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Education
UPDATE: 13 whooping cough cases reported, including in Twin Falls, Kimberly and Minidoka County schools

TWIN FALLS — A case of whooping cough has been reported at Canyon Ridge High School, the school district announced Friday.

The district was notified Thursday by South Central Public Health District.

“We are working with local health officials to monitor the situation, and at this time, the school will remain open and operating normally,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner wrote in a statement.

Whooping cough — also known as pertussis — is also affecting other Magic Valley communities. An outbreak was reported Monday at multiple Kimberly schools and it’s affecting Minidioka County schools, too.

Across south-central Idaho, 13 cases of whooping cough among children or adults have been reported since Jan. 1. Those are just cases confirmed by a medical provider or laboratory.

Three school districts have been affected: three students in Kimberly, one student in Twin Falls and two students in Minidoka County.

It’s hard to compare the number of cases with previous years because they ebb and flow, said Logan Hudson, nurse manager at South Central Public Health District. “It’s difficult with pertussis because it sort of cycles.”

In 2014, there were 53 cases reported here in south-central Idaho. But numbers dropped to just one case in 2016 and six last year.

“We know that (pertussis is) always in the community,” Hudson said. “It’s never not here. It’s whether cases are identified.”

Those diagnosed with pertussis suffer from coughing in “explosive bursts ending with the typical high-pitched whoop, and occasionally, vomiting,” according to the health district.

Coughing often continues for four to six weeks. Symptoms generally develop within two weeks of exposure. Pertussis is spread by contact with droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing.

Those affected can return to school after five days of antibiotic treatment.

In Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge High will send home letters to parents with information about the reported case of whooping cough.

School employees have been directed to be diligent about cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, Craner wrote in a statement, to help stop the spread of illnesses. Each of the school district’s 16 campuses also has a plan to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The Minidoka County School District found out about its two confirmed cases of whooping cough — both at Minco High School in Rupert — a couple of weeks ago, Superintendent Ken Cox said.

Notices in English and Spanish were sent home to parents, he said. “This is something we take seriously. As soon as it was confirmed, we made sure parents were made aware of it.”

In Kimberly, students or school employees who exhibit symptoms of whooping cough will be required to go home, Kimberly School District Superintendent Luke Schroeder wrote in a Tuesday letter to staff and parents. They won’t be allowed to return to school without written documentation from a health care provider.

Twin Falls students who are coughing are also asked to stay home.

“In addition, with flu season in full swing we are urging caution for families and advise that everyone practice healthy habits like regular hand washing,” Craner wrote in the statement.

It’s extremely important for community members to know the difference between influenza — also known as the flu — and whooping cough, Hudson said. “Right now, we’re seeing both. It’s a stronger than usual influenza year, along with pertussis.”

“We want people to go to the doctor for any kind of cough illness, but pertussis tends to last a lot longer,” he said.

When you get the flu, it’s an acute illness that typically includes body aches, fatigue and a fever.

With whooping cough, patients tend to feel OK after the first few days between coughing fits and generally don’t have a fever, Hudson said. But the coughing can lead to trouble breathing and the illness lasts significantly longer than the flu.

South Central Public Health District recommends students and teachers should watch for symptoms and update their immunizations if they’re not current on the pertussis vaccine.

Children are required by state law to receive immunizations before entering preschool through 12th grade schools.

But parents can fill out a state exemption form if they choose not to immunize their child. They must cite a reason for their decision such as a philosophical, medical or religious objection.

Under state law, immunization requirements include four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine for children born before Sept. 1, 1999 and five doses for children born after Sept. 1, 2005.

In addition, children entering seventh grade must receive one dose of DTaP.

For adults, the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention recommend one DTaP dose in their lifetime. The exception is pregnant women, who should receive one dose during every pregnancy.

Oftentimes, people will get a tetanus shot after sustaining a wound or cut, Hudson said, but it may not include the pertussis protection.


DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Director Julia Oxarango-Ingram, with Southern Idaho Rural Development, talks about plans for small communities around the area Tuesday in Rogerson.


Local
Off the beaten path: Groups work to preserve history, boost tourism in Hollister, Rogerson, Castleford and other rural south-central Idaho towns

ROGERSON — She remembers the red-and-white checkered tablecloths, the homemade sandwiches and the desks pushed to the edges of the room.

Anita Young’s face brightens as she describes the Saturday evening dances at the old Rogerson schoolhouse. While she was only about 5 years old when the building closed, the memories are strong enough to bring tears to her eyes.

“It was embedded in my mind,” she said. “It was so cool. Everyone would come in their best bib and tucker.”

The dilapidated schoolhouse has sat empty for about 50 years but it will soon undergo a major restoration to convert it into a community center. It’s one of several projects on the horizon for Julia Oxarango-Ingram, director of Southern Idaho Rural Development.

By helping to preserve history in some of the region’s most remote places, she hopes to not only bring joy to their residents, but to encourage Idaho’s visitors to step off the beaten path.

Southern Idaho Rural Development is working in collaboration with Southern Idaho Tourism and historic preservation groups to bring her dream to life. Their plan for rural development and tourism would mean restoring historical structures in small towns, mapping out paths for people to explore the area, and creating places that will meet visitors’ needs.

“Hopefully we can put some of these places back on the map again,” Oxarango-Ingram said.

Pooling together resources can take more time in rural communities, she said — but it’s still worth it.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

The old Rogerson schoolhouse, pictured Tuesday, is slowly being restored.

Mapping out routes

As the executive director of Southern Idaho Tourism, Melissa Barry’s job is to provide resources to visitors throughout a seven-county region. But she’s seen little collaboration between various groups to highlight, in one place, all the area’s biking and hiking paths.

“We have so many things here, but to access them is difficult,” she said.

Her organization will begin mapping these routes out on a single platform this spring. The maps will show existing roads and trails that people can access and with what mode of transportation. Users will be able to find these maps online and download them onto their phones, Barry said. The maps will have filters on them so visitors can pinpoint their search to a specific location or interest.

From a tourism standpoint, Barry has noticed that there seems to be growing enthusiasm for rural history.

“Off the beaten path is definitely on the trend,” she said.

Other popular tourist destinations — such as Balanced Rock and Thousand Springs Park — can increase interest in small towns like Castleford or Hagerman.

Barry believes the first maps could be completed as early as this summer.

Oxarango-Ingram would like to see a historical route lead bicyclists through Hollister, Rogerson and Three Creek, using roads that already exist. She’d work with other groups to track down the history of these places and put up signage at points of interest.

Another route could lead people to different hot springs in Idaho and Nevada or show a rural visitor how to ride their bike from one trail to the next — with stops for food along the way.

“It’s kind of amazing the possibilities when you start thinking of all the things out here you could highlight,” Oxarango-Ingram said. “Suddenly, it’s not out in the middle of nowhere anymore.”

Creating campgrounds

Once people come to rural areas, it’s important to have the amenities to keep them there longer, she said. Small towns are already suited to meet some of these needs, but one trend she’d like to tap into is glamping — a type of modern, more luxurious or glamorous, camping.

One of the simplest ways to do this would be to create themed campgrounds just outside of towns like Rogerson, Three Creek and Hollister. One of these places might reflect the area’s history with sheep by renting out more permanent tents.

But Southern Idaho Rural Development could also encourage town residents to lease out remodeled vintage trailers in a common location, she said. Oxarango-Ingram has already identified a couple of lots where this could work and the landowners might be amenable.

PHOTOS: Southern Idaho Rural Development

Preserving history

While ruins of historic buildings draw some interest, Oxarango-Ingram sees the best use as bringing a new purpose to these places. Southern Idaho Rural Development can assist small communities in the region by helping them find grant opportunities to fund these projects.

“These were community hubs at some point, and we’ve lost that,” she said.

The Rogerson schoolhouse already has a new roof, thanks in part to Southern Idaho Rural Development’s efforts and through fundraising in the community. Southern Idaho Rural Development is now collecting bids from contractors to complete the rest of the restoration.

Oxarango-Ingram also has her eye on projects in other cities. In Hollister, an old bank building has the potential to become apartments or a brewery. She is inspired by the work of the McMenamin brothers, who’ve remodeled historic buildings in Oregon and Washington into unique pubs.

“They’re saving historic buildings,” she said. But they’re making them destination places.”

Oxarango-Ingram has a natural talent for seeing beauty in the mundane. With the right resources, some old grain elevators in Hollister could become a historic attraction with a bike trail along the former railroad. The foundation of an old building in Rogerson could enclose a rose garden or a picnic area.

“Where the bulk of the town was, it’s kind of an empty lot right now,” she said, looking over some aging concrete in the middle of a field in Rogerson. “I’m really trying to get the story of what happened here.”

It took Oxarango-Ingram five years to pull together the resources for the Rogerson schoolhouse. In time, she thinks she can do a lot more.

The people of Rogerson have gotten more excited about the schoolhouse as time goes on. Volunteers pulled together to remove the pigeon poop that Young described as piled up to eyeball-level in the kitchen.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before the old building is fit for a community center, but Young recognizes the schoolhouse’s value. The Rogerson native owns and operates Rogerson Service and Helen’s Café, which hosted a Christmas fundraiser last year for 38 children in the area. The café serves as a hub in the community, but Young believes the schoolhouse could do much more.

Just as it used to, once upon a time, when children sat patiently in desks waiting for their turn on the dance floor. And while there was usually an alcohol-related brawl after the dance, she recalled, everyone would always make up the next day.

“So many things pull us apart,” Young said. “But when we have a community center, it pulls us together.”


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: The Powerful Voices finals competition will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre, 146 Main Ave. N., Twin Falls. Tickets are $10, $12 and $15.


jwootton / DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO 

A nurse prepares five shots for a patient August 4, 2014, at St. Luke's Magic Valley in Twin Falls.


DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Hansen's Neilani McDaniel brings the ball up against Murtaugh during the district tournament Friday night, Feb. 2, 2018, at Shoshone High School.


Crime-and-courts
Fire marshal offers $5,000 reward for information in Burley downtown fire

BURLEY — The state fire marshal is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspect responsible for the downtown Burley fire and pipe bomb on Monday.

State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl said the award is offered through a program in conjunction with the Northwest Insurance Council.

“The crime of arson is bad enough,” Sandahl said. “But there are explosives involved in this case.”

Laurie Welch Times-News / PHOTO COURTESY CASSIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  

A pipe bomb was discovered Monday in the door handle of downtown Burley business Kassiani Restaurant, Bakery and Events.

A vacant building at 1222 Overland Ave. was deliberately set on fire inside the building using paper and rags. The building was a total loss. Some type of fire accelerant was used throughout the building, the fire investigator said. Samples of the accelerant have been sent to a lab for testing. The vacant building next door was destroyed by water and smoke.

Across the street at a new unopened restaurant a pipe bomb was found tucked inside the door knocker at the business entrance. Both destroyed buildings and the restaurant are owned by Brek Pilling and his partner Brian Tibbets. Pilling has not returned calls from the Times-News.

“We are currently taking information on the case and if that information leads to the arrest of a person the caller is eligible for up to $5,000,” Sandahl said.

To report information call the arson tip line at 1-877-75-ARSON. The caller can remain anonymous.

“If someone does call anonymously they still need to leave their phone number because the tip may generate follow-up questions,” Sandahl said. “But we will keep their name confidential.”

The amount of the reward will be determined by the insurance council.

“We had a case a few years ago in Victor where the person received the full $5,000,” Sandahl said.

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

Firefighters work Monday at the scene of a fire in downtown Burley

Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said on Friday that there are no new developments in the case. The case is under investigation by the sheriff’s office, the state fire marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“We are doing a lot of interviews,” Warrell wrote to the Times-News. “I can’t release information yet about a suspect.”

Verl Jarvie, deputy investigator for the state fire marshal said earlier in the week that someone had “...gone to some effort to make sure the building burned.”

A pickup truck that was wanted in connection with the incidents was recovered by the sheriff’s office on Tuesday. Police are not releasing many details including who the pickup belonged to or where it was found.

Laurie Welch Times-News / PHOTO COURTESY CASSIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE 

The Cassia County Sheriff's Office is looking for a suspect driving this white pickup truck. Tipsters can call the Cassia County Sheriff's Office at 208-878-2252.

A pile of burned debris and building rubble remained in the parking lane in front of the buildings on Friday and police tape cordoned off the right-hand southbound lane of Overland Avenue, which is a state highway. Business owners in the area have expressed concern about the mess and the hazard of potentially falling brick.

“We have contacted the building owners and asked them to get it cleaned up,” Mark Mitton wrote in an email to the Times-News. “The city can take action if they don’t clean it up soon. “

Mitton said the area is roped off to prevent people from getting too close and to prevent someone from getting injured.