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Antonio Granados, of the College of Southern Idaho Latinos in Action, sports a purple dress as he participates in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event Saturday at the Twin Falls Visitor Center in Twin Falls.


Umpire Randy Bernhard poses for a portrait April 4 at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

Burley alternative school teacher develops agricultural science program

BURLEY — A high school teacher has developed an agricultural science program that gives mostly urban students a chance to mingle with nature.

Jaysa Fillmore started the program in 2014 at Cassia High after she was hired to fill a science position at the alternative school.

Most of her students, she said, live in town — in apartments or homes where gardening or raising animals is not possible.

“I don’t have a chance to grow things at our house,” student Alondra Fuentes, 17, said. “I love it.”

Fillmore laid tiny Brussel sprout and cabbage seeds into students’ waiting hands so they could plant them into plugs of soil on Thursday.

In the greenhouse, Jonathan Wardle, carefully sprayed water on the thirsty strawberry plants that had little nuggets of fruit already hanging on the vine.

The program, Wardle said, is awesome.

“I get to watch plants grow and take care of animals,” he said. “And I like doing that.”

At most schools agricultural science classes would be an elective but because they are the only science classes offered at the school, they are mandatory.

“I see most of the 120 students at the school at some point during the year,” Fillmore said. “It means I have to be more on my game and make the classes really interesting.”

The program is housed in the old Budge Field football locker room and all the work in the building to make it a classroom was completed by Fillmore and her students. They have also constructed a greenhouse and a barn that houses the student’s rabbits that are raised as FFA fair projects

The benefit?

“It gives context to science and math,” Fillmore said.

Right now there are seven students who are raising rabbits, meaning an additional commitment to meet during evening hours and during the summer to get ready for the fair.

“Most of them start out being motivated by the money,” Fillmore said, “but they usually find out they like the animals.”

The students take ownership of the animals providing for their care, although the animals are housed at the school.

The school purchases feed and houses the rabbits in return for the students keeping the barn clean and performing chores.

Laurie Welch Times-News / LAURIE WELCH, TIMES-NEWS 

Cassia High School Agricultural Science Teacher Jaysa Fillmore on Thursday hands out seeds to students at the school.

The students then get to keep the profit when the animals are sold at market.

If the students drop out before the sale, they have to pay a fine.

“I had to put some teeth into it,” Fillmore said.

She said the job can be “emotionally challenging.”

“It’s challenging, but it’s the most rewarding of any teaching job I’ve ever had,” she said.

While many agriculture science students at other Idaho high schools live on family farms, most of Fillmore’s students are several generations removed from the farm.

A lot of her students view agriculture as just being about farm labor or moving irrigation hand lines.

So Fillmore takes the students on field trips to local agricultural-based businesses like Fabri-Kal and dairies to expand their view.

“I love it, it’s my favorite class,” student Lily Lopez, 16, said, who especially enjoys horticulture. “I like to watch the process of things growing.”

For the students who sometimes encounter negative perceptions of their school within the community, participation in the FFA chapter can be especially rewarding.

“Dressed in their FFA outfits at state events they look just like all the other FFA members,” Fillmore said. “And they don’t feel that stigma.”

Mark Humphrey, Associated Press 

Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) scores a goal against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. At right is Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot (13). The Predators won 5-4 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. 

Trump claims success in Syria, but chemical weapons remain

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday declared “Mission Accomplished” for a U.S.-led allied missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program, but the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

“A perfectly executed strike,” Trump tweeted after U.S., French and British warplanes and ships launched more than 100 missiles nearly unopposed by Syrian air defenses. “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

His choice of words recalled a similar claim associated with President George W. Bush following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bush addressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 alongside a “Mission Accomplished” banner, just weeks before it became apparent that Iraqis had organized an insurgency that tied down U.S. forces for years.

The nighttime Syria assault was carefully limited to minimize civilian casualties and avoid direct conflict with Syria’s key ally, Russia, but confusion arose over the extent to which Washington warned Moscow in advance. The Pentagon said it gave no explicit warning. The U.S. ambassador in Moscow, John Huntsman, said in a video, “Before we took action, the United States communicated with” Russia to “reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties.”

Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said that to her knowledge no one in the Defense Department communicated with Moscow in advance, other than the acknowledged use of a military-to-military hotline that has routinely helped minimize the risk of U.S.-Russian collisions or confrontations in Syrian airspace. Officials said this did not include giving Russian advance notice of where or when allied airstrikes would happen.

Russia has military forces, including air defenses, in several areas of Syria to support President Bashar Assad in his long war against anti-government rebels.

Russia and Iran called the use of force by the United States and its allies a “military crime” and “act of aggression.” The U.N. Security Council met to debate the strikes, but rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the “aggression” by the three Western allies.

Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told the session that the president has made it clear that if Assad uses poison gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded.”

Assad denies he has used chemical weapons, and the Trump administration has yet to present hard evidence of what it says precipitated the allied missiles attack: a chlorine gas attack on civilians in Douma on April 7. The U.S. says it suspects that sarin gas also was used.

“Good souls will not be humiliated,” Assad tweeted, while hundreds of Syrians gathered in Damascus, the capital, where they flashed victory signs and waved flags in scenes of defiance after the early morning barrage.

The strikes “successfully hit every target,” White told reporters at the Pentagon. The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons “bunker” a few miles from the second target.

Although officials said the singular target was Assad’s chemical weapons capability, his air force, including helicopters he allegedly has used to drop chemical weapons on civilians, were spared. In a U.S. military action a year ago in response to a sarin gas attack, the Pentagon said missiles took out nearly 20 percent of the Syrian air force.

As of Saturday, neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies retaliated, Pentagon officials said.

The U.S.-led operation won broad Western support. The NATO alliance gave its full backing; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the attack was about ensuring that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack “necessary and appropriate.”

In his televised address from the White House on Friday evening, Trump said the U.S. was prepared to sustain economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Assad until the Syrian leader ends what Trump called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. That did not mean military strikes would continue. In fact, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no additional attacks were planned.

Asked about Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” assertion, White said it pointed to the successful targeting of three Syrian chemical weapons sites. What happens next, she said, is up to Assad and to his Russian and Iranian allies.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said the allied airstrikes “took out the heart” of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. He said the missiles hit the “sweet spot,” doing the expected level of damage while minimizing the unintentional release of toxic fumes that could be harmful to nearby civilians.

When pressed, he acknowledged that some unspecified portion of Assad’s chemical arms infrastructure was not targeted.

A former officer in Syria’s chemical program, Adulsalam Abdulrazek, said Saturday the joint U.S., British, and French strikes hit “parts of but not the heart” of the program. He said the strikes were unlikely to curb the government’s ability to produce or launch new attacks. Speaking from rebel-held northern Syria, Abdulrazek told The Associated Press there were perhaps 50 warehouses in Syria that stored chemical weapons before the program was dismantled in 2013.

A global chemical warfare watchdog group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said its fact-finding mission would go as planned in Douma.

The College of Southern Idaho is weighing options for gender neutral restrooms

JEROME — Like many schools across the nation, the College of Southern Idaho is weighing options for offering gender neutral restrooms.

The college’s board of trustees will hear an information item Monday during a meeting at its Jerome center, but isn’t slated to make any decisions.

Across the nation in recent years, more schools — including those in the Magic Valley — have talked about or adopted gender identity policies, covering topics such as restrooms and dress codes. Sometimes, those steps are in response to concerns from students, including some who are transgender.

CSI wants students to feel safe and comfortable on campus, CSI’s dean of students Jason Ostrowski said Friday. “We want to explore what those options are and make sure we’re creating that space for them.”

The topic of gender neutral restrooms came up as a result of CSI student concerns.

“We’ve had a few students — not a lot — who have expressed not feeling comfortable in entering either gender, male or female, bathroom,” Ostrowski said.

It’s in the very early phases of discussion. CSI also hasn’t considered yet whether a gender neutral restroom would be offered just at the Twin Falls campus or also the off-campus centers.

“We want to engage in a conversation with the board of trustees,” Ostrowski said, to get a feel of what their philosophies and thoughts are.

CSI officials have been looking into what some colleges and universities are doing. Most offer a single stall restroom that’s gender neutral, Ostrowski said. “Not assigning a gender to it is what I see most colleges and universities doing.”

CSI vice president of student services Michelle Schutt — who’ll present to college trustees next week about gender neutral restrooms — wasn’t available to comment Friday.

CSI isn’t the only south-central Idaho school to consider the topic of gender neutral restrooms and dress codes. In the Twin Falls School District, trustees adopted a new gender identity and sexual orientation policy in October 2015. It specifically includes language about bathroom access: “Students will be allowed to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they consistently assert at school.”

The policy — which hasn’t been updated since it was adopted — is based on guidelines the Idaho School Boards Association gave school districts a few years ago. Students also have the option of using a private restroom if one is available.

In January 2016, Kimberly school trustees adopted a gender neutral dress code. It was the first time in 15 years the policy was overhauled.