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Breaking silence: Bells ring out for Raelynn

A St. Mary’s Catholic Church parishioner hoped to make a community impact on Monday, calling for those who have information about the death of Raelynn Craig to break their silence.

According to police, Craig, age 2, was killed in a drive-by shooting last week.

“So when people hear church bells, hopefully they’ll just stop and maybe think about the little girl, say a prayer,” Kay Currier, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, said. “Even if they don’t know any information they can give, but just say a prayer.”

The funeral for Craig happened Monday at 1 p.m. She was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Joseph.

Currier said about 12 community churches and organizations agreed to ring their bells five minutes before the funeral’s start. Normally in Catholic tradition, Currier said the church would ring bells at the end of a funeral ceremony.

Instead, Currier wanted the St. Joseph community to be thinking about Craig prior to the service. She implored anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities.

“Maybe it might bring somebody’s heart to say ‘I need to step up,’ hit their soul and make them come forward,” Currier said. “So that’s why we’re doing it.”

Currier said she hasn’t spoken to the Craig family, but that didn’t stop her from organizing the remembrance on social media.

“I haven’t spoken to any family members, but you don’t have to know somebody to have it affect you,” Currier said.

Those wishing to contact police about the incident can do so, anonymously if necessary, by calling 816-238-TIPS.

Missouri Western students return to in-person classes

Monday was the first day of in-person classes for Missouri Western State University students since the spring semester that was abruptly ended due to COVID-19.

Students were happy to be back on campus again to see friends and get back to a new normal after classes went virtual and going through a stay at home order for part of the summer.

“It’s been fun seeing a lot of new people, seeing all the freshmen and a bunch of professors that I haven’t seen in a while,” Tennyson Clary, a senior at Missouri Western, said. “Getting back on campus has been really fun even though we’re distancing it’s still very lively and energetic.”

When asked about how professors and staff are handling the extra health measures, Clary said they are working to keep everyone safe.

“They’re definitely still cautious, but they’re still excited to see us. I’ve already interacted with a bunch of professors and they’re very glad to see us. They’re just still wanting to take care of our safety, wanting to keep that in mind and make sure that we are still getting the best education we can while being as safe as possible,” Clary said.

Professor also had to quickly adapt to having more of the curriculum online when the pandemic hit late in the spring semester and some of adjustments have brought changes into the fall.

“They had the practice earlier in the year when we went online, so I think it’s going to be good. It’s going to be nice to have the lectures recorded, so I can always go back and re-watch them, which is a welcomed change,” Abbi Lueders, a senior at Missouri Western, said.

Lueders was set up at a help station on the first day to help fellow students.

“It’s been confusing for a lot of the new students just because many of them have never set foot on campus before, but I think they’ve been doing pretty good at finding their classes and getting situated,” Lueders said.

The campus is also hosting a “Western Welcome Week’ where students can check out different organizations and continue with certain activities throughout the new school year.

“It’s an opportunity for (Registered Student Organizations) or other organizations and activities on campus to showcase who they are, what they do. It’s a chance for students to get involved and to allow for campus activities to still go on and still create the best atmosphere possible and provide the most opportunities,” Clary said.

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Congressman vows to shield schools from liability

CAMERON, Mo. — Congressional Republicans want to deliver more COVID-19 aid to schools, the U.S. House delegate for northern Missouri said on Monday, but only if pandemic liability for those same schools is curtailed.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Missouri, spoke to a few dozen regional superintendents in an auditorium at the offices of Cameron R-I school district to provide an overall update on education and legislative affairs in Washington and answer a number of questions. Graves, first elected to the House in 2000, acknowledged that at this time a serious impasse exists between Republicans and Democrats over how to implement further federal COVID-19 aid.

“For a school to be able to have in-person schooling — which I think is vitally important — or, you know, a hospital seeing patients or whatever the case may be, the bottom line is: They ought to be protected,” Graves said.

The GOP demands include a liability shield that will prohibit lawsuits against school districts, businesses and other entities that re-open during the pandemic and become clusters of COVID-19 infection by some means other than “gross negligence.”

Congress previously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March, which at $2.2 trillion is the largest form of national stimulus ever enacted. Billions of that funding went to local government entities like the Buchanan County Commission for relay to public service agencies within their jurisdiction. As an example, it designated more than $2.3 million to cover COVID-19 losses suffered by the St. Joseph School District. Dr. Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of schools, was present at the Graves presentation.

Graves said it remains a matter of debate as to how much more aid to provide, but most everyone agrees billions more will be needed for schools. He heard input from superintendents to suggest that Congress needs to directly pay aid money to education budgets, rather than route it through the county level. Overall, Graves heard an apparent consensus among education leaders that the federal government should prioritize public education funding and leave public education leaders, under the supervision of locally elected school boards, with the choice of deciding how to spend the money.

Graves said that although Congress must overcome the divide on liability protections, among other matters, he is confident it will arrive at a compromise in the weeks to come.

“It’s not unusual for bills to stall out and kind of reset,” he said. “When we come back in, in person, in September ... I think we’ll see a lot of progress.”