Students, faculty and their families are invited to the annual Back to School Bash for Orchard Public School.
The Back to School Bash will take place on Tuesday, August 14. There will be an open house for K-6 from 5-6:30 p.m., with the bash following.
Free swimming will be offered at the Orchard Pool from 6:30-8 and an inflatable obstacle course will be set up in the swimming pool park. Members of the school board will also be grilling hot dogs, which will be served with chips and a drink to those in attendance.
Cathy Cooper, the principal for Orchard Public School, said that the event is the school board's way of kicking off the school year.
"This is their way of welcoming the teachers and the kids back to school!"
Consolidation was brought up as a possibility by a member of the Clearwater School board during the Unified board meeting in Orchard on Monday night.
The Unified board met for their July meeting at Orchard High School on Monday, July 16. Multiple items were discussed during the meeting, including internet speeds, the approval of staff changes & reunification.
The board had left off the previous meeting with discussions about recommending that the advisory boards put reunification on their agendas. Dale Martin, the superintendent of the Unified board, said that he had discussed the topic with Verdigre. Orchard did not have a July meeting, and the topic wasn’t on the agenda for Clearwater.
Martin said the topic under discussion was whether or not there was change being wanted.
“The discussion was, if there’s not a lot of movement for change, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time,” he said. “If there is some movement for change, we do need some more time to discuss what that change is going to look like.”
Amy Thiele, the president of the Clearwater School board, brought up a previous topic that she felt was worthy of talks - consolidation.
“I know you maybe threw out the consolidation talks, but to me, this is a good opportunity to make it be a consolidation vs. reunification discussion in your communities,” Thiele said.
She continued to say that under consolidation, not a lot change would have to take place.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t be for a consolidation vs. a unification,” Thiele said. “If there was a consolidation, you can still have your three attendance centers. Just because you consolidate doesn’t mean you have to have one attendance center.”
Thiele said that with consolidation, it would eliminate the periodical questions that the unification faces when it comes time for renewal.
“To me, consolidation makes sense,” Thiele said. “You are taking away the ‘If, and or what’ piece of the questions when it comes time for renewal and you are taking away the ‘If you want to make changes.’”
Kristi Schutt, the treasurer for the Orchard School board, questioned the future of the advisory boards if consolidation were to occur.
“When you do consolidate, though,” Schutt said. “You would get rid of your advisory boards...and you would be down to a six-person board, so one town could have all six on the board, correct? Every town would not have a representation as we do in unification.”
Thiele said that if the schools were trusting enough to consolidate, it shouldn’t be a concern where the representatives are from.
“It shouldn’t matter at that point, though,” Thiele said. “If everyone has made that commitment, that’s a piece to discuss, and it’s a concern for some people. But, at that point, if you are willing to make the commitment, you have to put your faith in a lot of people, and you have to get your people out to vote.”
Unified board member Marty Kerkman brought up the possibility of having borders set for voting representatives in order for representation to stay equal. The superintendent said that possibility has been discussed in the past.
“We talked about this several years back, about precincts as a possibility, that you would vote in your precinct for your representative,” Martin said.
During the meeting, the Unified board also approved bills, the membership of Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, the hire of Wanda Henning as custodian at the Orchard site and the resignation of Orchard bus driver Cherylyn Hurtig.
At a time when many rural communities across the state are declining in population, according to the 2017 U.S. Census, the community of Page has banded together.
It joined forces to save a local cafe in hopes that the town will be around for future generations to enjoy.
After the Board of Trustees for the Page Development Corporation (PDC) made the decision on June 7 to liquidate the building that housed the Kountry Korner Cafe, the Page community rallied together at a special meeting to discuss the business’ closing.
At the meeting on June 28, an overwhelmingly large number of community members and cafe supporters turned out, wanting to see the business survive.
“There was probably 50-plus people there wanting to support [the cafe], wanting to see it survive,” Jannan Sobotka said.
Set to close on July 14, a small group of people from the Page area decided to take over management of the cafe to keep it alive starting July 16. The group, which is looking to form an LLC, consists of Barry and Lenore Kelly, Matt and Lori Ickes, Kris Matschullat, Heath and Sarah Wilson and Dan and Jannan Sobotka.
“Dan and I … we just hate to see little things like this close, so we thought, well, if we have some young ones to help on the venture, we’ll see where it takes us,” Jannan Sobotka said.
One of the couple’s goals was to “keep the building in the community so that we can have community functions.”
Lori Ickes said she “just didn’t want to see our community die - another business lost.”
“I want this to be available for my children. I want them to have the opportunity to have a working community if they want to move back here when they grow up, and the cafe is a big part of this community,” Matschullat said.
The PDC, which owns the building the Kountry Korner Cafe is in, was formed in 1992 because community members wanted a cafe in the town. Throughout the years, the cafe has had several different managers. Last month, the PDC decided the cost of maintaining the building was too much to continue operations.
“The PDC Board is a non-profit organization, and so a restaurant is a for-profit business,” Matschullat explained. “So, the community owns the building, and they had previous managers who come across the problems of the air conditioner and problems with the building, and they didn’t think there was enough funds available to fix all that stuff.”
The building consists of the front eating area, a middle bar section area and a community room and small outdoor area that can be rented out for special events.
“It’s kind of the last building that Page has that’s a community building. It’s not just the cafe, it’s the community building also,” Jannan Sobotka said.
The alumni hold events in the building, and the American Legion was moved to the building as well. The group said that small family reunions and wedding receptions have also been held in the back room.
“This pretty much is our community center,” Matschullat said.
“I don’t think any one of us investors in this LLC are going into it thinking we’re going to get rich. We’re basically doing this just to keep the community going, help keep the cafe going and have a place for everyone to come and eat,” Heath Wilson said.
He went on to explain that there are only three businesses in town that actually serve customers.
“If the cafe would have closed, that’s just one less thing for people to come to town for,” he said. “It’s kind of nice being able to drive a couple minutes into town and grab something to eat instead of having to drive 20 miles to O’Neill.”
Because the building was built in the early to mid ‘80s and hasn’t had many updates since, the group has plans for upgrades, including re-insulating the building, fixing the ceiling, replacing the air conditioner and giving the building an overall facelift with decor. Jannan and the rest of the group agree that the main goal with the upgrades is to make the building more energy efficient.
The group is still working on getting bids for upgrades they would like to make, so they are still uncertain how much it will all cost.
“The PDC owns the building, so we’ll be doing fundraisers with them, and we’re also taking donations,” Jannan Sobotka said.
“We want to keep the same hometown feel that the cafe has had - really good food, nice smiling faces and just somewhere you can come and eat and relax and enjoy yourself. That’s our main goal - just to make it a good facility for everyone, young or old. Anybody is welcome to come,” Matschullat said.
However, the building needing a facelift hasn’t stopped people from coming in to enjoy the cafe.
“I would say around noontime, there’s a consistent lunch, 20-30 people. It’s usually local, hometown farming people or construction crews that are working in the area or irrigation crews,” Matt Ickes said. “If this would have been shut down, the guys that do support this place everyday, I don’t know where they would have
Although the cafe is under new management, the hours will remain the same. The cafe will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, being closed on Sundays and Monday evenings.
The cafe is also open for special events, for which the cooks will prepare food, and the regular hours may expand in the future according to the group.
The group is also keeping the same staff in place, as well as looking to hire more wait staff for evenings and weekends. The staff currently consists of Rhonda Allen and Karen Cronk, the cooks, who have kept the cafe open since the closing announcement was made.
The large lunch crowd is due in part to daily lunch specials. The cafe also has evening specials, with Thursday night being a homemade chicken fried steak dinner and Friday night serving steak and burgers. Saturday is prime rib night, and Matschullat said the goal is to make the best prime rib anyone can ever find.
Matschullat also said the group is “going to work at doing some more evening specials to try to accommodate some of the out-of-town people from Orchard or Ewing or Neligh to come here and enjoy a social meal.”
The cafe also offers an all-homemade salad bar on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Jannan Sobotka said the potato salad is “to-die-for.” According to Matschullat, “The homemade potato and macaroni salads - everybody raves about them.”
The group said its staple items are a really good 8-ounce burger, noon specials and the homemade potato and macaroni salads.
“It’s really good food, but we’re going to try to up our game on the home-cooked, made-from-scratch [food],” Matschullat said.
“We are looking to find something that no one else has around here,” Lori Ickes said.
Along with sit-down customers, the group said the cafe does a lot of to-go orders as well. The group is also working on getting a catering license to be able to serve even more customers.
“This is a big undertaking,” Matschullat said. “None of us have been in the restaurant business. We all own our own independent businesses, but none of them have anything to do with food service. But to make this go in a small town like Page, it’s going to take a lot of unique talents … and I think we’ve got a really good group to be successful at it.”
“We’re all up for the challenge, and it will be a challenge,” Jannan Sobotka said. “We’re up to see where God’s going to take us on this challenge.”
Matschullat and Lori Ickes are going to be the daily operations managers, while the Wilsons will help with special events and advertising. Barry Kelly and Dan Sobotka are going to help allocate funds for the building, with Jannan Sobotka being the group’s “secretary/banker/ bookkeeper.”
Although some people within the group will have main roles, Heath Wilson said, “I think we’ll all just kind of fill in wherever we need help. I mean, nobody’s got any certain thing that they just kind of stick to. It’s just kind of all hands on deck for whatever anyone needs help with.”
Running and continuing the cafe will take effort from the whole Page community, according to Matschullat.
“The night of the meeting when they asked the community to come in and talk about it, there was an overwhelming number of people,” she said. “I’m pretty sure over half the town was here to talk about it and looking for ideas to try to help keep it open. Everybody will make their own mark.”
The Orchard Young Men's Club is hosting a cornhole tournament as part of the Orchard Days Celebration.
Registration will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 28 at Double D's Saloon. The tournament is set to start at 5 p.m.
The cost is $30 per team. Team members may be co-ed, but must have graduated from high school. Cash prizes are offered for first, second and third places in the tournament and in the calcutta. A food cart, beer garden and DJ music will be available.
For more information or to pre-register, contact Austin Twibell at 402-340-2496.
With Orchard Celebration Days less than a month away, the time has come to start lining up teams for the Sand Volleyball Tournament.
The tournament will be held on Saturday, July 28, 2018. It is a 4-person team, COED, double elimination tournament. The cost is $60.00 per team.
The rules of the tournament are as follows:
For questions and to register for the tournament, please contact Kristi at 402-394-5622 or Tate at 402-394-5620.
At 8 a.m. every Thursday morning, the shuffling of feet, bouncing of basketballs and shouts of encouragement can be heard in the Orchard High School gym.
“You guys are ahead of the game because you’re here right now, this morning, while everyone else is sleeping,” said boys basketball coach and Orchard athletic director Jim Schutt as he reassured the eight student athletes in the gym Thursday morning.
This is part of a new summer athletic program called Champion’s Club. Each morning, student athletes in grades three through 12 gather in both Clearwater and Orchard for weight training, agility workouts and individual sports Champion’s Club.
The idea for the new summer athletic program was developed in January. Both Schutt and Shelly Mlnarik, who serves as the athletic director at Clearwater, teamed up with the program in order to help students improve and build a better culture of winning.
Included in the program is weight lifting every morning from 6 to 6:45 a.m., agilities from 6:45 to 7:15 a.m., weights again from 7:15 to 8 a.m. and then the sports-specific Champion’s Club from 8 to 9 a.m., all of which are offered at both the Clearwater and Orchard sites.
During the Champion’s Club time, Mondays are dedicated to football and volleyball, Tuesdays for golf, Wednesdays for wrestling and Thursdays for boys and girls basketball. The program is designed to be flexible for student athletes — they can choose to attend the entire morning workout, including weights and agilities, or they can choose to attend certain parts. Attendance is also not mandatory for the summer program.
In the past, each individual sport had their own specific summer leagues that coaches would take the athletes to, which
they still do, but now each sport has a specific day on which to work out at the schools.
“To me, I think anything that we offer extra and above is beneficial as long as the kids and the parents buy into the opportunity and promote and push their kids to get out of bed and get up to it,” Schutt said.
Schutt sees this program as geared more towards the elementary and jr. high kids who don’t have any sports programs in the summer, and it’s an opportunity for the athletes to become exposed to the sports.
“I kind of like the elementary and jr. high kids there because they’re kind of the ones that are really learning the fundamentals...I think instilling it at this early age is going to be beneficial down the road,” Schutt said.
The program has been running since school has been out, and Schutt thinks it’s going well, although he had hoped to
see more kids attend. “You always wish you could have more numbers. You get maybe eight or 10 kids, but I guess those are the kids that want to work and get better,” he said.
Schutt and the rest of the coaching staff have been relying on word of mouth to gain more attendance. “We’re not having the kids
up here running for 20 minutes doing full court sprints and things. We’re doing good drills,” Schutt said. “It’s an hour so it’s not like a long time...We kind of go at it pretty quick and hard, and then we’re done.”
Besides improving skill, Schutt explained another benefit to the summer athletic program is keep the kids out of trouble. “A lot of idle time sometimes turns into problem time,” he said. “I think that it’s a lot better to have them here maybe in the evening for an hour shooting around and working on stuff than it is driving around and getting into who knows what.”
Starting after the 4th of July moratorium, the basketball teams will have open gym in the evenings where the athletes can come shoot around and work on skills. Along with a set time for open gym, Schutt says anytime a kid wants to come in and shoot around, he will have the gym open.
Schutt also commended the rest of the coaching staff at Orchard and Clearwater for being flexible and putting in the time and effort to make this program work. “This is our first year, so we all knew going in it takes a lot of time, and we have a dedicated coaching staff that’s been good and buying into it.”
Schutt said he will be curious to see the difference between the athletes who consistently attended the summer program and those who didn’t come regular season. “I can’t help not believing it’s not going to help them. I just think they’re more ahead of the game than maybe the other kids who aren’t participating,” he said.
Schutt also says the summer program is improving his coaching as well. He has been looking hard for new and different drills for his athletes and says it’s been fun and the kids enjoy it and look forward to the new drills.
The program will run until the end of July. After, the coaching staff will evaluate the program and how they can improve for next year.
“Now, I don’t want people to think that we’re doing this and then all of the sudden in year, we’ll be state champions. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but that’s also, I don’t think, an expectation of this,” Schutt said. “I think it’s just to build our kids into better athletes, the culture, and being able to be up here with their peers and listen to the coaches and things like that, so I think that’s a positive. Hopefully in the long run, it pays off .”
Madison Melcher, who will be a freshman this fall at Orchard Public School, won a national championship on Friday at the National SkillsUSA at Louisville, Kentucky, competition, which is a first in school history.
Melcher won the job skills demonstration in the open or middle school division. She is the daughter of Kevin and Sherry Melcher of Page.
"I felt like I did pretty well. I was shocked, though. I didn't think I did this well," Melcher said early Friday evening as the team traveled back to Nebraska. "It was a lot of fun. I met a lot of people from different states in my division and other divisions."
This marked Melcher's first year competing in SkillsUSA. Not surprising, the national champion plans to stay with the program.
"Yeah, I think I'm going to stick with it next year," Melcher said.
The Orchard Volunteer Fire Department will host its inaugural golf tournament on Saturday, June 30, at Summerland Golf Course.
The 4-person scramble will have a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Cost for a four-person team is $180, which includes the meal and one mulligan.
There will be flag prizes and a cash payout. Funds raised will go toward upgrading equipment.
There are a limited number of spots available. To sign up, call the clubhouse 402-626-7555, Jayme Heller at 402-822-0568, Lucas Nelson at 402-394-1360 or Josh Stelling at 402-340-6072.
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