Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools leaders began making plans to teach students from a distance even before classes closed Wednesday, per a weekend directive from Gov. Tim Walz.
Walz on Sunday ordered public schools to temporarily close to give administrators and teachers time to make plans for switching to distance learning as the number of people with COVID-19 increases. Health officials have confirmed the state’s first cases of community transmission as the number of confirmed cases grew to 54 on Monday..
Schools will be closed to kindergarten through 12th grade students by Wednesday and will remain shut down through March 27, the governor said.
“While children have proven to be less vulnerable to this virus (and) we haven’t seen significant spreading in our schools, we do anticipate that COVID-19 will have a sizable impact on our education system in the coming weeks, months and potentially the coming year,” Walz said. “We cannot wait until the pandemic is in our schools to figure things out.”
David Thompson, K-W’s interim superintendent, said that while the district would remain open Monday and Tuesday, students whose families kept them home those days would have their absences excused.
Families that opted to keep their students at home during that time, as their absence would be excused.
Between numerous administrative and staff meetings taking place this week, district officials are working through ways to advance the current DLD operating system. First implemented in 2017, DLD is standard operating procedure when the district must close school due to the weather. Teachers prepare lessons and activity lists for students to do that are accessible online. To accommodate families without internet access at home, they will include options that didn’t require the web.
Thompson says DLD will look different for each member of the staff, due to the different departments they run. For example science classes may look a little different than math classes. Different resources are being looked into to ensure the best options for students.
In a letter to K-W families, Thompson lists the following important updates:
• All after school activities, practices, events and building rentals are canceled beginning March 17 through at least March 29. This includes all Community Education programs
• Prior to the closure students will be able to check out additional library books to support literacy
• Students in grades seven through 12 should have their own devices at home during the closure. The need for these will be addressed in further communication. Student in grades one through six may request a school-issued computer if an extended closure is required.
• Knights Kids childcare will operate using a regular schedule Monday and Tuesday. More information on this will be sent out soon but please start preparing alternate options
• Students with a need can access free meals from Wednesday through Friday and Monday, March 23 through Friday, March 27. The district will survey students/parents to see who is in need of meals that will be available for pick-up at school. If this is not possible, contact a school building secretary.
• Childcare for parents who are healthcare workers or emergency workers will be provided. We will provide detailed information about childcare services in future communication
• K-W is planning to reopen schools with a regular schedule on Monday, March 30, however, it is possible that may change
• The kindergarten meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 26 has been postponed
• Prekindergarten through sixth grade conferences will continue as scheduled but will be conducted via phone. Your teacher will contact you during your regularly scheduled time. Information on seven through 12 conferences will be communicated at a later date.
Thompson, in a statement, thanked parents, students and the community for their “understanding, patience, support, and forgiveness during this rapidly changing pandemic health crisis. The safety and support of our students, families, staff, and communities are our top priority.”
The district, he said, will continue to update families with additional information on its website, kw.k12.mn.us.
Since July of last year, the Wanamingo VFW and Honor Guard have been working toward achieving one important goal.
Dedicated members of both organizations are joining efforts to raise $40,000 for a 6-foot cast bronze sculpture to honor those who have served. The new sculpture, entitled ‘Freedom is Not Free,’ will recognize military members on land, air and sea who have served from the Revolutionary War to present day. It is expected to be placed at the memorial by Wanamingo’s Fourth of July celebration.
The new sculpture will be mounted on a black granite pedestal and placed in the current Wanamingo Veterans Memorial near the entrance of Veterans Memorial Athletic Field. The Veterans Memorial was dedicated Sept. 21, 2013.
Veterans Memorial Committee Member Larry Van DeWalker said they are nearing closer and closer to reaching their goal.
The March 9 Wanamingo City Council brought the memorial committee even closer to the $40,000 goal.
Jason Nieson of Waste Management presented a $2,000 check to the Wanamingo Veterans Memorial on behalf of Waste Management.
Before presenting the check to the memorial committee, Nieson expressed his gratitude towards those who have served.
“There’s nothing better than supporting the Wanamingo Veterans Memorial,” Nieson said. “It’s fantastic to support a group of people who have provided and continue to provide the freedoms we have.”
Through the Wanamingo Fire Relief Association’s charitable gambling, gambling manager Jeremy Kiffmeyer said they have donated approximately $12,000 towards the memorial.
Van DeWalker said they are thankful for generous donors of large and small amounts over the last year through various fundraisers and donations.
Along with the closing of schools in Minnesota, including Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools in the local area, many local establishments are also developing restrictions and announcing cancellations to take stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
St. Patrick’s Day in Kenyon
After further consideration, the St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt and the party bus scheduled for Saturday, March 21, have been postponed until a later date.
The St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt was set to take the place of the 40-year-old annual tradition, Carriage and Cutter Day, sponsored by Kenyon Park and Rec and Kenyon Area Business Association (KABA).
“We’d still like to have the celebration at some point this year,” said Bailey regards to the cancellation of the events. “Stay tuned for more details.”
Kenyon Senior Living
Chelsea Kalal announced Monday that in following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to cancel any event with 50 or more people over the next eight weeks, the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt to be held before Easter is cancelled.
Kenyon Senior Living moved forward with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommendations for not allowing visitors on campus effective Monday, March 16. Only essential staff and visitors are allowed to visit — end of life and/or contracted medical personnel — but may only enter through the Kenyon Sunset Home entrance off State Street. Everyone must be screened before entrance. Entrances off Huseth Street and Third Street will remain locked 24/7 for entry. KSL can be reached at 507-789-6134.
With schools being closed, those who are looking for an activity to do with children are encouraged to make cards and letters to send to KSL residents. Letters and card can be mailed to: Kenyon Senior Living, Attn: Activities, 127 Gunderson Blvd, Kenyon, MN 55946.
Kenyon Public Library
The Kenyon Public Library will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. Operating hours beginning Wednesday, March 18 haven’t been determined at this time. All programming until April has been canceled which includes story times, the open house for the paint and carpet project and the Wendy Webb author talk scheduled for March 24.
Library employees ask that patrons limit their time in the library to approximately 10 minutes or less if possible. Also to help limit exposure in the library, they ask that materials are requested using the online catalog. Materials on “hold” can be brought out to patron’s vehicles curbside for those who call ahead. All materials that are being returned to the library are being wiped with germicidal disinfectant wipes for the protection of our patrons. Contact the library at 507-789-6821 for further questions or information.
At the March 10 Kenyon City Council meeting, three Toward Zero Death Coordinators updated the council on the work they do.
Goodhue County Toward Zero Deaths Safe Roads Grant Coordinator Jessica Seide said Minnesota TZD works to create a culture where traffic deaths and serious injuries are no longer acceptable through implementation of the four e’s: education, emergency medical and trauma services, enforcement and engineering.
The Minnesota TZD website states changing driver behavior is the focus of traffic safety education efforts. It is not enough for drivers to understand the “rules of the road.” Drivers must be motivated to change their driving habits.
The goal of the Toward Zero Deaths program is to reduce not just crashes, but road injuries and fatalities. That means when a crash occurs, fast, efficient, and coordinated emergency response is critical. Ensuring compliance with traffic laws is a major component in changing driver behavior and reducing unsafe driving practices. Modifying or reconstructing roadways can be challenging and time consuming. A careful evaluation of road characteristics is the key to a solid investment in public safety.
Following the introduction of TZD operations, Seide said when TZD began in 2003, they were seeing an increase in traffic-related deaths, as 655 people died on Minnesotan roads alone. While in 2018, there were 381 deaths, with preliminary numbers of 2019 showing 364 — a 44% reduction in deaths since TZD’s work began in Minnesota.
Although TZD has done a lot of work to decrease traffic-related deaths, Seide said recent years have been stagnant in terms of traffic fatalities.
“We need to continue to do good work and educate the public,” Seide in an effort to end the plateau. “We need to change the way people view traffic safety.”
Seide said 93% of the time driver error is a contributing factor in crashes. He added since car traffic is an essential part of the economy, it brings the need for everyone to realize that safety priorities over convenience, in order to eliminate traffic fatalities.
Kenyon Police Officer Mike Nguyen said he serves as the TZD coordinator for Kenyon and coordinates enforcement efforts with partners on the county, city or state level.
“It’s a joint effort,” Nguyen said. “We come together and enforce all the traffic laws to help make the roadways better. That’s my job for Kenyon, [to] keep people safe.”
Southern Minnesota Law Enforcement Liaison Scott McConkey ensured the council TZD’s goal isn’t to write tickets, it’s to save lives by changing people’s thoughts on how they operate.
“It’s gets personal what we’ve seen over the years. We get very passionate about what we do,” McConkey said. “Pretty much in Minnesota a person a day dies.”
Nguyen said TZD’s next campaign is to enforce drivers to wear seat belts, which begins in April. Since Kenyon receives a lot of traffic entering the city from neighboring areas, it will be one of the top cities focused on throughout Goodhue County, which includes the city and surrounding areas of the city, like townships.
Council member Dan Rechtzigel asked the TZD coordinators what the statistics were for seat belt use and the answer he was given left him shocked.
McConkey said in various areas, drivers are generally doing “pretty good,” and across that state 94% of drivers wear seat belts. However, the “significant” part of that high statistic is that 50% fatalities are caused by drivers who don’t buckle up.
In Goodhue County, Seide said for categories such as seat belt usage, distracted driving, impaired driving and speeding, they are above the state levels in all four categories.
“We are doing a lot of great work, but we’ve still got more work left to do,” Seide said. “Our goal is to get to zero, and zero is attainable, but it’ll take your help to get us there.”