News

Courtesy of Sacred Heart

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. And while nursing is the most natural and usually the healthiest option for a newborn, most new mothers need some help getting started. "We spend lots of time helping moms and babies get that initial latch and breastfeeding establishment done while we're in the hospital" said Kendal Vaughn, a Lactation Consultant at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Almost a year after plans were announced to sever ties with Sacred Heart Health System, Nemours will partner with West Florida Hospital to provide specialized care for children beginning this fall.

The care provided by the new partnership will extend beyond Pensacola to the rest of the western Panhandle, says Carlton Ulmer, West Florida President and CEO.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The University of West Florida is playing host this weekend to an exercise by local emergency response organizations, which is aimed at beefing up community resilience.

Santa Rosa County Emergency Management is teaming up with SAFER – the Support Alliance for Emergency Readiness, and BRACE – the Be Ready Agency Coordinating for Emergencies.

“The Advanced Citizen Corps Academy started years and years ago, when we had excess grant money at the state level, and they asked if anybody wanted to do anything with it,” said SAFER Administrator Daniel Hahn.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

State and county health officials are sending out words of caution, after a case of vibrio vulnificus was confirmed in Escambia County.

No information is being released about the patient, other than it’s the sixth vibrio case in Escambia in the past three years, including another case earlier this year and the death of a resident in 2015. Last year, two Santa Rosa County residents died from the bacteria.

John Worth / UWF Archaeology Institute

University of West Florida archaeologists spent the summer uncovering more details about Tristan de Luna’s 1559 Settlement in Pensacola. Much of the story of the ill-fated Spanish colony is being told through the artifacts that have been discovered.

In the third and final installment of our “Back to School” series, we take a look at the Escambia County District.

With more than 40,000 students, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas oversees the largest district in the western Panhandle. And he adds there’s always a special enthusiasm at this time of year, just before the first class bell rings.

Bob Barrett / WUWF News

Steve Box had a dilemma. For over a dozen years Mr. Box has taught choral and piano music at Shoal River Middle School in Crestview, and has been involved in music in Okaloosa County for over 30 years. One day, out of the blue, one of his students came to him and said she had to leave his class. "And she was a very good student, had tried out for all-state and done all the things that choral students do. So I said 'Wow, what's going on? Did I do something? Is somebody bothering you?' Maybe something going on in the class between the boys and girls? You know, middle school things.

In part two of “Back to School,” WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody sits down with Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, and what that district is facing in the new term.

For one thing, Wyrosdick is looking at higher numbers district-wide when classes kick off August 14.

“We’ll bump close to 29,000 students this year, and maybe go over that,” he says. “Our growth this year, probably in the neighborhood of 550-600 students.”

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson visited Pensacola State College on Monday, meeting with local officials and residents on a number of issues. While there, Nelson had one bit of good news for the area’s military bases.

“BRAC’s not coming; it’s not going to pass in the next [election] cycle,” said Nelson. “So y'all can stop worrying about that.”

Classes resume this week and next in public schools across Florida’s western Panhandle, with the usual challenges that a new school year brings the districts. In the first of our three-part series “Back to School,” Dave Dunwoody spoke with Okaloosa County Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

It’s a busy start to the new term. The biggest challenges, says Jackson, are getting rid of 160 portable classrooms on campuses; and 770 more students than in 2016-17 and growing at the rate of 100 per day. That brings the district’s total student population to more than 31,000.  

John Worth / UWF Archaeology Institute

University of West Florida archaeology students and researchers have spent the summer uncovering more details about the 1559 Luna Settlement.

The Tristan de Luna Settlement overlooking Pensacola Bay existed for just two years until 1561.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Groundbreaking was held Tuesday morning near Milton, for construction of a Native American cultural center that’s due to be opened later this year.

Chief Blue Eyes, tribal leader Tom Nichols, and Dan Helms, an officer with the Santa Rosa County Creeks greeted the audience in both Creek and English on a warm, sunny morning at the construction site on Willard Norris Road.

“We started the tribe in 1990 with three members; today we have over 1,200, I believe,” said Blue Eyes. “We hoped and prayed and worked our tails off to get what we’ve got today.”

Sacred Heart Pediatrics

Part of getting ready for the new school year is making sure students are up to date with their vaccines. While most parents are happy to immunize their children against life threatening diseases, there are still some loud voices in the media spreading doubt about vaccines. 

Center for Research & Economic Opportunity (CREO)

Raising the minimum wage appeals to many in the workforce, but what are the risks of raising it too much, too soon?

Phyllis Pooley, director of special projects with the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement, reviewed a recent study by the University of Washington on the subject and surveyed local labor market data. She discussed her observations with WUWF’s Sandra Averhart.

C-SPAN

The U.S. Senate is immersed in work on reforming healthcare, and at the same time dismantling the Affordable Care Act. And the chamber faces a long road ahead.

Florida’s two senators voted on either side of the measure, as expected. Republican Marco Rubio has been a longtime opponent of ACA.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Most people would agree that there’s a deep divide between the right and left in the United States but two University of West Florida researchers want to find out if those ideological differences are reflected in the legislation lawmakers introduce.

This Fall, Dr. Adam Cayton and Dr. Brian Williams of the UWF Department of Government will begin a study to classify specific actions being proposed in legislation.

ECUA

Water and sewer customers with Emerald Coast Utilities Authority could be shelling out more for those services in the near future.

When the board overseeing the agency meets on Thursday, it’s expected to take up a proposed capital improvement fee, $5 per month, to pay for upgrading water and sewer lines throughout the service area.

Lois Benson chairs the ECUA Board.  

Santa Rosa Creek Indian Tribe

If all goes as planned, a Native American cultural center will open near Milton by the end of this year. Groundbreaking is set for August 1 at 10 a.m. at the site, 4750 Willard Norris Road.

Dan Helms, an officer with the Santa Rosa County Creek Indian Tribe, says the center’s main mission is to stem the loss of Native American culture, artifacts and education.

“We have been accumulating, for more than 20 years, records, Census data, deeds, birth certificates, death certificates and all sorts of things that establish Native American bloodlines,” said Helms.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

About three dozen businesses in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are getting together to form a private-sector entity, aimed at supporting economic development in the two counties.

First Place Partners has been in the works since last fall. The group’s president is former Gulf Power executive and Pensacola Chamber of commerce Chairman John Hutchinson.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The return of passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast appears to be getting some mixed signals among the agencies and groups studying the matter.

Congress on Monday received the final report by the Federal Rail Commission’s Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Working Group, which is said to provide a positive endorsement of the Southern Rail Commission’s long standing call for restoration.

The next step, says Southern Rail Commission Chairman Greg White, is how to pay for it.

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