Orchard has teamed up with Nebraska Loves Public Schools and created their very own Orchard Public Schools version of the I Love Public Schools t-shirt.
Pre-order the limited edition t-shirt and help raise money for playground activity sets and the makerspace.
Visit ilovepublicschoolsshirts.com by Feb. 17. Click on the limited edition dropdown and find Orchard. Shirts will arrive the week of March. 11.
As the March deadline nears for a decision on unification, four area schools were given more data to consider last week.
Dr. Craig Pease and Dr. Bob Uhing presented results of four feasibility studies — after presenting the first study in December — to school boards from Orchard, Clearwater, Ewing and Verdigre last Wednesday in the Orchard gymnasium. About 30 members of the public attended the 90-minute meeting.
These studies looked at mergers between Orchard and Clearwater; Orchard and Ewing; Orchard, Clearwater and Ewing, along with unification of Orchard and Verdigre. The first study presented in December was on a merger between Clearwater and Ewing.
“We’re not trying to take sides here,” Pease told the board members. “We’re trying to provide you with the very best information based upon
our experiences in this area in the last 20-30 years.”
Among the data shared in the studies was curriculum, staffing, budget and finance.
View the full document here.
The Clearwater/Orchard speech team competed at the West Holt speech meet on Saturday. Nalleli Zermeno finished sixth in poetry and second in duet acting, Lizett Marino ended sixth in novice duet acting with Madison Melcher, Jackie Olivan was second in entertainment and Erin Schwager rounded out the team with a second place finish in duet acting.
Ten Clearwater/Orchard students were recently named to the NVC Principals’ All-Academic Team.
To qualify, juniors and seniors must have a cummulative GPA of 3.5 or above.
Named to the team were (front, left to right) Julia Thiele, Kierra Bearinger, Katie Stearns, Taylor Sanne, (back, left to right) James Kester, Tyler Hupp, Chris Kester, Jake Long and Zach King. Not pictured is Lauren Behnk.
Details of how a new sales tax could benefit the Village of Orchard were shared Monday night during a community meeting.
Held at the Rex Theater, members of the Orchard Economic Development Association fielded questions about the proposed 1½ percent sales tax for economic development that will be decided by special election on Tuesday, March 12. Registered voters within Orchard city limits will vote by mail-in ballots.
The ballots will be mailed out to all registered voters within Orchard city limits on March 1. Ballots can be returned in person to the clerk’s office or mailed back, but must be received by March 12.
The ballot will have two separate questions, the first being about the 1½ percent sales tax, and the second regarding designating 50 percent of those funds to economic development within LB 840.
Tammy Cheatum, OEDA member, encourages anyone who has not registered to vote or knows anyone who has not registered, to register online by Feb. 22 or in person by Feb. 28. Cheatum said there are currently approximately 300 registered voters within city limits.
Orchard is just one of a handful of area communities not already collecting a sales tax for economic development. Neighboring communities of Clearwater and Neligh approved LB 840 plans several years ago and have already begun offering low-interest loans that have led to new businesses and job creation.
If passed, Orchard would impose a 1½ percent sales tax with allocation and use of 50 percent of the tax revenue for any project or program providing direct or indirect financial assistance to qualifying businesses. Businesses seeking low-interest loans from the sales tax collected would go through a loan review process similar to that of a bank, along with other loan requirements.
Unlike property taxes, sales tax is collected from anyone who spends money inside city limits, regardless of whether they are a resident of Orchard.
For example, if Orchard residents buy a meal in Neligh, they would pay a Neligh sales tax, which would stay in the city of Neligh, and vice versa.
“So, if I’m going to their town and helping them with their economic development, why can’t they come here and help us?” asked Stephanie Cleveland, OEDA board member.
“It’s not just Orchard giving back to Orchard, this is everyone giving to Orchard,” Cleveland said.
“You go to every other town around here and you’re paying it, so why not pay it in your town?” questioned OEDA member Cassie Prince.
When looking at statistics, Cleveland said there would have been anywhere from $52,000 to $54,000 each year between 2015 to 2017 coming into Orchard that could have been used for economic development projects.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that anything that is currently not taxed will still not be taxed,” Laura Ferguson said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said long-time Orchard resident Becky Moser.
“It’s about bringing stuff and doing more and making this community, making Orchard what we want it to be for our kids and for their kids and for their kids,” Cleveland said.
The OEDA is planning to hold another community meeting when the ballots are sent out.
With two new FFA programs starting in Antelope County in as many years, will Orchard Public School be the next?
Orchard freshman Madison Melcher participates in FFA through a cooperation with Verdigre, which is also part of the Nebraska Unified District #1. Melcher said she believes an FFA program could not only make Orchard more attractive as a school, but also strengthen the community.
Principal Cathy Cooper said Orchard has considered adding the program, but there are many factors to consider. Currently, Orchard has an opening for an industrial arts teacher, which could include agriculture instruction.
“We are open to either hiring either a skilled and technical sciences instructor or an ag instructor, per availability of possible candidates,” Cooper said. “We feel we’ve got that piece (agriculture) there, but I don’t think that we are opposed to expanding that. We may be looking for a skilled and technical sciences person, and we may be looking for an ag instructor, and that could include FFA. We’re definitely looking into that option.”
Other FFA programs in the county include Elgin, which has had a program for many years, Neligh-Oakdale and Elkhorn Valley. Neligh-Oakdale restarted its chapter last year, and Elkhorn Valley’s program began this school year.
Currently, Orchard students take agriculture classes via distance learning through Verdigre. When it comes time for FFA, Orchard students travel 30 miles for meetings. For Melcher, who lives near Page, it’s an even longer drive.
“At the moment I have to travel 40 minutes just to go to a simple meeting, or I have to go through a DL class,” she said.
Melcher’s passion for agriculture has already shined with Verdigre’s FFA program. She was selected as FFA member of the month in December. Traveling hasn’t stopped her from completing any tasks, but some underclassmen struggle. Levi Cronk, an eighth-grader at Orchard, said bringing FFA closer to Orchard would benefit the students.
“We could be involved in more competitions,” Cronk said. “It’s the fact that we can’t be over there every morning trying to practice. We’d be able to learn more, and we’d be able to have more classes.”
While the travel has hindered both Cronk and Melcher, they still consider themselves luckier than most because they are able to attend as many events, meetings and practices as they do.
“There are kids who want to go into agriculture, but they don’t really have that chance because not everyone can make that trip whenever needed,” Cronk said.
Melcher said it’s not only the travel that is a struggle, learning over a TV makes the competition difficult.
“This year I competed in parliamentary procedure, which is running a meeting for a chapter, and it was difficult because I only learned it through the DL,” she said. “I’d never worked with these kids in person, so it’s difficult for us to be able to have that bond and be able to read each other’s faces when we needed.”
Both students said they appreciate that Orchard is open-minded to their desire to look into FFA and said they hope it can be integrated into the school in the coming years.
“It would be worth it,” Cronk said. “It’d be one of the better things the school could do. There are plenty of competitions you can go into in order to advance your knowledge.”
Melcher said she believes all students could benefit from more ag classes and FFA, not just those from an agricultural background.
“Students (will) realize that it’s not just about the cows or the pigs and just living on a ranch,” she said. “It can involve the golf course field and keeping the grass clean or the football field or anything that involves plants. Or bankers being able to give loans out to farmers who need them for land and stuff like that.”
Cooper said students aren’t the only ones interested in localizing agriculture classes. She said there’s been more of a push from parents and the community to look at the agricultural side of education and the careers that are involved.
If Orchard administration and board members move toward more agriculture classes and FFA, Cooper said the community possibly could help raise some of the necessary funds for the program.
“I think anything is attainable if you set your mind to it,” Cooper said. “And I think we have a really supportive community, so I feel like it would be something that people would be open to.”
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