▶️ Local venues, vendors handling fair share of rescheduled 2020 weddings


For many couples, 2020 was the year of rescheduled weddings.

Things still aren’t completely the same in 2021, but engaged couples are tired of waiting.

“They’re kind of starting to see the writing on the wall,” said Lindsay Borkowski, Sunriver Resort director of sales and marketing. “That their wedding of 200 people may not be a reality for them, even in 2021.”

“It’s a tough year,” added Brandon Sirstins, Brasada Ranch director of sales and marketing. “People didn’t stop getting engaged during the pandemic. I think you could argue that more people probably got engaged.”

Rearrangements and restrictions aren’t stopping many couples from celebrating their big day.

Borkowski says one venue, the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort is booked almost every Saturday for the rest of the year.

“More and more we’re seeing weddings that have been postponed going forward in 2021, deciding just to do it,” Borkowski said. “Just making sacrifices based on what we’re experiencing right now.”

For venues, it’s a good problem to have.

Sirstins says 80% of the couples who planned to have their wedding at Brasada Ranch in 2020 have stuck with them into the new year.

“We are completely booked out for 2021,” Sirstins said.

Bend Photographer Kayla Thorson says she had some wedding reschedules of her own, but overall, business has been great thanks to elopements.

“Most of my couples, especially locally, were like we just want to get married,” Thorson said. “We will get together with our friends and family later.”

That includes Portland couple Stacy Mann and Tony Chung, who will be eloping at Smith Rock State Park in March.

“It’s so hard to tell with COVID when things are going to be back to normal when things are going to open up,” Chung said. “When people are even going to be comfortable attending weddings.”

Couples, venues, and vendors are all making do, but in the end, there will be no shortage of local weddings in 2021.

▶️ Prineville mother frustrated with limited curriculum on Black History Month


What did you learn today?

That’s a question Prineville resident Amber Vandenack asks her 6th grade daughter every day after school.

But it’s what the 11-year-old Crook County Middle School student, who is black, wasn’t mentioning that stood out to Vandenack.

“Well, did you learn anything about Black History? Because it was February 1st the first day I asked,” Vandenack said. “She was like no, and I put it off a little bit. I said okay it’s only the first day, let’s give it a week and see how it goes.”

A week went by, Vandenack’s daughter still reported back nothing.

Vandenack then called the school and the superintendent, she was told that Black History Month is not part of the school’s curriculum and it’s up to teachers whether to discuss it.

“I was mad,” Vandenack said. “I cussed a few times.”

According to Jason Carr with the Crook County School District, students do learn about Black History.

“It is something that is covered,” Carr said. “It is something that we believe is important.”

However, there is not a single month of the curriculum devoted to Black History Month.

Assistant principal Marques Hase says this is because Crook County Middle School takes a “holistic” approach to Black history, incorporating it into lessons throughout the entire school year.

“We focus on Black History throughout the content throughout the year,” Marques Hase, assistant principal said. “Not specifically just Black History Month, just throughout the year.”

Vandenack says what frustrates her the most is that slavery and segregation is the bulk of the black history her daughter is learning.

“It breaks my heart that my daughter only hears the bad,” Vandenack said. “Doesn’t hear about the good things that African American and black people do.”

Since our conversation with Vandenack, she spoke with school district curriculum director Stacy Smith.

Smith is hoping the school district can find unique ways to celebrate Black History Month with more positive content.

“The school district is happy to partner with the family and weave in additional lessons that meet the request,” Carr said. “We value the opportunity to have an open conversation with our parents to ensure our schools are a welcoming and positive place for all of our students of color.”

▶️ ODFW receives multiple reports of wolf sightings in Terrebonne


Terrebonne resident Peter Coughlin was playing with his German shepherd in the backyard Thursday afternoon until something caught his eye.

“All of a sudden I see these two, what I thought were coyotes or dogs at first coming through at a brisk pace towards the east of our property,” Coughlin said. “Through the Juniper trees and sage brush.”

Once he found out another Terrebonne resident claimed to see wolves minutes later, Coughlin went looking for tracks.

“Since we had a lot of moisture recently,” Coughlin said. “Definitely leaves some good imprints.”

Wildlife biologist Andrew Walch says although it’s more common in other parts of the state, wolves occasionally come to Central Oregon and winter is a likely time for them to do so.

“So far, most every wolf report we get in Central Oregon is a transient wolf passing through,” Walch said. “Dispersing.”

Walch says the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife gets a few wolf reports per week in our region.

However, it’s tough to say how many are confirmed sightings because ODFW can’t always get to them all.

“On ones that seem likely and plausible,” Walch said. “We try to get out there and take a look and see if we can verify what was going on.”

Walch adds there was another promising report out of Terrebonne last week, and someone from ODFW will meet Coughlin to investigate his sighting.

You can report wolf sightings at ODFW.com/wolves.

▶️ Health official says U.K. COVID strain ‘may impede’ getting back to normal


If you were expecting life to get back to normal any time soon, B.1.1.7 or the U.K. strain of COVID-19, may have just changed that.

“So the concern here is that it makes it much harder to contain the spread of the virus,” said Dr. George Conway, Deschutes County Health Services director. “So just at the time that we were hoping as the weather got warmer, and maybe as we got towards spring break, and we could be opening up schools and whatnot, this may impede that.”

Conway says the strain recently found in Bend is more efficiently transmitted than other variants.

OSU research finds highly contagious U.K. COVID strain in Bend sample

The sample was collected from wastewater on December 22nd by Oregon State University, as part of the university’s TRACE COVID-19 project.

Genetic information was not discovered until January 21st, so what took so long?

“We have to extract, then we do a PCR test to see if it’s positive,” said Brett Tyler, OSU Genome Research and Biocomputing director. “If that’s positive then it gets referred to the sequencing lab, it takes about a week for the sequencing lab to process that, and then we had another week gap in there due to the holidays.”

Conway says this will likely require the general public to continue to take precautions, but there is good news.

“B.1.1.7 strain does not appear to be any more resistant to the protective effect of the two vaccines that are being used in the U.S. right now,” Conway said.

Conway did emphasize that this strain has been in the United States for a while, and catching this sample allows Oregonians to prepare.

▶️ Parents, teachers react to Bend-La Pine Schools reopening plan


Christina Kennedy is a mother of three and first grade teacher at Lava Ridge Elementary.

When she heard students will soon be returning back to school, she described it as a sigh of relief.

Kennedy said all of her kids will return in some capacity.

She also thought the staggered start among grades was a good call by the school district.

“With the numbers that we have and just all the different schools, and all the different programs, and different types of schools and all of that,” Kennedy said. “I really think it’ll feel less tumultuous.”

Christie Otley, also a mother of three, said she agrees.

Otley is happy the school district is providing a choice to return, but she is leaving that decision up to her kids.

“Overwhelmingly they wanted to go back,” Otley said. “My oldest son, he really likes the scheduling that Bend-La Pine online has provided for him and the flexibility. So he still hasn’t really given me a concrete answer on his.”

Not everyone feels as confident in reopening schools.

On our Facebook page, Mariah S. wrote, “our county is still in the extreme risk category.”

Amy M. also said, “nothing about school will be normal.”

As for teachers who don’t feel comfortable going back yet, Bend-La Pine Schools said they could sign up for a leave of absence and have their positions held for next year.

That deadline for that decision, however, has passed.

The school district also opened 10 to 15 positions to teach online for internal staff only.

“The district, as a whole for their purposes, has really done an amazing job” Kennedy said.

▶️ Local women attending D.C. rally share experience of chaos at the Capitol


Prineville resident Deborah Tilden says her experience in Washington D.C. this week has been mostly peaceful.

However, she is disappointed with what she saw at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

“It was really shocking to me,” Tilden said. “I just kept praying that there would not be an escalation.”

Tilden says she got a bad feeling once people started to make their way up the Capitol steps and began to back away herself.

“Just stay there, don’t try to breach into the building,” Tilden said. “They are doing business inside that building and they need to do their job of what we are expecting them to do.”

Bend resident Judy Thomson says if she’d had a chance to enter the Capitol, she would’ve taken it.

“I would have definitely gone,” Thomson said. “I would’ve followed them because they were patriots and all they were doing was carrying flags. No bullets, not any kind of weapon.”

Though few details have been released, a woman was shot inside the Capitol Wednesday and later died.

Tilden says violence shouldn’t have been a part of the protest. She simply wanted to be heard.

“That’s what 99.99% of people were here for,” Tilden said. “Is to make a statement that we truly care about this election.”

Tilden and her friends will return to Central Oregon tomorrow.

▶️ Deschutes County Health to receive weekly vaccine shipments from OHA


Governor Kate Brown is calling on the Oregon Health Authority to achieve 12,000 vaccinations a day by the end of the next two weeks.

OHA officials say they fully expect to reach that goal.

“We’re all going to have to work really hard to vaccinate people as quickly as we can,” Patrick Allen, OHA director said. “That target is a target that we do indeed need to achieve.”

Allen says this number of vaccinations won’t happen in the next few days.

“27 states I think are sitting at about 1 to 1.5% of the population vaccinated so far,” Allen said. “We’re all in the stage of gradually increasing our vaccination over time.”

Locally, Deschutes County Public Health has received and administered 500 vaccines so far, mostly to health care workers and first responders.

Deschutes County Public Health’s Morgan Emerson says this was their first shipment, and they received as many doses as expected.

“We received the full allocation that we were told to expect from Oregon Health Authority,” Emerson said.

Emerson said public health expects continuous weekly shipments from the OHA every Wednesday.

It is unknown how many doses will be in each shipment.

“We’re working closely with health care providers across our community to make sure we can efficiently scale up,” Emerson said. “Provide vaccines to our community as quickly as possible.”

▶️ Bend woman on life support after Christmas assault; suspect not yet charged


It was Christmas morning when Kathryn Boutott got a horrifying call.

Boutott’s daughter, 43-year-old Bend resident Daphne Killian-Banks, was in the hospital after sustaining a life-threatening head injury.

Boutott was told her daughter fell off a stool and hit her head, but she didn’t believe that for a second.

“I told them this wasn’t no accident,” Boutott said. “This wasn’t no accident.”

Doctors later told the family there was no way the injuries, which put the victim on life support, happened through a fall.

Killian-Banks was with Bend resident Randall Kilby when this all occurred.

Kilby was arrested on Christmas Day for second-degree assault, but has since been released pending charges.

“You know she’s in the ICU unit, we don’t know if she’s going to make it,” Rio Killian, daughter of the victim said. “Yet the main suspect is out walking the streets, could possibly hurt another person.”

After finding out her mother was in the hospital, Laci Killian thought it was likely Killian-Banks was injured at the suspect’s home.

Killian-Banks and Kilby’s relationship is still unclear.

Killian went to the 60000 block of Granite Drive in Bend herself to find out what happened.

The suspect’s mother was there when Killian arrived, and claimed Killian-Banks fell and landed on a nail that went in her head.

Killian says Kilby showed up shortly after, claiming the victim hit her head on some handlebars.

The conflicting stories made Killian suspicious.

“You need to show me where my mom hit her head, show me the handlebars, show me the piece of wood, so he opened up the garage door,” Killian said. “I see spots of blood on the floor, I see spots of blood on the couch, and it was just really hard. There’s no blood on the handlebars, there was no blood on the stick that she supposively hit her head on, there was no blood on anything like that, but there was a couple puddles of blood. So I left there, and as soon as I left there I called the cops.”

The family says they’ve been told by police to come up with a safety plan while Kilby is out.

Whether Killian-Banks lives or dies, her family believes Kilby should be charged with murder.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel tells Central Oregon Daily the investigation is ongoing and he has not yet made a charging decision.

“He took her life from all of us,” Boutott said. “He took her life from her friends, people that care about her. He took that from us, he should get life.”

Monday afternoon, doctors took Killian-Banks off life support, hoping she could breathe on her own.

Killian-Banks could only handle being off life support for a few minutes. Doctors put her back on and will keep her on until the family can be present.

▶️ No gym, no problem: Locals make the best of 2021 fitness resolutions


New year, new plans to stay active.

On Friday, we asked Bendites how they plan on accomplishing their New Year’s fitness resolutions while Oregon gyms are closed.

One of the most common ways is taking a trip to Pilot Butte.

“I try to walk the Butte a couple times a week,” Joe Barry, Bend resident, said. “You meet a lot of nice people here, we all share the same thing. Walking the Butte.”

Jason and Lauren Schnoor used Pilot Butte as one of their many hike locations this year.

“Since all the gyms are closed, we’ve committed ourselves to hike every day,” Schnoor said. “We wrote down 600 miles on our New Year’s resolution.”

Lupe Binoeder already walks up and runs down Pilot Butte twice a day, and she encourages others to do even a little of the same.

“At least go around the block four or five times, just to make that heart keep going,” Binoeder said. “Exercise is good. It’s good for the mind. It’s good spiritually too.”

Some gyms, like CrossFit Type 44 in Bend, have begun offering outdoor classes.

“Even if it’s a little bit that you do” Grace Ogawa, Bend resident said. “It’s infinitely more than if you don’t do anything.”

▶️ BLP Schools implements temporary grading scale; lowest grade possible is 50%


Bend-La Pine Schools’ temporary “no zeros” policy is concerning to local parent Angela Keranen.

Keranen’s son is a freshman at Bend High School.

“The grades aren’t to make everyone feel good; they’re to indicate that the kids are learning the curriculum,” Keranen said. “He doesn’t have to do anything. So now he essentially passes, but he hasn’t learned anything all year.”

Middle and high schoolers will be graded on a 10 point scale, but the lowest failing grade they can receive is 50%.

According to the school district’s website, “A 50% represents an F, or half the points possible on a traditional 100 point scale, and will be the lowest possible grade reflected on any assignment or assessment.”

Keranen worries this will hide how many kids are truly struggling, including her son, who she fears will fall behind.

“It’s only going to make more of a burden next year when they go back,” Keranen said. “They’ve got these grades that look like they passed. They didn’t learn the materials.”

Jim Boen, executive director of BLP’s middle schools, says the school district saw a concerning number of students failing.

The grading scale was implemented to help failing students recover and climb out of the F range.

“Any grade change at any other level, from a B to an A or even a D to a C, only requires a 10 percentage point jump,” Boen said. “Whereas a 0 to 60 is obviously much larger.”

Keranen believes the change was made to benefit the school district. Boen said that’s not true.

“It was really about helping students be successful,” Boen said. “Feeling successful, and feeling like they had a shot.”

“They’re not going to feel better by a 50,” Keranen said. “Mine doesn’t, now he thinks it’s a joke that he doesn’t have to try very hard. Which now, we’ve decreased incentive.”

The new grading system will continue through this school year.

Bend-La Pine Schools has not yet released their reopening plan.