WENATCHEE — When the newest building at Wenatchee Valley College was officially dedicated Tuesday to Gloria Atkins, also known as Mish ee twie, her family was there, so proud and honored.
The new building is named Mish ee twie in honor of Atkins, a higher education advocate, tribal elder and proponent of tribal fishing rights at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.
She served as the Colville Tribes’ higher education director for more than 45 years, affecting student lives throughout the region. When WVC was looking to develop a learning center in Nespelem 20 years ago, Atkins was instrumental in getting that started and she was a big supporter of it. Atkins died in 2019.
The Mish ee twie building on the main WVC campus in Wenatchee cost $37 million. It is three stories and 73,935 square feet, with 25 classrooms and multiple program and instructor offices. The building also houses the Jack & Edna Maguire conference center and the Chelan County Emergency Operations Center.
Colville Tribal Chairman Andrew Joseph, who spoke at the dedication ceremony, said he got to know Gloria Atkins when he was in high school. Joseph said it made his heart happy the building was being named for a tribal elder who worked a lot of hours helping people.
“I know she helped my oldest sister when she signed up for college and started going to school. I know there were times when she worked after hours. It’s a lot of paperwork to get all of the students we have in our tribe into college and stay up with them,” Joseph said. “She had to become like a counselor to many of our people.”
Joseph said the tribes have started a college endowment fund, with hopes of adding $1 million, in the name of Atkins. The endowment fund is for student scholarships.
Karen Condon, the chair of the tribe’s education and culture committee, said Atkins was a big support for her and her daughter when they went to college.
“Gloria spent so many years working on behalf of the students and the tribe in general,” Condon said. “It’s such an honor to have the college honor all the work that Gloria has done, not only for the tribe but for all students.”
Gloria Atkins’ son, Jim Andrews, said he can’t describe how happy is for her, saying all of her work is being recognized because there were countless hours she stayed in her office, just to make sure students were ready to go back to the school on time.
Her son, William Andrews, said he was still in shock over the building dedication, saying it was good all her hard work was recognized. He said she was really dedicated to education, pushing him and others to college.
Plus she stayed active in tribal activities.
“She was really active in a lot of things. She not only worked but did the funding for the Nez Perce Longhouse. With all her culture, she would be out gathering foods for the longhouse and family. She was a really hard worker,” William Andrews said.
Atkins’ daughter, Audrey Webb, said the building dedication was such an honor, seeing how much people appreciated what she did. Webb said she inspired her to do everything she can and be what she can.
She passed that to students, too.
“One of her main things was education and making sure the students had everything they needed and being there for them as far as funding and if they needed help, she was there,” Webb said. “She put a lot of time and effort into everything she did.”
Sister Patricia Atkins said this is all pretty overwhelming because Gloria was such a humble person — genuine, caring and kind. She did things from her heart. Until now, Atkins said she didn’t realize how many lives she touched.
“We grew up together and I have a lot of experiences from childhood memories. We were all raised together. My father was born in 1900 so we really had some old-school teachings and discipline and she carried that throughout her life,” Atkins said.
The name, Mish ee twie, was a name passed through the tribal tradition. Atkins said her dad named them after one of his elders. In Gloria’s case, this was her father’s great aunt, who was born in the early-to-mid 1800s.
Growing up, Atkins said Gloria was very stubborn.
“She had a mind of her own. She was very determined. We had a strict upbringing. She would defy my dad and he would yield to her. She carried that throughout her life and this is proof of her character,” Atkins said. “It’s just overwhelming to have such an honor for family and our sister.”
NCW — Washington’s wheat growers are planting their winter crop in the worst conditions some have seen since the 1970s.
These conditions come on the heels of a harvest that’s among the lowest in the same period.
Glenn Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, said the collective wheat harvest of Washington, Oregon and Idaho this year is the worst since 1977. For Washington, it’s even worse.
“The lack of rain has resulted in this year’s crop being the lowest crop output since 1973 for Washington,” Squires said.
The five-year average for wheat production in Washington is 152 million bushels of wheat. However, this year’s crop is only 93.6 million.
And conditions don’t look any better for next year’s crop.
An early summer heat wave coupled with an ongoing drought left subsoil moisture at 99% either short or very short in the state and forced wheat farmers to make a decision this fall, Squires said. They could either plant their winter crop and hope that rain would follow, or hope that a rainstorm would moisten the ground enough to allow for planting.
Right now, most farmers are planting their crops and banking on a rainstorm. According to Squires, 53% of this year’s crop has already been planted, which is up from 42% at the same time last year.
Wade Troutman, a wheat farmer in North Douglas County near the Columbia River, referred to planting seeds in dry dirt as “dusting it in.”
“Basically you’re setting the seed in dry dirt, not too deep, and hope that you get some subsequent rains that will germinate and come up,” Troutman said. “You don’t want it to germinate and hit dry dirt below it.”
This type of planting creates stress for farmers as they wait for the rain to come.
“You like to seed into moisture, and seeding into nothing is like going on pure hope,” Troutman said.
A rainstorm last week produced enough water for moisture to seep three to four inches into the ground in some areas. However, Troutman said these types of storms can be deceiving.
“It’s not consistent with the landscape. There might be a spot here and a spot there where they got ample rain, but then you go two miles further and there was no rain,” Troutman said. “We haven’t had those rainstorms that give you a good soaking across the landscape.”
In the areas where there is only light rain, Troutman said a crust will form on top of the dirt, similar to a pie crust. The germinated crop in these areas kinks up under the dirt, unable to breakthrough.
“I think what everybody’s looking for that didn’t have moisture that sowed late is to see if that wheat is going to come up or if it is going to curl,” Troutman said.
An early summer heatwave is also still having an impact on ground conditions. Troutman said it will take time for the ground to fully recharge.
“A lot of our problems came from that 115-degree week, or whatever we had,” Troutman said. “We’re used to having 100-plus temperatures in August. But June? That was just a heartbreaker there.”
Troutman said moisture over the winter, and a melting snowpack next spring should help the ground heal.
“You never know what next June will bring, and that’s part of farming. You can’t predict the weather,” Troutman said. “If the weather’s favorable to us, we can make some money. And in years like this you know, we just tighten up the belt and suck it up until the weather changes.”
After farming wheat in Central Washington for more than 40 years, Troutman has watched as the climate goes through cycles. In this cycle, there will be three to four years of dry conditions and then several subsequent years of increased moisture.
“We whine and complain about our tractors getting stuck in the mud,” Troutman said. “But it’s a much better deal than just looking at dry dirt with no moisture.”
WENATCHEE — Three weeks into the new school year, COVID-19 transmission inside schools is very low, according to school district COVID-19 data.
The Wenatchee School District, the largest in Chelan and Douglas counties, reported that 153 students, or about 2.1% of the district’s students, have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes started through Wednesday.
Forty-two staff members, or about 3.9% of the district’s staff, have tested positive as of Sept. 15, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The school district does not track where transmissions occur, but officials suspect one COVID-19 case may have been transmitted in school, according to Diana Haglund, district spokesperson.
When a positive case is identified among staff or students, the school district contact traces to determine if the classroom needs to be quarantined, Haglund said in an email.
Some classes this year have been quarantined, Haglund said in an email. Students and staff quarantine at home for a variable amount of time depending on vaccination status and symptoms.
Even as COVID-19 spreads through the state, students will most likely contract the disease outside of the classroom with little transmission occurring in schools, according to Luke Davies, Chelan-Douglas Health District administrator.
“School districts are doing their best to manage the surveillance,” Davies said. “Our school nurses are working really closely with the health district as well as the department of health on making sure that we’re keeping as many kids safe as possible.”
If somebody tests positive for COVID-19, the student or staff member stays home for 10 days from when symptoms first appeared or 10 days after positive test. Find more information at wwrld.us/protocol.
All staff members, students and visitors are required to be masked while on school grounds, according to a state mandate issued in August. Staff members are also required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
These mandates have been effective in reducing the amount of COVID-19 transmission, Davies said. He pointed to an increase in COVID-19 cases reported at the Kittitas School District as an example of what can happen if safeguards are not enforced.
The Kittitas School District had decided to not enforce the mask mandate and was experiencing “uncontrolled disease spread,” according to Dr. Mark Larson, health officer for the Kittitas County Public Health Department, in a Monday email sent to the school board. Larson also said the school district had made it impossible to do case and contact investigations, according to a report by KIMA-TV.
“So you compare that school’s cases with the cases in schools who are (following the mandates), and the cases are lower,” Davies said. “Tackling the exposures and getting people quarantined faster is functioning. There’s a difference between schools that aren’t doing that and schools that are.”
The Eastmont School District reported that, as of Sept. 11, COVID-19 cases have only been occurring outside of campus, according to the Eastmont School District’s weekly update.
In three weeks, 104 Eastmont students, about 1.3% of all students, and 18 staff members, 2.2% of all staff, have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sept. 11.
From Sept. 7 to Sept. 11, another 179 students were quarantining for 10 days due to COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting COVID-19 test results, according to the Eastmont COVID-19 dashboard.
Several other school districts also share COVID-19 data at their schools:
Contact tracing is an investigative process to identify what people if any may have been exposed to COVID-19 after a positive case has been identified.
Someone is considered to have been exposed to COVID-19 if they spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A COVID exposure or close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period, according to the state Department of Health. Find the health department’s requirements for schools during the 2021-22 school year at wwrld.us/doh.
WENATCHEE — Last year, hopeful homebuyers in the Wenatchee area who offered a little below the asking price had a chance of making a deal.
This year, not so much.
“In August we were seeing 10 offers per listing,” said JoAnna Holland, a spokesperson for the NCW Association of Realtors and office manager at Coldwell Banker Cascade Real Estate in Wenatchee.
The sold price of homes has been higher than the listing price 103% of the time, on average, for the past six months, according to Pacific Appraisal Associates’ August 2021 Snapshot Report. Homes in August 2020 were selling for less than the asking price 98% of the time, a ratio had been holding steady for at least the past five years. In March, which was also when the median sales price topped $400,000 for the first time (technically it was $410,000), the sold-to-listing price ratio hit 101%.
The year-to-date median sales price in August climbed to $435,000, according to the Pacific Appraisal report, up from 2020’s $359,800.
Home buyers also have less time to make a deal. Homes are on the market now for 51 days, on average. In August 2016, it was 103 days. In 2019, it was 67 days.
Holland said the competition lessened a little bit moving into September, with maybe five instead of 10 bidders on a house.
“It’s still competitive,” she said. “And we’re still clearly seeing offers over the asking price. I think we’re seeing some buyer fatigue — they’re tired of continually competing against 10 other offers — no matter what the price point is.”
Buyers are coming from all over, she said.
“We’re getting quite a few from outside the area,” Holland said, not just from Western Washington, but from out of state. “It’s going to be interesting to see once the year is done and we can look at the tax report to see where those zip codes are coming from. At least 50% of my sales have been from people moving out of state or into the state.”
The moves seem to be spurred by the pandemic, or events that happened during the pandemic.
“There’s more of a sense of urgency to find the next spot, whether they’re unhappy with Washington state and want to leave or are moving here. They have the freedom to do that. They seem to have more ambition to make the move than in the past. Before it was a dream they were making happen. Now it’s an absolute must.”
The demand, coupled with a short supply, means the competition will continue, Holland said.
In all, according to Pacific Appraisal’s report, 94 homes were sold in the Wenatchee market in August — 22% fewer than the 121 listed last year — with 134 pending sales. The market, which covers Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Malaga, Orondo and Rock Island, had 62 active listings in August, fewer than the 73 noted from August 2020, but an increase from the 50 listed in July.
That low supply has been an issue for more than 18 months, Holland said.
“It’s been a seller’s market since at least 2019,” she said. “The pandemic increased that double fold.”
Buyers, as a result, are going above and beyond, bringing more cash to the table, in some cases committing to paying their offer price even if the appraisal comes in lower. They might also waive inspections or do whatever they can to put security in their offer.
Sellers, in turn, are taking extra steps to make houses move-in ready. They’re not worried about finding the right sales price. They want the deal to close quickly, she said.
The trend seems to favor home-buying retirees.
“We call them the ‘super seniors,’” she said. “They have a lot of cash in the bank, so if they’re competing against a first-time home buyer, the sellers are likely to go with the deal that is more of a sure thing.”
All this buying and selling also means a boost in the number of real estate agents, Holland said. She estimates the association membership has grown at least 10% since last year.
“We saw the same thing in 2007,” she said, in the housing boom before the financial crisis. “We saw an uptick in Realtor participation then. We might have surpassed those numbers now. It’s very similar to that.”