Cheers to talented freshman Ella Menear for making her mark as a swimmer from Mapletown. While the Maples do not have a swim team, Menear participates in meets at other schools and has excelled. As of last week, she had posted the second-best time in the 100 backstroke (1:00.03) in the WPIAL, according to the first performance list of the season. Menear also plays volleyball and expects to play for the Lady Maples softball team this spring.

Cheers to Connellsville Area School District officials for seeking input from parents, students and other community members about the possibility of later start days for secondary students. Medical research supports letting our older students sleep in as a way to combat chronic sleep loss and fatigue, and reports have indicated a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later is the best for these teens. Such a change, however, wouldn’t come without consequences, and one of the biggest would be to parents – especially those who work. The district’s online survey seeking input on the possibility had logged nearly 4,000 responses as of Wednesday. Those who haven’t taken the survey and still want to offer an opinion have until Jan. 31 to do so. A link to the survey is on the district’s homepage, Once the survey is completed, the school board will make a determination about any changes.

Cheers to several local ladies who are representing their southwestern Pennsylvania counties well during the Pennsylvania Fair Queen competition currently underway in Hershey. During the two-event, which began Thursday, contestants will be evaluated on personality, public speaking skills, poise and presence, as well as knowledge of the fair and agriculture industries. Contestants from across the state, including those from Fayette, Westmoreland, Greene and Washington counties, will compete for the crown, which will be given on Saturday. We wish good luck to all of the contestants and commend them for their efforts in bringing attention to the agricultural industry that continues to thrive in our area.

Jeers to the flu season that continues to wreak havoc in our area and across the state and nation. According to the Department of Health website, Fayette County has had 361 cases of both type A and B influenza viruses; most are type B. Greene County has had 215 cases, and Washington County has had 760, mostly type B. Also according to the Department of Health, there have been more than 17,300 confirmed cases of the flu — nine resulting in death statewide. Local doctors highly suggest getting a flu shot, but also said frequent hand-washing, good hygiene and cough etiquette go a long way in avoiding germs and protecting oneself from the flu.

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