As part of an effort to better cover crucial issues in the agricultural industry, Investigate Midwest has acquired IowaWatch and its talented team, bringing together a combined 25 years of public service journalism to Iowa and the Midwest. IowaWatch (The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism) will cease operations as a nonprofit and evolve into an expanded Iowa-based newsroom within Investigate Midwest (The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting) under an agreement approved this month by the boards of directors of both nonprofit organizations. Under the umbrella of Investigate Midwest, the Iowa team will focus its coverage on agriculture and rural issues. “As colleagues for many years, IowaWatch and Investigate Midwest have naturally gravitated toward the common goal of deeply covering rural communities and Midwest issues that often go unseen and unreported,” said Pam Dempsey, executive director for Investigate Midwest. The newsroom will do more investigative stories for Iowans and allow Investigate Midwest — whose mission is to expose the dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions — to expand its coverage in a state that’s a global leader in agriculture.
Central Decatur Community School District
Iowa rural educators say ‘student first’ proposal undermines them
Rural educators are bracing for the potential impact of the “student first scholarship” legislation that passed the Iowa Senate Wednesday night. The legislation, Senate File 2369, would allow students who choose to attend private school to use tax dollars to pay for tuition. Gov. Kim Reyolds proposes that 30 percent of Iowa’s per pupil funding for K-12 students who accept tax dollars to pay for private school go into a separate fund and be distributed equally to mostly rural districts with 500 or fewer students.
Iowa has 104 districts with 500 or fewer students, according to numbers from the Iowa Department of Education. There are 327 total public school districts in the state. Chris Coffelt, the shared superintendent of Central Decatur and Lamoni districts south of Des Moines, said his school districts are an example of why the plan isn’t gaining traction.
How 3 Iowa towns are getting smaller but smarter through Iowa State program
A handful of Iowa communities and a group of Iowa State University researchers are trying to demonstrate that less can, in fact, be more, and small can, in fact, be vibrant. If you’re smart about it. In an outgrowth of community surveys begun a quarter century ago, ISU researchers have identified what they call “Shrink Smart” communities. Like so many others, particularly smaller free-standing rural communities, they have steadily lost population since the 1980s recession and farm crisis. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network
Yet, the Shrink Smart communities, according to survey data, are viewed by their residents as having a high quality of life.
Waterloo’s Expo Alternative Learning Center turns the numbers around
Editor’s note: IowaWatch in a year-long investigation found that although each state is required to identify the bottom-scoring 5 percent of Title I schools every three years, it doesn’t mean these schools are “failing,” as some Iowa policymakers label them. Iowa’s 34 schools are on a “comprehensive” list. IowaWatch is featuring some of them. Cary Wieland and Henry Shepherd are the Ted Lasso and Coach Beard of Iowa public schools. They are principal and assistant principal, respectively, at Expo Alternative Learning Center in Waterloo, an alternative high school serving grades six through 12.
Fighting COVID-19 in Iowa
Burnout deepens for Iowa healthcare workers with latest COVID surge
Rachel Fratzke led her Mercy Iowa City nursing staff in a meditation session to start the work day Monday morning. A nurse manager, she had the nurses do deep breathing exercises and think about when they first wanted to be a nurse, or how they felt about passing their certifying board exams.
Department of Natural Resources
Test your knowledge of Iowa’s state parks
In 2020 and 2021, IowaWatch focused on the state parks system, sending reporters to visit more than 50 of the parks. We learned a lot during those visits as well as finding some beautiful spots. Here’s a quiz over a handful of these parks and some of their history. 1. Question: What Iowa State Park features an old dam circa 1936 spanning across the Cedar River?
Olivia Allen / IowaWatch.
Here’s how Iowa food pantries contend with still-present pandemic and new challenges
In 2021, Kelli Greenland and her two children used food pantries more often than they ever have. As the year closes, the Des Moines mom is filled with uncertainty. Greenland said she visits one or two food pantries weekly to keep her children, Ethan, 8, and Skylynn, almost 6, fed. There seems to be less meat available these days, Greenland said. She sometimes has trouble finding dairy-free options for Skylynn, who is lactose intolerant.
Iowan visits every town and city in the state in 5 years. Here’s what he learned.
Wanting to know their new state after moving to Iowa in 2014, Dave and Karen Miglin and their two children went to the Field of Dreams movie site outside of Dyersville in northeast Iowa.
Dave Miglin had moved from Atlanta ahead of the family the previous year for his job as media and digital vice president for Strategic America in West Des Moines. Sitting at Iowa’s famous baseball field in a farm field, his son, Evan, was asking questions. “He was, like, curious to know what I was going to see next,” Miglin, 53, said. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network
“Next” became visits to every incorporated town and city in Iowa over five years. Iowa had 955 incorporated towns when he started his quest.
Long COVID Syndrome
More than a year later, exhaustion reigns for COVID-19 long hauler
Editor’s Note: This story was updated Dec. 9, 2021, to include news that Darcy Havel-Sturdevant contracted COVID-19 again. The migraines, exhaustion and shortness of breath have existed dating to before Darcy Havel-Sturdevant was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April 2020. The shortness of breath has improved a bit but the rest remaine going into the Christmas holiday season. So do dizziness and confusion.
Buddhist monastery finds home near Decorah
In the rolling hills of northeast Iowa, amid fields of cattle and corn, sits a simple, cream-colored building. The gravel road leading to the dwelling climbs an incline. A weathered wooden sign surrounded by flowers and tall grass reads “Ryumonji Zen Monastery.”
A Buddhist monastery, the only one of its kind in the state. Buddhism, an Eastern religion that began in India, follows the teachings of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. It focuses on participating in good to reach enlightenment.
Buddhist communities increasing across Iowa
Iowa’s Buddhist population grew in the last several decades with new places to practice — Cedar Rapids, Clive, Decorah. Now Indianola.
The latest is in Warren County’s county seat of Indianola, where the former Saint Thomas Aquinas Church, built in 1958, will become a Buddhist temple. The Board of Adjustment approved a special work permit at a November meeting. “Mostly, this would be a place of peaceful contemplation,” the Karen Buddhist Association wrote in its application to the city. The Karen Buddhist Association of Iowa is made up of about 50 families.