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Eau Claire school board delays boundary change decision

The Eau Claire school board did not, as expected, make a decision Monday night on potential elementary school boundary changes.

Instead, the board voted 3-2 to send the measure back to its Demographic Trends and Facility Planning Committee to spell out how possible boundary changes would affect district families before returning to the full board at its next meeting on July 22.

Board member Joe Luginbill made the motion to send the boundary change proposal back to the committee instead of voting on a plan recommended by the panel that calls for boundary changes at seven elementary schools in the northern part of the district.

Joining Luginbill, the previous board president, in supporting the motion were Aaron Harder and Charles Vue. Voting no were Lori Bica and Tim Nordin. Board president Eric Torres and Laurie Klinkhammer were absent.

After more than a year of discussing the issue and holding multiple public listening sessions, the demographic committee’s recommended plan would require an estimated 275 students to change schools and affect families with children attending Roosevelt, Sherman, Lakeshore, Longfellow, Sam Davey, Locust Lane and Northwoods schools beginning in the 2020-21 school year.

But Luginbill pointed out that in the only previous redistricting vote during his four years on the board — in 2017 — members and the community had more detailed information about how the plan would be implemented and its impact on families.

While such matters are difficult for families, “one of the things that helps is for people to know — up or down — where they stand and to not have ambiguity,” Luginbill said.

He asked the committee to outline every aspect of the plan, including what students, if any, might be grandfathered in to attending their current elementary schools.

“I feel we can mitigate many other future potential challenges if we go forward with a decision with complete and total clarity on all fronts,” Luginbill said.

Nordin, however, responded, “I don’t know that it’s fair to ask families who have waited since October to wait another six weeks.”

While Nordin said he doesn’t know that his ultimate vote will please Roosevelt families who he complimented for their strong advocacy, he added, “I think we owe them their Monday nights back.”

A key aspect of the recommended plan is that it keeps Roosevelt open. The committee originally had recommended that Roosevelt be shuttered and repurposed into a center for 4-year-old kindergarten, as the district had a need for additional space for that programming, and could’ve redistributed the students to other north side elementary schools that had space — including Sam Davey, Northwoods, Lakeshore, Longfellow, Locust Lane and Sherman.

But that recommendation sparked anger and frustration from Roosevelt parents, who lamented the possibility of losing their beloved neighborhood school after previous district promises to update and improve the school’s facilities.

The proposal that called for closing Roosevelt was the cheapest of three major options considered by the committee, with a cost between $17.5 million and $21 million, according to district projections.

A second option, which involved retaining Roosevelt as an elementary school and expanding the facility to accommodate enrollment while coming up with another plan to address 4K needs, was projected to cost $46 million to $51.9 million.

The recommended proposal is projected to cost between $31.5 million and $35.5 million.

In a public comment period before the vote, Roosevelt parent Justin Hendrickson told the board, “It’s hard to describe how angry, frustrated and dejected I feel about my participation in this process,” particularly the committee’s failure to take into account all of the community input.

After the vote, Hendrickson wasn’t happy about waiting longer for an answer and also was disappointed the board still seems inclined to support the committee’s recommended plan, which would save Roosevelt but move his three elementary age children from the Roosevelt to Sam Davey attendance area.

“They’re OK shuffling kids around like a deck of cards it seems,” Hendrickson said. “I’m sure Sam Davey is a great school, but it’s not our school.”

Hendrickson’s wife, Kelly, previously submitted a flexible boundary plan that would have required only about 23 students to switch schools and since has offered revisions to address concerns. The board directed the demographic committee to study the plan.

Committee chairman Phil Lyons told the board Monday that Kelly Hendrickson’s proposal, dubbed the “Flex Plan,” offers the advantage of disrupting fewer families but would add busing and clerical costs while failing to adequately alleviate overcrowding at Roosevelt by grandfathering in existing students.

“There was a concern by the committee that what it was doing was just kicking the can down the road,” Lyons said.

Nordin also noted that committee members believe the large class sizes resulting from overcrowding at Roosevelt are harmful to students in terms of education.

“If that’s the case, then we should stop the harm as soon as possible,” he said, arguing against the grandfathering proposed in the Flex Plan.

The committee’s recommended proposal seeks to get the enrollment at all of the affected schools between 75 and 85 percent of capacity, which Eau Claire schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck has called ideal in terms of maximizing resources to provide the best education possible for all students.

Enrollment projections indicate Roosevelt is nearing capacity, and district officials indicate the recommended changes would keep the school at around 70 to 80 percent of capacity.

The proposed changes represent the first phase of an effort to address overcrowding in some Eau Claire schools. A key goal of the next phase would be to deal with crowded conditions in south side elementary schools, some of which have reached 90 to 95 percent of capacity.

Campground bounces back after mid-April flooding

CHIPPEWA FALLS — As Phyllis Lauderdale and Fred Hitz of Bloomer sat on their deck at the Duncan Creek Campground on Monday, they agreed they were lucky they didn’t lose more in a flood at the site on April 18.

Hitz, 90, said the water came within about two inches of their camper. Their gazebo floated away.

“The deck moved about 5½ feet,” Hitz said.

Lauderdale pointed out the camper adjacent to theirs was just set onto the grounds, replacing one that got washed away.

“We just missed our camper being ruined,” Lauderdale said.

Over the weekend, they purchased new material to repair their damaged entryway.

“We are trying to get everything back the way it was,” Lauderdale said. “Everyone is doing the best they can to get their campers back in place.”

Lauderdale said they’ve had a camper on the grounds for 19 years, and she is stunned by how good the campground looks just six weeks after the flooding.

“It’s 100 percent better; there is still work, but it’s much better,” Lauderdale said.

Campgrounds co-owner Annie Williams said that about 40 people participated in a massive cleanup effort on April 28, hauling out the damaged campers and all the debris that washed into Duncan Creek. Williams is elated that the grounds are returning to looking like they did before the flood.

“We cleaned up the banks of the neighbors down the creek,” Williams said. “People are getting back to normal. They just got the OK this weekend to put their campers back in. One was hauled in over the weekend, one is coming next weekend, and one will be (Monday night).”

Williams said it was a significant cleanup effort by everyone who stays at the campsite.

“They hauled that camper out (of the creek) in one piece, brought it up here (to my house), onto our driveway,” Williams said. “They broke it up and put it away. They had a caravan of vehicles going up the hill, getting the campers out.”

Grass is returning, and there haven’t been any new flooding issues, she added.

“It’s starting to shape up back there again,” Williams said. “And we’re praying it never happens again. We wouldn’t be this far without our campers.”

Williams thanked the neighbors along the creek who allowed access on their property for the massive cleanup.

“The neighbors here on Duncan Creek have been a blessing, letting people onto their property to get the debris out,” she said.

The Chippewa County Planning & Zoning Department has worked with the campgrounds, she added. The zoning agency has informed them that six campers closest to Duncan Creek must be moved away from the water at the end of the season, but the campers will remain on the property.

John Porter and Duane Gjerning of Rice Lake were at their camper on Monday; their site is further away from the water and suffered no damage during the flooding. However, they showed up at the cleanup day to assist their fellow campers.

“It’s amazing how everyone in the campground came together for cleanup,” Porter said. “Everyone is working together. We’re a little community. Everyone who was available came.”

Gjerning said the debris ranged from grills and decks to lawn chairs.

Stephen and Annie Williams created the Duncan Creek Campground, 12931 100th Ave., in 1972. This was only the second time it has ever flooded. Their home is just a couple football fields away from the campground.

There are 50 campers that stay on the 12-acre site year-round, with the property open May through October. On a busy summer day, there could be 300 people on the grounds.

Annie Williams said that 14 of the campsites had some type of damage.

The flooding occurred after water started rushing over the top of a private dam on their property, upstream from the campgrounds. The dam on Duncan Creek helps create the 67-acre Tilden Mill Pond. The dam was constructed in 1932, used by the Tilden Electric Light & Power Co.

Over the course of the day April 18, the top barrier on the dam gave way; the bulk of the dam remains in place, he said.

Annie Williams said that top barrier of the dam hasn’t been replaced yet. She wishes there was public funding assistance available for the repairs.

There are approximately 3,800 dams in the state, and about 60 percent are maintained on private property, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

End of the line: 'Jeopardy' star's reign ends

NEW YORK (AP) — James Holzhauer, the trivia whiz who dominated “Jeopardy!” this spring, isn’t invincible after all.

The game show’s 32-time champion lost for the first time in an episode that aired on Monday, falling short of records for total winnings and longest reign, but still making an argument that he’s the best to ever play television’s most popular game.

The professional sports gambler from Las Vegas ended his run by high-fiving the woman who beat him, Chicago librarian Emma Boettcher.

“I really felt like I had been playing with house money, so I wasn’t too upset to see my run end,” Holzhauer said in an email interview. He said he ran into “a terrific opponent playing flawlessly.”

The streak made Holzhauer a household name and sent ratings soaring, at a time “Jeopardy!” needed a pick-me-up amid host Alex Trebek’s announcement that he had cancer.

Holzhauer nearly doubled the show’s previous record for one-day winnings by earning $131,127 on his tenth game, and he leaves with the 16 highest one-day scores in the show’s history. The game has aired in its current form since 1984.

He combined a savant-like knowledge of the world with a mastery of the buzzer, allowing him to beat opponents to the punch, and adding a gambler’s cold-blooded instinct to make big bets. Often in the show’s first round, he’d quickly pile up as much money as he could, and then bet it all if he landed on a Daily Double that allows him to choose how much money to risk.

In the end, he ran into a woman willing to be as bold as he was. Boettcher went into the show’s final question with a lead over Holzhauer, and bet $20,201 to ensure he couldn’t beat her.

“What a game!” Trebek said. “Oh, my God.”

The show’s final clue was: “The line ‘a great reckoning in a little room’ in ‘As You Like It’ is usually taken to refer to this author’s premature death.”

Both Boettcher and Holzhauer correctly answered, “Who is Christopher Marlowe?”

Holzhauer had won $2.46 million through Friday’s episode, leaving him a little more than $58,000 shy of the record for earnings set by Ken Jennings in 2004. Holzhauer didn’t get halfway to Jennings’ 74-game win streak.

“I was surprised to see James go down considering how unbeatable he has looked, but it just goes to show how fragile a ‘Jeopardy!’ streak is,” Jennings said on Monday. “The end is always just one bad break away.”

Jennings said it was a fantastic run. “I don’t know if we’ll see anything like it again,” he said.

Holzhauer, who rarely buzzed in with wrong answers, said he was proud that he never beat himself. “It took an incredible performance to knock me out,” he said.

Holzhauer’s intimidating dominance became so routine that some longtime “Jeopardy!” watchers groused that it was becoming boring. Holzhauer himself seemed subdued during his last few victories. He said there was an explanation: last week’s episodes were taped immediately after Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis, so that might have affected his mood.

“I don’t think I ever tired of playing,” he said. “I greatly enjoyed the whole experience.”

Word that Monday’s episode might turn out to be special for “Jeopardy!” fans spread quickly with circulation late this weekend of a video of the show’s final minute. A show representative did not immediately respond to questions about how this material was leaked.

Holzhauer himself offered a cryptic tweet hours before most of the country had seen the episode, saying he “knew I shouldn’t have invited @Drake to the @Jeopardy taping.” Savvy sports fans would recognize the reference to a supposed curse that the rap star brings to teams he roots for.

Holzhauer developed an active social media presence during his time on the show, a signal that he’s likely to be heard from again. He said that “I’m fielding some very interesting offers at the moment and still have a lot of phone calls to return.”

Jennings was already seeing questions Monday about whether “Jeopardy!” would bring him and Holzhauer together for an epic championship match.

“It would be hard to turn down, but I’d feel like the old gunslinger being challenged by the young guy in his prime,” he said. “On the right day, I’m sure I could still take him, but it would all be a matter of who got the breaks.”