river water and in foam matters in determining if a health concern exists. MDHHS will continue to evaluate surface water and foam data as it becomes available and will issue further recommendations if necessary. 

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommends that people not allow their animals—especially dogs—to come into contact with or swallow the foam. Dogs and other animals can potentially swallow foam collected in their fur when grooming themselves and should be thoroughly rinsed off with fresh water after contact with foamy water.

Not all foam contains PFAS. There is naturally occurring foam that piles up in bays, eddies or river barriers such as dams. This foam is off-white and/or brown in color and may have an earthy or fish smell. Naturally occurring foam can have high amounts of bacteria and it is best to rinse off after contact with it as well.

PFAS foam:

  • Can be bright white.
  • Is usually lightweight.
  • Can be sticky.
  • Tends to pile up like shaving cream.
  • Can blow onto the beach.

More information about PFAS and foam under the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

If you have health questions about PFAS or foam, call the MDHHS hotline at 8006486942.

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Asian tiger mosquitoes identified in Wayne County

An Asian Tiger Mosquito at the beginning of feeding. By James Gathany/CDC

Insect can transmit viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika

LANSING, Mich. – The invasive Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has again been identified in Wayne County, officials from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Wayne County Health Department announced today. The Asian tiger mosquito was discovered in Michigan for the first time in 2017, in an industrial area of Livonia in Wayne County. In 2018, the mosquitoes were again found in Wayne County, in an industrial area of Romulus. This time, the mosquito was discovered in an industrial area in Taylor.

Aedes albopictus, along with Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), can transmit viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika to people. These mosquitoes are widespread from tropical to temperate regions of the globe, including many parts of the U.S. They do not occur naturally in Michigan, where winters are usually too harsh for them to survive. However, warming climate trends are supporting the spread of these mosquitoes into more northern regions.

“Although we have not had any illnesses associated with these species of mosquitoes in Michigan, it is important to take precautions since other mosquitoes can spread viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis to people,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “We urge Michiganders to take precautions such as using an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors.”

The Asian tiger mosquito can live in areas with climates that range from tropical to temperate, and it has been extending its known range in the U.S. They are considered established in many midwestern states including Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Occasionally, the mosquitoes will travel in commercial products shipped from states where they are currently established. This is likely how the mosquitoes have shown up in Wayne County.

This summer, MDHHS has again partnered with local health departments in Wayne and 23 other counties in Michigan to conduct surveillance for the two mosquito species that can carry Zika and other tropical viruses. These invasive day-biting mosquitoes breed in containers where water collects, such as old tires, gutters and flowerpots. Continued surveillance to date suggests that breeding populations have not survived the winter in our state.

Industries that import into Michigan items that can hold water and serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes should consider taking precautions to kill mosquito larvae that may be present in these products.

Michigan residents can protect themselves from mosquito bites by:

  • Eliminating sources of standing water such as wading pools, old tires, buckets and containers by dumping water to prevent mosquito eggs from hatching or larvae from developing into biting adults.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors.
  • Applying an EPA-registered insect repellent according to label instructions.
  • Making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.

For more information about mosquito-borne viruses and mosquito surveillance in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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Northern Blue Photographer John Wilkie

By Ranger Steve Mueller

People connections from our past create joyous memories that live even when they are gone. John Wilkie was a Detroit foundry worker with whom I had not had contact but good fortune brought us together. 

In the early 1980’s I was participating in botanical research with Dr. Reznicek from the University of Michigan and Don Henson. They were exploring the Upper Peninsula for rare plants and I was along to learn what I could from the experts. My broad interests are not highly proficient with the possible exception for butterflies. 

The Northern Blue butterfly. Photos courtesy of Ranger Steve Mueller.

During field work, I was introduced to many plant species new to me. As we roved, I kept a watchful eye for various butterflies. Most were beauties commonly encountered like the Acadian Hairstreak, Baltimore Checkerspot, and Arctic Skipper. All were thrilling with somewhat obscure caterpillar host plants and showy wildflower nectar sources. 

A small iridescent blue butterfly we had not seen elsewhere was abundant in one location. I excitedly caught it with my butterfly net. It was a Northern Blue butterfly. I kept an individual for scientific proof because it was not known to have breeding populations in Michigan. Mo Nielsen had found one individual at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior far from Michigan’s mainland. It had been found in Minnesota north of the great lake and in northern Wisconsin. Some had drifted over the border from Wisconsin into Michigan’s Dickinson County but breeding colonies were not known in this site and I did not find any there when I visited. 

The Northern Blue butterfly underwing by SJM.

While I was absorbed with the butterfly I found, Dr. Reznicek vocally burst with excitement. He found dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum). It’s a minute three-inch-tall heath in the blueberry family. Cecil Billington, in his 1949 book Shrubs of Michigan, listed the species for Michigan but had not collected a specimen for scientific proof. Now 30 some years later, Dr. Reznicek collected verifying evidence as a state record. 

Surprisingly, the butterfly I had collected simultaneously 100 feet away in the central UP required that plant as a larval food host. The DNR listed both as state threatened because little was known about them. I was provided a grant for life history research. My study provided proof the caterpillar depended on the bilberry for survival. 

When its presence became known, John Wilkie contacted me. He was trying to photograph every butterfly species known to Michigan. At the time, I lived in the upper peninsula and John, with camera, made the trip north. He stayed at our home and the next day, we visited the only known Northern Blue breeding colony in Michigan. He acquired the desired pictures and kindly sent me an 8X10 print. 

It was a wonderful joy to share the discovery with an avid butterfly enthusiast and enjoy his company in the evening. He was elderly but full of youthful excitement that comes from pursuing the natural wonders that abound in back country wild areas that hold remnants of the unknown. Within weeks of driving home, processing his pictures, and sending me the print, he passed away. This was the last species he was able to capture on film. It was a pleasure to assist in his quest. 

My work with Northern Blue research continued. More extensive study ensued for the presence of the bilberry and some new locations were discovered. I canvased sites in hopes of finding the butterfly. I went to the McCormick Wilderness I had wanted to visit but had never explored. I hiked its back country and happened upon a Northern Blue. It was female so I followed her expecting she might lead me the bilberry that was unknown in that location. The butterfly’s plant search for egg laying, helped me discover a new location for this plant special to her and for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 

On wilderness treks one can happen upon new discoveries of significance. Preservation of wilderness is essential to sustain unique nature niches. They also provide opportunity to develop new acquaintances with people like John Wilkie who enrich our lives. Though he is gone, he lives vividly in my experiences. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Teen drowned in Lake Bella Vista had epilepsy

Molly Rasmussen

Sixteen-year-old jumped in and never came up

By Beth Altena, The Rockford Squire

A beautiful spring day on the lake ended with shock and agony when a 16-year-old girl drowned after going under the water and not coming back up. 

The incident happened around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 at the west end of the lake near the Kent County dock that is a permanent structure at the berm known as the Lake Bella Vista Dam. 

Rescue boats searched for 16-year-old Molly Rasmussen after she went under and did not resurface. Photo by Beth Altena.

Two young men were diving to try and find the girl, later identified by authorities as 16-year-old Molly Rasmussen. Rasmussen had just completed her sophomore year at Forest Hills Eastern. Multiple people called 9-1-1 and responders to the scene included the Kent County Sheriff Department with several vehicles and a boat, Cannon Township Fire and Rescue, the Cannon Township hovercraft, Rockford Ambulance and the City of Rockford first responders.

Photo by Beth Altena.

Divers on the scene repeatedly searched the area and appeared to be gridding off the area with floats. They used a long stick-like device they pushed down into the water and used a pontoon boat that was in the area to use various devices to try and locate the girl. Other people on a variety of boats circled at a respectful distance watching the rescuers.

A large crowd of mostly teenagers gathered on the berm during the hour-long search before authorities dispersed the crowd to either end of the long berm. After more than an hour and while dusk was settling on the lake, the hovercraft left and most boats left. Later the Kent County Sheriff Department Dive Time found the girl, but were unable to revive her and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Molly is the daughter of Cindi and Mark Rasmussen and was a celebrated athlete at her school. She reportedly suffered from epilepsy.

About 2,000 people showed up Thursday, June 4, for a candlelit vigil at the Forest Hills Eastern high school football stadium. 

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Former educator publishes book of memories

Ray Kleefisch, of Rockford, donated a copy of his just published book “Living in high clover” to the Cedar Springs Public Library earlier this week. Kleefisch is shown here with librarian Donna Clark, in front of the flowing well in the Heart of Cedar Springs, behind the library. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Ray Kleefisch, a former teacher, assistant principal and coach at Cedar Springs Public Schools for 28 years, has just published a unique book that looks at Kleefisch’s life through the eyes, ears, and paws of his best friends–his dogs.

Kleefisch grew up in Lowell, Michigan. He attended Western Michigan University and the University of Virginia and went on to serve 28 years in the U.S. Army as active duty and reserves.

In his new book, “Living in high clover,” Kleefisch weaved his story around the most influential canines in his life—Skippy, Tippy, Puppy, Mandy, and Chester. From childhood to adulthood, those dogs were all there at important times in his life. The 42-page book from RoseDog Books is filled with photos and anecdotes of those moments—both happy and sad.

The Post asked Kleefisch what was his inspiration to write the book?

“I just wanted to leave a little history for my family and show that if you slow down a little bit and recognize the little miracles that happen every day, the little things often end up being significant,” he explained.

He wanted to use his dogs, because he always had a special bond with them. “One woman told me that all dogs are service dogs; some are just freelancing,” he remarked.

The title of the book, “Living in High Clover,” has a family connection. “My cousin has a farm in Parnell, and he’d say, ‘Look at those deer—they’re all living in high clover—going from one banquet to the next.’ He was upset they were eating his crops and having a great time.” He said his wife, Jan, who helped him with the book, adopted the saying for the dogs and used it as the title of the book.

Kleefisch said if any profits are generated from the book, he will donate them to an organization to help feed hungry kids in Cedar Springs.

To order a copy of the book, go online to http://rosedogbookstore.com/living-in-high-clover/; call 1-800-788-7654; or email bookorders@rosedogbooks.com.

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Meet Up and Eat Up returns to Kent District Library

Kent County, Michigan – Kent District Library is pleased to partner with Feeding America to present Meet Up and Eat Up, a summer food program at 12 KDL locations. Anyone 18 years old and younger can come enjoy a free lunch.

“Feeding the minds, imaginations and spirits is something that we have always done at KDL, but through this program we are literally feeding hungry people,” said Lance Werner, executive director of KDL.

Each location who is hosting this summer food access program is providing a table outside the Library building. Most branches have a canopy to provide shade, etc.  Our staff will be wearing masks and will stand at one end of the table while patrons will stand at the other end of the table to pick up their meal.

1. Students will come to the table to pick up their meal. We are providing hand sanitizer at the table so their hands can be relatively clean prior to getting their lunch.

2. Due to the grab and go option, they will be able to eat the meals at home.

3. Summer Reading materials in a make-n-take format will be available at the same time/place.

4. Parents can report how many children under 18 need a meal for their family and we are allowed to provide that number of meals to the parent—we do not have to see the students.

5. Students dealing with developmental disabilities are eligible for the meals until they are 26 years old.

6. This program is operating separate from the curbside service and as a result has a different traffic flow.

Schedule

Alpine Township, Weekdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Comstock Park, Weekdays from noon – 12:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Gaines Township, Weekdays from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Kelloggsville, Weekdays from noon – 1:00 PM, June 22 – August 14

Kentwood, Weekdays from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Nelson Twp., Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Plainfield Twp., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:15 AM – noon, June 22 – August 14

Spencer Township, Weekdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Tyrone Township, Mondays – Thursdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, June 22 – August 13

Walker, Weekdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM, June 22 – August 14

Wyoming, Weekdays from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, June 22 – August 14

Bookmobile, Various dates and locations

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