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8th-graders to BHS would be limited

By Chris Collins

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Some eighth-graders already attend classes at Baker High School as a way of getting a head start on high school and to jumpstart their college careers.

That makes good sense educationally and financially, said Baker School District Superintendent Walt Wegener, and it’s part of the governor’s plan to reform education in Oregon. 

Wegener estimates that students who earn an associate degree along with a high school diploma can save their families as much as $50,000 in college expenses. 

That goal is spurred by students taking some high school classes as eighth-graders.

But the district has “never, ever intended” to send all eighth-graders to the high school, Wegener said.

Changes are being considered because of the governor’s mandate that all school districts offer full-day kindergarten beginning in 2015.

Snowpack is on track

Submitted photo Kevin Shaw weighs snow to determine its water content.
By Jayson Jacoby

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Travis Bloomer wore snowshoes to measure snow, which sounds logical but in his case turned out to be superfluous.

Not because the snow was scarce.

It just was so, well, soft.

Even by snow’s less-than-rigid standards.

“It was bottomless, basically,” said Bloomer, who works for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Baker City.

Animal rescue group plans for the future

By Terri Harber

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Leaders of New Hope for Eastern Oregon Animals talked last week about the nonprofit organization’s plans. 

The group has reached a 15-year lease agreement with the Oregon Department of Corrections to lease 3.5 fenced acres across from the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City. Cost to New Hope is $1 a year.

The site will be used for expansion of the Powder Pals Program, which pairs inmates at the minimum-security prison with dogs that are difficult to train. 

Inmates provide instruction to the dogs from morning to bedtime so the animals have a better chance for successful home placement.

New Hope also has been focusing on providing other community services, such as dog adoptions, Baker City’s trap-neuter-release program for feral cats (which was conducted by Mollie Atwater and Friends Spay-Neuter Fund of Baker County until 2011), and operating and expanding the Leo Brookshier training center.

Summer Dreams

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Valerie Tachenko is pouring over this year’s seed catalogs, planning her garden long before the soil thaws.

She already has customers counting on her fresh produce — members are already signing up for Val’s Veggies CSA.

That stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. Prior to the growing season, people buy shares, investing up front in return for a season’s worth of fresh vegetables.

Val’s Veggies serves members in Baker, Union and Umatilla counties (including the Plateau Restaurant at Wildhorse Resort and Casino near Pendleton). 

Backyard Gardens in Joseph, run by Beth Gibans, supplies fresh produce to Wallowa and Union counties.

Something's brewing at Bull Ridge

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Helping get one of the half-ton fermenter tanks carefully into the brewing room are Julie Blank, co-owner of Bull Ridge Brew Pub, Michael Blount, center, restaurant chef, and Walter Bourque, head brewer. Tanks had to be laid down on a wheeled cart to get them through the Broadway Street opening to the room. In background are the new Mash Tun and hot liquor tanks that arrived Tuesday at the pub.
By Terri Harber

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It’s been more than a year since Bull Ridge Brew Pub opened in downtown Baker City. 

Soon the restaurant at 1934 Broadway will conduct larger-scale brewing after months of creating tiny batches in what co-owner Julie Blank calls a “nano-system.” 

Blank, who owns the business with her husband, Micah, said the beer should be flowing from a seven-barrel (about 220 gallons) brewing system later this month. 

The fermenting tanks arrived on Wednesday. Natural Structures of Baker City designed the devices that turn grains and other ingredients into a flavorful adult beverage. 

It took about a year for the fermenters to be made but, “they are really beautiful,” Blank said of the gleaming stainless steel tanks.

BHS graduation rate rises

By Chris Collins

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Baker High School’s graduation rate is above the state average and showed better improvement than the state average, according to statistics released Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education.

The BHS four-year graduate rate improved from 72.16 a year ago to 77.78 percent for 2011-12.

The ODE numbers showed that 105 of the 135 members of the BHS Class of 2012 graduated in four years. Four more earned modified diplomas and five earned GEDs for a four-year high school completer rate of 84.44 percent.

Savoring a new life

By Chris Collins

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Andy Micka believes that his September 2010 arrest for assaulting his girlfriend saved his life and their relationship and put him on the road to positive change.

Looking back, he says his problems really began on July 26, 2008. That’s the day Micka, of Baker City, was hit by a tree in an accident that left him with a broken back and a broken neck.

 Because of the pain of his injuries, he began self-medicating daily with drugs and alcohol and was no longer able to pursue his career as a construction worker.

“That really shook up my whole life,” the 37-year-old Micka said. “It was really the beginning of the end.”

But that’s all changed.

Wallowa-Whitman chief: No hurry on travel plan

By Jayson Jacoby

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John Laurence feels no pressure to make a decision that’s among the most highly anticipated on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the past few decades.

Which is what to do with the forest’s travel management plan (TMP), a policy that could ban motor vehicles from thousands of miles of roads.

Laurence clarifies that he doesn’t feel any sense of urgency now to make a decision, just two weeks into his tenure as supervisor of the 2.4-million-acre national forest, based in Baker City.

“Maybe I will,” Laurence, 63, said with a laugh during an interview in his temporary office on the second floor of  the David J. Wheeler Federal Building.

(The third floor, which houses the supervisor’s regular office, is being remodeled.)

Olympic Dreams

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Jamie McClaughry of Baker City will compete in cross-country events at the Special Olympics in South
By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Jamie McClaughry is all geared up in red, white and blue for his trip to the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in the Republic of Korea.

He flew from Portland to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet the rest of Team USA, and then he flies to Korea.

The Games run through Feb. 6.

There are 178 athletes from the U.S., and five from Oregon.

McClaughry, who lives in Baker City, will be competing in intermediate cross-country skiing.

On the menu: More space at North Powder

By Chris Collins

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NORTH POWDER — North Powder Charter School students are enjoying their meals in a new and roomy cafeteria this month.

The new space, an addition to the district’s elementary wing, could nearly contain the old cafeteria in its kitchen area alone.

“This is a big improvement,” said Vicky Brown, the district’s nutrition and Farm to School program manager.

Brown said the large kitchen area was designed to allow students to learn about food preparation.

“They’re our future chefs and they need that education piece,” she said.

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