There’s a place in Faribault where students can learn about robotics, play board games, design their own books and learn new hairstyles.
All these activities and more happen at Faribault Community School, which combines education with entertainment after Jefferson Elementary dismisses.
Community School clubs are usually scattered throughout the building, but on Tuesday afternoon, instructors pooled their resources together for a STEAM family engagement event in the Jefferson Elementary gymnasium.
“I like to be with my friends,” said Imran Alinoor, 10, of the best part about Community School. Of all the activities available, he said he especially liked playing football in the summertime.
Ashley Roth, 8, said Book Creator is her favorite club, while in the process of crafting her own story on an iPad.
Rachael Petersen, evening coordinator for Jefferson Community School, put together the STEAM event as an opportunity not only for parents to see what their children do after school but as a chance for students to explore the clubs they may not otherwise try.
Of the 17-plus clubs available to students after school at Jefferson Elementary, Petersen said children mostly gravitate toward the sessions that engage their creativity. Most, if not all of the clubs involve at least one of the five elements of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math.
About 50 students stay after school at Jefferson Elementary, some for homework help and others for the Community School Clubs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. After the free meal, which is also offered to adult community members for a small fee, Community School offers evening activities until 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
While some Community School clubs are offered consistently from one year to the next, others are available for a limited time only. Staff and community members volunteer to supervise and educate students during the different sessions.
Eryn Harman developed a club called Health, Hair and Hygiene to educate students about self-care in terms of what to eat, how much sleep to get, and how to maintain healthy hair and teeth. These are the sort of lessons not all students may learn at home, she said.
For fun activities, Harman also teaches the participating girls different hairstyles, and sometimes they play games. Four to six girls between first and fifth grade attend this club currently, but Harman said boys are also welcome.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing my hair, and it’s something I wanted to pass on,” Harman said.
Some Community School program leaders offer more than one club, like DeAnna Skroch. Students build with blocks and other materials during Construction Club, and students use iPads to create their own stories in the Book Creator club she leads.
Throughout the gymnasium, students also played with Legos, constructed paper airplane launchers, completed crafts at the Maker Space station and made colorful designs with perler beads.
Those looking for a late night snack or to do a little grocery shopping in Owatonna and Faribault will have to resort to the local convenience stores, as Hy-Vee announced that its grocery stores will no longer be open 24 hours a day beginning Monday, Feb. 10.
“We’ve always had stores that were not 24/7, so we’re sampling moving all our locations to that model,” said Tina Potthoff, the senior vice president of communications with Hy-Vee. “We will still be open all seven days a week, just not 24 hours.”
Potthoff stated that move primarily has to do with changes in consumer behaviors, stating that it is not unique to Hy-Vee to move away from 24 hour operations. In Owatonna, Walmart moved away from its 24-hour schedule within the last year, and Cash Wise also is not available for shoppers during the earliest hours of the day.
The new hours of operation for Hy-Vee in both Owatonna and Faribault will be from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Potthoff said that they looked closely at the type of traffic the two stores had throughout the day so that they could cater the new hours to fit the communities’ trends.
“A majority of shopping is done during the morning, day, or evening hours,” she explained. “We are simply repositioning our people to help better meet those costumers’ needs during those times.”
In Owatonna, the times between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. experience the heaviest shopping traffic.
Potthoff also emphasized that no jobs will be lost due to the transition in schedule. She said that late night workers who were aiding costumers will simply be moved to another shift during the day, while stocking and inventory will still be done during the early mornings of the day while the store is closed.
“We will make sure that the store is ready by the time 5 a.m. comes around,” she said.
Despite some speculations that the change in Hy-Vee’s operation hours could be a result of minimum wage or tax increases, Potthoff said that it’s not the case.
“It’s interesting to me because we operate in eight states,” Potthoff said. “This is not specific to one state’s minimum wage or one state’s taxes, it’s how to best serve our customers and taking a look at foot traffic. This decision was made across the board.”
The new hours of operation will be in effect in all Hy-Vee stores on Monday.
Faribault’s City Council had a lively discussion over the tobacco age at its Tuesday work session, as councilors discussed bringing city ordinance into alignment with newly enacted federal law.
The federal government officially raised the minimum age for tobacco purchasing to 21 last December, after the provision was slipped into a year end budget deal struck between Congress and President Trump.
The surprising change went into effect immediately but hasn’t yet been accompanied by the usual guidance from the federal government, leaving cities and states in limbo. The Food and Drug Administration says it will provide regulatory guidelines in the upcoming months.
Even once the regulations are put into place, the city wouldn’t be required to enforce the federal law, though the FDA has the right to take enforcement actions. Should the state update its law, then the city would need to follow.
It’s likely that St. Paul will want to pass such a bill sooner rather than later. States which fail to comply with the law within three years can have up to 10% of the state’s federal grant money withheld by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The push to raise the minimum age has gained major steam in recent years, with backing from public health groups across the country. Before federal law changed, 19 states across the country had raised the minimum age to 21.
Minnesota wasn’t among them, but a number of cities, including St. Peter and Mankato, had passed their own local ordinances. Recently, Northfield has begun implementation of its own tobacco 21 law.
Noting that the vast majority of smokers start as teens, Northfield City Administrator said that ensuring public safety drove the city’s decision. Martig said Northfield Councilors were particularly concerned about a dramatic increase in vaping among teens.
The city of Northfield worked closely with Rice County Public Health to help prepare and implement the ordinance. In a prepared statement, Rice County Public Health’s Josh Ramaker described the new federal law as a positive step forward and said the Department is ready to work with other localities to enable its implementation at the local level.
Most area retailers immediately followed by increasing the age of tobacco sales to 21, saying they didn’t want to fall afoul of the federal government. However, the absence of a state or local law limits enforcement on the local level.
Several councilors said they disagreed with the move to 21, seeing it as a case of unnecessary government intrusion. City Administrator Tim Murray urged caution, saying that he believes most Faribault residents want to see the city comply with federal law.
Other councilors were inclined to wait and see regarding the FDA’s approach and what laws St. Paul might pass. Murray urged the council not to wait, saying the process would be lengthy enough as it is.
“If you want to go to 21, let’s start with that now,” Murray said. “if you say ‘Let’s go,’ it will take two to three months.”
Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen said that violation of the proposed ordinance would most likely lead to a Misdemeanor charge. He added that officers and the courts are unlikely to be in a hurry to aggressively enforce the ordinance.
“We’re going to have a lot of discretion on this,” he said. “We don’t want to arrest a bunch of 20-year-olds (right away).”
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Each year, nearly 500,000 Americans lose their lives due to tobacco use.
A 2017 study by Clearway Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health found that with the change, 25 percent fewer 15 year olds would start smoking by the time they turn 18 and 15 percent fewer 18-year-olds would start smoking by the time they turn 21.
At the Tuesday evening work session, Faribault’s City Council reiterated its commitment to bringing additional recreational facilities to Prairie Ridge Park.
Located on the very south end of Faribault, not far from Faribault Middle School, Prairie Ridge Park has been in the city’s hands since 2005. However, the city hasn’t invested the funds necessary to put recreational facilities on the lot.
The 13.7-acre lot has been an open, mowed area for a decade and a half, adding to the city’s maintenance budget while providing little of value. With Faribault growing and additional homes potentially coming to the area, city planners say they’d like to see that change.
In its Capital Improvement Plan, the city has budgeted hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the lot into a public park. That investment would dovetail nicely with commitments made in the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Plan approved by the Council in December.
Especially given its relative proximity to the Middle School, the site has been seen as a viable site to host several baseball fields for some time. The new ballfields could replace those currently at Teepee Tonka Park, which are prone to regular flooding.
It’s possible that the city could get help with the cost of a move, through the Hazard Mitigation grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management. If received, the grant would cover 75% of the cost of moving the ball fields.
The Council has discussed the project several times over the last year, most recently in November. Councilors asked the city’s Parks and Recreation Board to review several potential designs produced by architecture and engineering firm ISG.
The first design produced by ISG would put three ballparks on the site, effectively maximizing ballpark space. The remainder of the lot would be dominated by a parking lot notably larger than in the other designs.
While the Park Board insisted that its biggest priority is replacing the ballparks at Teepee Tonka Field, members expressed several concerns about the first design. Members said they’d like to see at least some of the park devoted to a playground to serve the neighborhood.
Although the City Council didn’t give the park board formal direction, Councilors have expressed similar opinions in the past. At a work session last August, Mayor Kevin Voracek and Councilor Elizabeth Cap both said they’d like to see a variety of amenities at the site.
The second option presented by ISG was to have two ballfields along with an open space and playground area. The idea was warmly received by the board, although board members said it would need to be reconfigured to prevent home run balls from ending up in private yards.
The third idea discussed by the board was the possibility of turning the entire site into open space, including a park shelter and orchard. Board members also liked the idea, but it would require the city to identify another site for the ballparks, raising concerns.
Parks and Recreation Director Paul Peanasky told the Council that one alternative to putting ballparks at Prairie Park could be sharing ballfields with the Middle School. However, any potential agreement between the city would be complicated.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a long shot, but there’s a lot of things that would need to be worked out,” he said.
The second option also won broad support from the Council, which agreed with the board that the ballparks shouldn’t be lighted as a courtesy to neighbors. Several Councilors expressed concerns about parking, noting the significant attendance of some games.
“I like the larger parking lot (as shown in the first design),” said Councilor Tom Spooner. “You get a lot of these people coming to these games, and all of a sudden you get people parking on the street.”
Councilor Janna Viscomi said she’d like to see discussions continue with the school over sharing the Middle School ballfields, but would be supportive of the second option as a backup. Viscomi said the city should be prepared to add another ballfield at the site if necessary.
“We don’t want to put something so permanent there that we can’t expand,” Viscomi said, “If the program grows, we could be limiting our growth there.”