We won’t dwell on river flooding this week except to say that planning is well underway to respond to high water, if needed. The flood forecast from the National Weather Service (NWS) indicates that Granite Falls is likely to have some high water. Their graphs show a nearly 80 percent chance of what they call “minor flooding” and a seven percent chance of “moderate flooding” near the river elevation that we saw in 2011. How ever it’s labeled, there’s sure to be high water here.

Indications are that there will be water covering much of the alleyway below the footbridge in downtown Granite and there will be water lapping at, or rolling onto, Minnesota Avenue, across the river from downtown. The good news is that city and county staff meetings have been held and the city and county are well prepared for river elevations at the 2011 height and bit higher. The other good news is that we have a firm checklist of supplies and equipment for flood fighting if they should be needed and plans for protecting the various areas that are affected by high water. We’ll see the past years’ flood mitigation work put to the test again. It should be interesting. Hopefully there won’t be any serious issues that affect homes, businesses and public places.

* * * * * * YME Superintendent Rich Schneider shared information and asked for input about the challenges of school finances and the painful proposed budget cuts during the Kiwanis Club gathering last Thursday and again Friday morning when he stopped for coffee with a handful of us. Trimming staff and programs is certainly no fun. It’s a daunting job and adds a lot of uncertainty and stress to everyone involved. Key to all public school finances in Minnesota are each school district’s enrollment numbers. With per-pupil aid from the state being the main source of funding, the enrollment numbers determine the amount of revenue that flows into each school district. The state’s open enrollment law, which allows parents to send students to a school outside the district they reside in, has become a big factor in this.

Parents often choose a school close to their work place or a school that seems to offer more programs or is better suited to their concerns. It’s hard to argue with those reasons but they should be sure to check the facts before making those decisions. Interestingly, YME schools have a sizeable net loss of students through open enrollment. More students open enroll out of our school district than open enroll into the district despite YME offering a wider variety of curriculum choices and extra-curricular activities than most of our neighboring school districts. And there is arguably more community support for programs that help students here than in most neighboring districts.

The strong community ties to the YME ag programs comes to mind, as does the very generous Scholarship YME program that helps YME graduates with college expenses far more than in most school districts in our area. The YME Community Ed program, the strong YME pre-school program, the YME Mat Club, the YME Hoops Club, The Jazzy High Kick club, YME After Prom committee and others show that community support. Add to that our in-town access to Minnesota West programs, the Kilowatt Community Center, nearby health care facilities and social programs and you have a great case for sending kids to Yellow Medicine East.

Maybe the YME community, and all of us who live here, need to toot our own horn a bit more and get the word out about all we, as a community, have to offer families and students. It was good to talk about this with Rich last week and good to see him reaching out in the community. We all need our school to be successful and offer as many opportunities as possible to our students. We need to invest in, and ensure, a successful future for them. They’ll be paying the bills in our old age.

* * * * * * It was a fun to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform at Prairie’s Edge Casino on Saturday night. The huge crowd was as enthusiastic as the band and it made for a lively night. We missed them when they performed here a little over a year ago when we were late to the ticket counter but heard a lot of good comments. This time, when the tickets went on sale, we jumped at the chance. We saw the “Dirt Band” perform at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Kate’s in St. Paul back about 1977 or so but, even after 42 years and a few personnel changes, they sounded great and their musicianship was outstanding.

The same voices and three members dating back to that early era made them as genuine as we could have hoped. We frequently drive into the cities or other large towns for concerts and music events and think nothing of it. Driving three miles south of town to see some great music is an amazing thing. The many folks who traveled more than an hour appreciated it, too. Kudos go to Prairie’s Edge for bringing high quality entertainment to our area.