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 Idaho's deer, elk and moose populations are threatened by chronic wasting disease.

Nation bids goodbye to George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON — The nation bid goodbye to George H.W. Bush with high praise, cannon salutes and gentle humor Wednesday, celebrating the life of the Texan who embraced a lifetime of service in Washington and was the last president to fight for the U.S. in wartime. Three former presidents looked on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth — George W. Bush — eulogized his dad as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”

After three days of remembrance in the capital city, the Air Force plane with Bush’s casket left for a final service in Houston and burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place is alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter who died of leukemia at age 3.

His plane, which often serves as Air Force One, arrived at Ellington Field outside Houston in late afternoon.

The national funeral service at the cathedral was a tribute to a president, a patriarch and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility. It was laced with indirect comparisons to President Donald Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Bush’s public life and character — with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.

Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of the group sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe. Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others.

George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”

The family occupied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st president defeated after one term, the 43rd serving two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to extend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries.

The elder Bush was “the last great-soldier statesman,” historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times.

But he took a lighter tone, too, noting that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply quipped, “Never know. Gotta ask.”

Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said the key to doing an impersonation of Bush was “Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”

None of that would be a surprise to Bush. Meacham had read his eulogy to him, said Bush spokesman Jim McGrath, and Bush responded to it with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”

The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush’s life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.

Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, regaled the congregation with stories from his years as Bush’s friend in Washington. More seriously, he recalled that when he went through a rough patch in the political game, Bush conspicuously stood by him against the advice of aides. “You would have wanted him on your side,” he said.

Meacham praised Bush’s call to volunteerism, placing his “1,000 points of light” alongside Abraham Lincoln’s call to honor “the better angels of our nature” in the American rhetorical canon. Meacham called those lines “companion verses in America’s national hymn.”

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by his successor, Clinton.

Earlier, a military band played “Hail to the Chief” as Bush’s casket was carried down the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where he had lain in state. Family members looked on as servicemen fired off a cannon salute.

His hearse was then driven in a motorcade to the cathedral ceremony, slowing in front of the White House, the route lined with people much of the way, bundled in winter hats and taking photos.

Waiting for his arrival inside, Trump shook hands with Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who greeted him by saying “Good morning.” Trump did not shake hands with Bill and Hillary Clinton, who looked straight ahead.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked “a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life.”

Following the cathedral service, the hearse and its long motorcade drove to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial, a nod to the late president’s service as a World War II Navy pilot, then transferred his remains at Joint Base Andrews for the flight home to Texas with members of his family.

Bush will lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before his burial today.

‘Not homeless. Just a high school teacher.’ Idaho educator plays for tips to get by

BOISE — Guitar case slung over his shoulder, Tanner Faris coasts up the sidewalk on his bike. Eyeing his spot in the busy Saturday market, he sets up a music stand and, with practiced ease, tapes his corrugated cardboard signs against the wind.

Because it’s the signs that stop people.

“My wife said to me: You’re not going to make any money if you’re just another guy with a guitar,” Faris says.

The neatly hand-lettered posters say: “Not homeless. Just a high school teacher.” The signs are the hook; he hopes the music will keep people lingering — and his guitar case is open right beside, an invitation for spare change and dollar bills.

Faris, 25, is a math teacher in Centennial High School’s English as a New Language department. He helps refugee kids, ages 14 to 20 years old, learn math — and English — through immersion in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

He and his wife are actually in better shape financially than they have ever been. But Faris is a brand new teacher, and his salary is at the bottom of the pay grade. He isn’t cynical about his salary, because he loves what he does, but playing for tips certainly helps the budget.

“(Busking) has become an awesome source of extra income for me. But my heart really is with the kids. I wouldn’t be (busking) if it wasn’t for them,” he says.

Finding a way

Just married and freshly graduated from the University of Oregon, Faris and his wife, MJ, a Boise State University student, settled in Boise in 2017 to start their life together.

Faris got a job as a paraprofessional in the English as a New Language program at Lewis and Clark Middle School and filled out his workday in a pizza shop, bringing home about $600 a month from each job, working from morning till night.

“We were feeling the crunch,” he said. “That’s when we really were watching every penny.” When they budgeted frugally, they even had money to put into savings and tithe 10 percent to their church.

“We were finding a way to make that work,” he says.

But part of “making that work” meant a summer job — and Faris wasn’t excited about working in the pizza shop (in part because he also wanted to do some long-long-distance bike rides, like from his doorstep to Banff National Park in Canada).

“I thought, well, shoot, I can play the guitar,” he says. “I wasn’t sure how successful I was going to be just because it’s a dime-a-dozen guys strumming guitars on the sidewalk.”

He decided to give it a shot.

The first time out, he picked what turned out to be a fairly obscure place and made just $30 or $40. “But I thought, ‘Wow. I could have sat at home and played guitar for two hours and made no money. That’s when I was like: This is a thing. I have to go again.”

He made his sign to stand out, and it was instantly successful.

“I was really impressed by how generous everyone was and how many grateful people I met who would say, ‘Hey, thanks for being a teacher,’” he says. “Or fellow teachers who would say, ‘We know exactly how it is.’ ”

He goes out weekends and First Thursdays, and special occasions like the Spirit of Boise’s hot air balloon event Nite Glow.

“It’s just been so good to me, and it really did turn a legitimate summer job,” he says. In fact, in August, he made more on the street than he did teaching as a paraprofessional.

But teaching is his calling. Faris became a full-time teacher last January.

That qualified him and his wife for health insurance, so the state’s health insurance exchange dropped MJ’s coverage. However, her health insurance through the school district cost $600 a month — far, far more than the exchange.

They’ve solved that insurance wrinkle, but for a while, Faris’ busking paid for his wife’s health insurance.

“That made the side hustle even more necessary,” he says.

And they’re just starting their life together: They want a family; they want to buy a house. They’re contributing toward a retirement fund; they’ll need to pay MJ’s tuition and school loans. And they want to support their church.

“We joke all the time that we’re poor, but it’s all relative,” he says. “We’re making under $40,000 a year between the two of us, but look at it — we’re doing fine. Couldn’t be happier right now. (We’re) just preparing for what comes next.”

He jokes that his mother stills jabs him every now and again. “She’s like, yeah, you should have been a doctor.” But Faris laughs. “I’m like, oh, you know, I didn’t really enjoy chemistry.”

He laughs again. “I am where I love to be. And we’ll see where it goes.”

Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman 

Tanner Faris, a first-year teacher in Centennial High School’s English as a New Language program, helps Nezerine Juma, from Tanzania, figure out a consumer math problem using words and unit rates.

A love of languages and cultures

Faris went on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2014, which was pivotal in his life. He served in McAllen, Texas, became fluent in Spanish and developed a real love for languages.

“The people down there, I consider them family,” he says. “They took us in just like we were. After seeing that and how comfortable I felt, I realized how important language was to establishing that connection to a culture.”

When he began working in the West Ada School District, that feeling was cemented. He prefers the idea of a “mixed salad” to that of a “melting pot,” and encourages the parents of his students to preserve their culture along with their language.

“That’s why I want to learn Swahili. I want to pick up Arabic eventually,” he says.

“I feel like it’s a way I can meet (my students) halfway. I’m asking them to do something really hard, and I’m trying to do the same and show that I’m in it as much as I’d like them to be.”

He wants to be more than a teacher; he wants to be their advocate.

“I want to speak for them and with them,” he says.

Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman 

Tanner Faris, who fell in love with languages after an LDS mission near the Mexican border, thought he would be a translator. Instead, he’s a brand-new high school teacher in Centennial High’s English as a New Language program. 'I’ve just really come to love the kids and love what I’m doing,' he said. 

English as a new language

Centennial High School is a magnet school for students learning English. The program is unique in that students learn English as well as subject matter — like math, social studies, speech — at the same time. It’s called “sheltered English instruction.”

Faris says the lesson plans between all the program teachers are carefully structured to include reading, writing, speaking and listening. Students are tested several times a year on a scale of one to five, and at a “2,” students can join general education classes.

Some students come into the program with little to no math, history or any educational background. Other kids come speaking four or five languages already, which is why the program is no longer called “English as a second language.”

“They’re super-talented kids,” Faris says. “We want to get them (speaking) English, and we want to create a really safe environment for that to happen.”

He’s excited about new ways of teaching that encourage students to interact with teachers — and with each other — to practice their language skills. Instead of, for instance, the lectures he received as a student.

“We, as the rising generation, are going to change the way that education is typically thought of.”

Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman 

Tanner Faris works with Rina Urayeneza, center, whose family is from Rwanda, and Ruth Gakuru, from Congo, going over the prices in their grocery store as they learn consumer language (like 'sale' and 'save') and prices per unit (like 50 cents each or six for $3). The students are learning math and English in Centennial’s English as a New Language program.

Getting ready for kindergarten: Twin Falls Public Library launches new program

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls Public Library is starting a new program in January to help prepare children for kindergarten.

“Ready, Set, Kindergarten!” is open to children who are entering kindergarten in the fall of 2019. There’s no cost to participate and families don’t need to have a library card. No sign-ups are required.

There are excellent private preschools in Twin Falls, said Kasi Allen, youth services librarian at the Twin Falls Public Library, but the library’s program aims to bridge the gap when a family can’t afford to send their child to preschool.

“We’re not trying to replace preschool,” Allen said. “This is more of a stop gap for those kids who aren’t able to get into those preschools.”

The Twin Falls Public Library’s program kicks off the second week of January with two sessions to choose from: 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays or 6 p.m. Thursdays. Each weekly session will last about 45 minutes to an hour. The program will most likely run through late May.

During each weekly session, children will learn a new letter, a kindergarten readiness concept, work on numbers, participate in hands-on activities, and parents will receive a worksheet to take home with suggestions of activities to do with their children. For Thursday night sessions, dinner will be provided for families.

Idaho is among only five U.S. states that don’t have publicly funded preschool. School districts often provide preschool for children who have disabilities, but not for all students.

There are some exceptions, such as the Murtaugh School District, which offers preschool for all of its 4-year-olds. The College of Southern Idaho’s Head Start program offers preschool for families living in poverty, but there’s a waiting list.

The price tag of a private preschool education is out of reach for some families. Advocates say the lack of state-funded preschool is holding children back. But opponents say it’s the responsibility of parents, not the government, to prepare children for school.

Teresa Jones, elementary programs director for the Twin Falls School District, wasn’t available to comment on the library’s new program.

In the world of children’s library services, “there’s a lot of talk — especially in Idaho — that there’s no public preschool,” Allen said.

It’s also hard for parents to know how to prepare their children for kindergarten, she said, and figure out what kindergarten standards are. And Idaho children aren’t even required to attend kindergarten at all.

Allen looked at kindergarten standards from high-performing school districts nationwide to come up with materials for the library’s new program.

Library officials hope families will come regularly to the weekly sessions and children will gain skills to help them transition more successfully into kindergarten this fall.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Magic Valley Little Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at 7:30 p.m. at the Vera C. O’Leary Middle School auditorium, 2350 Elizabeth Blvd., Twin Falls. Tickets are $10 and are available at Kurt’s Pharmacy.


Shoshone's Cierra Hennings brings the ball up against Prairie's Leah Higgins during the 1A-DI state championships Friday night, Feb. 16, 2018, at Columbia High School in Nampa.

CSI students: Need help paying for child care? The college can help, thanks to a grant.

TWIN FALLS — It can be extremely tough paying for child care — especially if you’re a college student.

The College of Southern Idaho received a four-year grant for nearly $240,000 in October through the U.S. Department of Education to help address the issue, the college announced Tuesday. Money through the Child Care Access Means Parents In School Program will be awarded to students who are parents.

CSI childcare scholarship application - English

It’s a scholarship program that allows low-income students who are eligible for a federal Pell Grant to receive financial help with paying a licensed child care facility.

CSI childcare scholarship application - Spanish

“We have a very high number of students eligible for Pell grants,” said Tracey Meyerhoeffer, co-grant coordinator and CSI’s education department chairwoman. “Any one of them could access it.”

Students who are interested must fill out an application by Jan. 9. Funds are limited and are available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Both part-time and full-time students are eligible, including those who take CSI classes at the college’s outreach centers in Burley, Jerome, Gooding and Hailey.

Of CSI’s student body, 47.7 percent of full-time students and 62.8 percent of part-time students are eligible for a Pell Grant.

South-central Idaho’s poverty rate hovers around 14.4 percent — about 2 percentage points higher than the nationwide average, Meyerhoeffer said. “With that high of a poverty rate, help with child care is essential.”

The average award will vary depending on each student’s financial needs, but will likely be more than $1,000 per semester, Meyerhoeffer said.

Another component of the grant: CSI will encourage local licensed child care centers to seek a higher rating with the IdahoSTARS child care network.

For CSI students who receive a scholarship, Meyerhoeffer said, they’ll have to meet a couple of requirements, including attending a few workshops on topics such as how to prepare their child for kindergarten.

“We’re trying to just bring all kinds of resources to parents.”

Watch this military dog reunite with his handler in Boise

BOISE — When Tech. Sgt. Dustin Cain left South Korea last January, he was hopeful that he could somehow find a way to sneak his partner over to Mountain Home Air Force Base, too.

Cain spent a year at Osan Air Base working with German shepherd Bakk. Shortly before Cain headed home, Bakk tore his cruciate ligament — the equivalent of an ACL tear in a human. Cain knew the injury would likely lead to Bakk’s retirement, and Cain was optimistic that he might be reunited with the dog in Idaho.

On Tuesday, Cain buzzed with excitement as he waited to see Bakk for the first time in nearly a year. Thanks to American Humane, an animal welfare organization that finds homes for retired military animals, Bakk had been transported from South Korea and driven from San Francisco by a veterinarian before arriving at the Hampton Inn on Capitol Boulevard.

“I was unsure how this would work,” Cain said. “But American Humane helped things along. He was transported at no cost to me.”

Cain, who has spent almost a decade in the Air Force, carried a black Kong tug toy for the 8-year-old dog — a reminder of their first meeting in January 2017.

Often, Cain said, working dogs will take some time to warm up to a new handler. Bakk was different.

“I took him out, threw his Kong, and he came right back ready to work,” Cain said.

The pair patrolled Osan Air Base together for a year, with Bakk ready to spring into action as an apprehension dog if situations got heated.

“Everybody works a dog differently, and every dog is different,” Cain said. “He’s the most loyal dog I’ve worked so far.”

Bakk will join another retired military dog, Ivan, at the Cain house, as well as the tech sergeant’s wife, Stephanie, and sons Henry and Chris.

“As a handler, we understand at some point you’re going to have to give up your dog,” Cain said. “This whole year I’ve been anxious and waiting for his return.”

The reunion

When Bakk first arrived in the Gold Fork meeting room of the Hampton, he seemed overwhelmed by the small crowd and crush of TV cameras gathered to greet him, slinking into the room and ignoring his former handler’s initial greetings. Accompanied by his veterinarian escort, Lesa Staubus, he quickly found Cain — and the Kong toy his former handler had brought.

“For those veterans who served with a dog, pairing them back together has helped heal a lot of injuries,” Staubus said.

She and Cain took turns playing tug and tousling Bakk’s fur, sharing stories about his love of climbing on furniture and his sociable demeanor.

“Being a vet, I’ve done various things,” Staubus said, “but being this dog’s escort was one of the most special things.”

She gave Cain quick updates on Bakk’s recovery from cruciate ligament repair surgery and told the former handler how pleased she was to adopt a retired dog to a family that would understand his background. Cain nodded.

“The dogs need it, but we need it too,” he said.