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(Pierce City) (AP) – Students in two southwest Missouri school districts will no longer attend school on Mondays starting next school year.

Students in Miller and Pierce City will have four-day school weeks and Stockton also is considering a Tuesday through Friday schedule.

The Miller school board approved the change on Monday and Pierce City officially accepted the shorter week on Feb. 18.

The 153-day year will include longer days so students will have the same amount of instructional time.

Pierce City Superintendent Russ Moreland wrote in a letter to the community that he understands that people are concerned that shortening the week will impact child care, and that making the decision was not easy for the board.

“The district further realizes that this decision is not supported by everyone in our community and respects the different opinions and thoughts by all patrons,” wrote Moreland following the vote. “We simply feel at this time that moving in this direction provides numerous benefits to the district both in the short and long term.”

The Springfield News-Leader reports the leaders of the school districts say the shorter week will help save money, better engage students and retain quality teachers.

“Utilizing every minute of instructional time is important and keeping students on task and engaged will be important. The teachers have expressed excitement for the opportunity to allow students additional time to complete projects and have deep discussions and lessons during one complete instructional time,” said Miller Superintendent Tracey Hankins.

Miller officials believe that the district will save up to $175,000, and that their need to pay for substitutes will be reduced because training can be scheduled when students are not in school.

In the late 2000s, Missouri passed a law that allowed four-day weeks and gave districts more flexibility in how they structure their calendars. The school year still must include at least 1,044 hours.

(St. Louis) (AP) – Another round of winter weather is hammering parts of Missouri – again.

Freezing rain and snow were falling in several areas of the state, with southern Missouri taking the worst of it. Several school districts called off classes as freezing rain fell Wednesday in the Springfield area.

Snow was falling in St. Louis and in southeast Missouri. Forecasters were calling for up to 8 inches of snow in some southern Missouri counties. Roads were slippery by midday Wednesday, with several accidents reported.

The wintry weather should be short-lived. Most areas of the state are expected to see temperatures in the 50s by the weekend.

(Little Rock) (AP) – A federal judge says she won’t allow same-sex marriages in Arkansas while the issue is pending before an appeals court.

Lawyers claim gay couples are suffering continuing harm by not being allowed to marry. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down Arkansas’ ban against same-sex marriages in November but issued a stay pending an appeal. The same-sex couples asked Baker to lift the stay, but the judge said Wednesday court rules won’t let her.

In a brief order, Baker said lifting the stay could change the status quo while the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers Arkansas’ appeal. She also said that, even without the prohibition, she would keep the stay in place because the 8th Circuit refused to vacate a stay in a similar case from Missouri.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas House members want to force a constitutional convention to take up a federal balanced budget amendment.

The body voted 54-32 Wednesday to join with other states calling for a constitutional convention. The convention application would be submitted once 38 states have joined the compact.

Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena said his proposal is needed because the nation faces a debt crisis. Supporters say two states have already joined and the legislation is pending before several others.

Opponents worry that the convention could waste taxpayer money or result in unwanted changes to the U.S. Constitution.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

(West Plains) – Howell County Public Water Supply District #2 has issued a boil water order.

The order affects Junction Hill Route 2 system patrons west of BB Highway. Those residents need to boil their water until further notice. The advisory does not include patrons in the area southwest of West Plains or patrons of the Brandsville system.

The order was issued due to maintenance being done to repair a line leak.

Customers should vigorously boil water for three minutes prior to use for cooking or drinking. Water does not need to be boiled for bathing. Customers can also add one teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of water to use for cleaning or disinfecting.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas would bar state funding for Planned Parenthood under a bill endorsed by a Senate panel.

The Senate Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Wednesday advanced the measure by a voice vote. It goes to the full Senate. The proposal by Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch would ban the state from awarding grants to entities that perform abortions. It wouldn’t apply to funding available through the Medicaid program.

It’s unclear how much funding the state provides for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which runs abortion clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

A lobbyist representing the organization told committee members that other laws already block public funding for most abortions. She said the proposed cuts would impact other health programs for women.

(Jefferson City) – Missouri’s unemployment edged higher in January but still remained under the national average.

According to seasonally adjusted data released Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the state’s nonfarm payroll employment gained 14,300 jobs in the first month of 2015, following an increase of 4,400 in December 2014.

Missouri’s unemployment rate edged up in January to 5.5 percent, compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. Both numbers were up a tenth of a point from December.

January’s job growth was led by leisure and hospitality with 5,100 new jobs. Additionally, the private educational services industry was up by 1,300 jobs in January.

Missouri’s nonfarm payrolls have increased by 43,200 jobs over the past year.

Meanwhile, Missouri Budget Director Linda Luebbering on Tuesday reported 4.9 percent growth in general revenue this fiscal year, and that February’s revenues increased 4.4 percent compared to the same time last year. Individual income tax collections grew 5.6 percent in February and 6.4 percent so far this fiscal year.

(West Plains) – Health Haven Botanical Gardens will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, March 14, at 2 PM at the upcoming garden’s location, near the corner of Hwy. 17 and CR 8270, just south of U.S. 63 next to the Animal Clinic of West Plains.

The groundbreaking will kickoff with special guest speakers, including Howell County Presiding Commissioner Mark Collins. Children of the STARS Foundation, based in Cabool, will be performing instrumental music for audience members. Attendees can then participate in planting trees for the garden, along with games and activities, including the burying of a time capsule. Food and drinks will be provided.

All are welcome to attend the free event, and donations for the garden will be accepted. After the event, folks are welcome to stay for a bonfire on the property. It is asked of those interested in attending to bring a lawn chair, gardening gloves and a shovel, if possible, and a blanket, weather permitting.

Organizers hope that the HHBG will be a sustainable regional botanical garden that provides health and gardening education and botanical research, for the region, including being a source of heirloom seeds for local school gardening efforts; a tourist destination to boost the local economy; a native and heritage plant research facility; a gardening education location; an exercise and fitness motivational setting; a garden shop outlet for local craftsman and artisans to market garden related products; culinary education location; and a distribution point for excess food.

More information can be found at www.healthhavenbotanicalgardens.org or “like” the Health Haven Botanical Gardens page on Facebook.

(Alton) – With the threat of winter storms that could produce more snow and ice, University of Missouri Extension Oregon County Annual Meeting that was original scheduled for this Thursday, March 5 has been postponed until March 26.

The dinner will be served between 6-7 PM on Thursday, March 26, at the Thayer Elementary School Cafeteria building on the Thayer School campus. In addition to the dinner, entertainment will be provided for the evening. Special Guests will include the 2014 State Fair Farm Family, Leader’s Honor Roll recipients and local 4-H members and their families.

For more information or to RSVP, come by the Oregon County Extension Center located in the county courthouse in Alton, or call 417-778-7490.

(Washington) – Gas prices continue to climb, according to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration. Amerine Woodyard with the EIA has the report:

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Gas prices in the local area are at an average of $2.25 per gallon.