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CF man honored for pulling man from burning car
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CADOTT — When Nathan Manor saw a car on fire the evening of Oct. 11, he just reacted.

Manor and his two friends left a Cadott bar, running the two blocks to a car that had crashed into a stopped train. While the front end of the car didn’t have major noticeable dents, it had burst into flames. Furthermore, it was evident the driver of the car was passed out inside.

“We started breaking the windows. I just punched it out with my hands,” Manor said. “It started on fire in the engine, and was working its way back in the car.”

Manor smashed the driver’s side window. However, he realized the driver had somehow crawled into the back seat. So, Manor broke the rear window on the driver’s side, reached inside to unlock the car, and opened the door. The man was perhaps 150 pounds. Manor reached into the car and pulled him out.

“We got him out, down the street, away from the vehicle,” Manor said.

On Monday, Manor was honored at the Cadott Village Board meeting. He received an honor from the state Legislature for his quick thinking and bravery.

Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona, and Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, presented Manor with the certificate.

“He went above and beyond, and I call him a hometown hero,” James said. “This young man obviously stepped up to the plate. This is an award overdue to him.”

Manor, 22, is a 2017 Fall Creek High School graduate and now a Chippewa Falls resident. He and his friends, Josh Briggs and Tristan Duncan, were at Rick’s Halfway Hall and Sports Bar in downtown Cadott.

Firefighters said the car was fully stopped, in front of the train tracks, a few blocks from the bar. Somehow, it began rolling forward, striking the stopped train, causing it to burst into flames.

“No one else was running down there,” Manor said with a shrug.

EMTs arrived, and the man was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He did not attend Monday’s event.

“I just had some cuts and scrapes, but that’s it,” Manor said.

Manor’s girlfriend and his parents attended the ceremony. Manor seemed embarrassed by all the attention.

“It’s cool to be honored like this,” he said. “I don’t need it. I’m just glad I saved a guy.”

Andrew and Kim Torgerson flew kites with their son Cole on Friday at Eau Claire Soccer Park. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Over 90% of Eau Claire school district teachers are vaccinated
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EAU CLAIRE — Ninety-one percent of Eau Claire school district teachers have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, improving on early predictions from the school district and reassuring administrators about shifting younger students to more face-to-face classes beginning this week.

“We’re happy to report that before spring break, 91% of staff reported having at least the first shot of the vaccine, so that helped us feel better about having more students in each classroom,” said Kim Koller, executive director of administration, at a Monday school board meeting.

In Eau Claire County, 35% of residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 24% are fully vaccinated.

Wisconsin teachers became eligible March 1 to get COVID-19 vaccines. Chippewa Valley teachers began getting their shots that same week.

In February, about 85% of the district’s roughly 1,400 employees said they were interested in getting the vaccine, Koller said.

No large school district in the Chippewa Valley is mandating employees get the vaccine, including the Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and Altoona districts.

More kids in classrooms

This week, Eau Claire kindergarten through fifth grade students are returning to face-to-face classes four days per week.

“To see art and music and physical education happening in person, and the staff with the enthusiasm and flexibility to make it happen … it really was quite a fun day to have 500 kids back in the building,” said Jake Donze, principal of Robbins Elementary School, at the Monday school board meeting.

The school board in February voted to allow kindergarten and third through fifth grade students to switch to four days of face-to-face classes per week instead of two, starting Monday. (First and second grade students have been in-classroom four days per week since the fall.)

On Wednesdays, all Eau Claire students learn virtually so school buildings can be cleaned.

On Monday, just over 4,500 students began to return to four days per week of in-person classes, Koller said. Eight students transitioned to Cohort H — the district’s option for younger students who were uncomfortable returning to four days per week of in-person classes. Those students will attend via a livestream of their classrooms during the day, school officials said in February.

Additionally, 128 students decided to switch from all-virtual classes to four days per week of face-to-face classes, Koller said.

The shift to more in-person classes means that in those elementary schools, teachers and students won’t necessarily be able to stay six feet apart inside school buildings.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department in February said there was risk involved with the school district’s decision, but that the district’s plan took a “strategic and deliberate” look at the risks — adding that vaccinated teachers added a degree of protection.

Koller in February said the district weighed the risk along with additional COVID-19 health measures, and was confident in the move.

People inside school buildings are still required to wear masks.

Teachers on Monday said they were thrilled that music, art and physical education classes are being revitalized.

Some music, art and physical education classes are happening in classrooms; some are meeting in music rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias or outside, said Denise Swartz, a music teacher at Locust Lane Elementary School.

As of Monday, the school district is only bringing back younger students for four days inside the classroom. School officials said in February that given the size of the high schools, without social distancing, Eau Claire high school students come into close contact with far more people each day — which would complicate contact tracing and quarantining if a COVID-19 outbreak happened in the high schools.

As of Monday, students in sixth through 12th grades are attending two days of face-to-face classes and three virtual days each week.

But via a letter sent before spring break, the school district told families that it’s “continuing to look at the secondary model for ways we can increase time face-to-face,” Koller said.

Zoe Wolfe, North High School’s student representative, said Monday that high school students would welcome more in-person classes.

“The 2021-22 school year should return to full in-person learning while also providing a virtual option as well,” Wolfe told the school board Monday. “For the majority of students, they need to be in school to receive a full education. Teachers have worked very hard this year to ensure we learn as much as we can.”

Also at the Monday school board meeting:

  • The board approved a 2021-22 master agreement between the Eau Claire Association of Educators and the school district, which includes a 1.23% base wage increase for the ECAE, according to meeting documents. The school board also approved a wage increase of 1.23% for all employees for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
  • The board will now allow student representatives to the board for all Eau Claire high schools, including the Eau Claire Virtual School and McKinley Charter School. Only Memorial and North high schools currently have student representatives on the board.
  • The board held a first reading of a new policy on coherent governance, a governing model that dictates how school boards function.
  • The board held a first reading of changes to the district’s policy on non-public school students participating in district courses and programs. Currently, a homeschooled or private school student can take up to two courses per semester if there is enough space in the classroom; the student must live in the Eau Claire school district. Students also currently must be full-time students to participate in extracurricular activities. If the school board votes later this month to change the policy, private school and homeschooled students will be able to take up to two high school courses per semester if they meet admission requirements and live in the district. They must also be taking no more than two courses in any public school in Wisconsin during any semester. Homeschooled students who live in the district could also participate in athletics and extracurriculars. Those students would also be responsible for their own transportation to and from the public school.
  • The board voted to remove the term “handicap” from several school district policies.
  • The school board met in closed session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation.

Police: Erratic intoxicated driver injures husband
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EAU CLAIRE — A Fall Creek woman injured her husband by driving erratically while intoxicated on Easter on U.S. 12 in Altoona, authorities say.

Miranda L. House, 31, 1910 Spring St., was charged Monday in Eau Claire County Court with a felony count of attempting to flee an officer and misdemeanor counts of causing injury by operating while intoxicated and resisting an officer.

House is free on a $1,000 signature bond, which prohibits her from drinking alcohol or entering taverns.

House returns to court May 17.

According to the criminal complaint:

Altoona police officers were advised of a reckless driver Sunday on U.S. 12, or Hillcrest Parkway, in Altoona.

A caller reported that a truck struck a guardrail between Highway 93 and South Hastings Way, and that a male subject was kicked out of the vehicle in the middle of the road.

An officer located the truck and saw it cross the centerline near Hong Street. The officer activated his emergency lights and the truck did not appear to brake. The officer then activated his emergency siren, and the truck did not stop.

While the officer followed the truck for a mile, it swerved numerous times, crossing over the fog line onto the shoulder.

The officer was concerned for other vehicles on the road as they entered the two-lane portion of the highway with no divider.

The truck eventually stopped in the 7900 block of U.S. 12.

The driver of the truck was identified as House. She appeared confused and unable to follow instructions. House was unsteady on her feet. Her speech was slurred and her eyes were glassy and bloodshot. There was a strong odor of intoxicants coming from her breath.

The officer observed damage that appeared to be caused by a head hitting the windshield. There were fresh blood droplets on the inside of the windshield.

House said her husband was in the vehicle earlier but refused to say where he got out of the truck or if he was injured.

A second police officer located House’s husband near Hillcrest Parkway and 10th Street West in Altoona. He had a bloody hand and refused to remove his hat so authorities could look for injuries to his head.

House’s husband was not cooperative but appeared to be injured.

House refused to perform field sobriety tests and resisted attempts to be placed in a squad car.

House was taken to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire for a blood draw.

If convicted of the felony charge, House could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison.

Andrew and Kim Torgerson flew kites with their son Cole on Friday at Eau Claire Soccer Park. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Inmate charged after making up sexual assault story
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CHIPPEWA FALLS — A Stanley man, who is incarcerated in the Chippewa County Jail, has been charged after he admitted he made up a story of being sexually assaulted by a woman.

Austin L. Engelke, 19, W11729 Willow Road, has been charged in Chippewa County Court with resisting or obstructing an officer. Engelke is already being held on a $1,000 cash bond. He will return to court today.

According to the criminal complaint, a Chippewa Falls police officer interviewed Engelke in the jail, where Engelke told a story of being sexually assaulted by an adult woman in March 2020. However, the officer “noted a bunch of inconsistencies” in Engelke’s statements. Eventually Engelke admitted he had not been assaulted.

“He lied about the sexual assault to help out another inmate, Donald Rusaw,” the complaint states. Engelke added “that the person he claimed sexually assaulted him was a prior victim of Mr. Rusaw, and that Mr. Rusaw was going to use this information to help him with Mr. Rusaw’s case.”

The complaint doesn’t say if Rusaw explicitly asked Engelke to lie on his behalf.

Engelke was arrested after the parents of a 12-year-old girl saw Engelke climb out of her second-story bedroom window on Jan. 2. When confronted, Engelke admitted he had sexual conduct with the girl. If released from jail, Engelke cannot have any contact with the victim or any juvenile females.

Rusaw, 44, was released from prison Aug. 11 after serving an 18-year sentence on sex offenses, and was considered homeless. However, he was arrested after law enforcement discovered he was in possession of sexual images on his phone. He was charged with 10 counts of attempted possession of child pornography and is incarcerated on a $25,000 cash bond. He will be in court Wednesday in that case.

According to the criminal complaint, Rusaw met with his probation agent Aug. 31, where the agent discovered multiple images of adult pornography, but also images of children posed in sexual positions, although they were wearing clothing. His phone also showed searches for minors involved in sex acts. The phone was turned over to the Chippewa Falls Police Department and later sent to the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation for a forensic examination.

Rusaw was convicted by a jury in Chippewa County Court in 2004 of second-degree sexual assault of a child and 17 counts of possessing child pornography. He is considered a Level III sex offender, requiring notification of his release. Even before his most recent charge, Rusaw was slated to be supervised by the Department of Corrections through August 2058.