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Statues of the Mayo brothers, Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr. Charles H. Mayo, sit on steps across the street from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Waseca School District food service workers working through COVID-19 challenges

The Waseca Public School District food service has stepped up to help students while COVID-19 keeps schools closed.

Food service workers in the district have been working at their own discretion to continue to provide free meals for the kids under 18 years old.

Since March 16 through April 17 a total of 26,128 meals, lunch and breakfast, have been served to students in the district.

“It’s going well and the biggest thing that we worry about is exposure,” Food Service Director Jason Forshee said. “Our people are exposed to the public quite regularly and can be here when they want to. It’s a good thing for the community. We will continue it until we are told differently, right now we have planned menus through May 1.”

One thing that the food service is asking is for people to only visit one pick-up site for food a day to ensure there is enough food for those in need.

At the Central school building there is a team of four working to provide meals for students.

Judy Shutrop, Janice Horsman, Robin Maples and Aleska Melchert are serving those who are in need of the free meal services.

Shutrop said people have been generous and brought flowers, hot chocolate and even chocolate chip cookies as an act of appreciation for what they are doing and providing. One person even drove by just to tell the food service workers they are appreciated and to thank them.

“It’s been going really good,” Shutrop said. “I’m glad that we are still able to serve and hopefully we can as long we need to.”

Bailey Grubish / By BAILEY GRUBISH bgrubish@wasecacountynews.com 

Food service workers at the Central Building, along with Hartley Elementary and Waseca Intermediate School, hand meals to parents who drive up to get meals. Many even grab enough meals for their block or neighborhood to help out. (Bailey Grubish/Waseca County News)

At the Waseca Intermediate School meals have been going well also.

“I think that one of things that I think is nice about it is the main entrees going in the lunch bags are the meals that they would get in the building,” WIS food service worker Linda Korb said. “They are coming in the car with parents and they are getting to see familiar faces. I think that is so good when everything else is upside down applesauce they can see some familiar faces … .”

All staff at the schools are working through the unknown that has been brought on by COVID-19.

One of the highlights for the food service staff is getting to see the kids when they pick up a meal. Not seeing the students on a regular basis is one of the weirdest aspects of distance learning at the moment and the staff said that the students get excited about seeing the staff as well.

Hartley Elementary is another school in the district that is a meal pick-up location.

The four food service staff working at Hartley are happy to be working and are excited when they see their students as well. They said that some students have drawn them pictures.

One of the first things the staff noticed was how quiet the building was without the students and how different that was. Since the students are only able to pick up meals the staff have put suckers in the lunches once on some weeks and the Waseca Pageants handed out Easter treats with the help of the Easter Bunny one week.

“I’m just glad to still be doing it even if it wasn’t a pay thing to do,” Food Service worker Victor Gilmore said. “I know that my staff would volunteer to do it.”

The Waseca Junior Senior High School is not a pick-up location for meals because it is being used to prep and make the meals.

“I have an excellent staff and I’ve been very happy with their willingness to work and doing what is asked out of them,” Forshee said. “Everyone is being kind and stepping up doing it. I think all staff in the buildings are doing that with online learning in all positions.”

The year 2020 is different than how fifth grade students predicted in 1992

Predicting the future isn’t easy, especially in the fifth grade.

Robert Roers’ fifth-grade class at Waseca Middle School in 1992 wrote submissions for the Waseca County News on what they thought the world would be in 2020.

The answers varied from living like the Jetsons to eliminating pollution, along with thinking up versions of Facetime and radio screens in vehicles.

Some students predicted things of the future close to accurate while none predicted a pandemic happening as it is now.

Brady Clemons was one of the fifth-grade students in Roers’ class in 1992 to answer the prompt.

In the Feb. 27, 1992 article Clemons wrote “I think life in the future will bring many new ideas and things to many new people. I hope we will have cars that do not run on gas and do not pollute the air. If we do this our earth will last longer. I also hope we will have someone or something to get rid of our garbage. I think in the year 2020 we will have advanced technology in medicine. We will have something that can get rid of aids or cancer. I think there will be a computer that writes on the screen what you say. Instead of tapes or CDs we will have tiny microchips that cost $1,000 dollars each! I think our technology in the future will be so great, that the Golden Gate Bridge will fold up so it will fit in your pocket. I’ll see you in the future.”

“Clearly, I was a very forward-thinking fifth-grader,” Clemons said when he re-read his submission. “While we’re not quite yet able to fit the Golden Gate Bridge in our pocket, technology has certainly done a lot to enrich human life. The surprising conclusion in my predictions, though, is that while we’ve made headway on these issues (pollution, diseases, etc) they are still problems that we’ve not been able to solve.”

Though he was forward-thinking all those years ago, 2020 is different than imagined.

“If fifth grade Brady knew how the first few months of 2020 would actually turn out, he may have written about 2021 instead,” Clemons said.

Clemons is working for a financial services firm in Minneapolis and is living with his wife, two kids and their dog.

Andrew Breck was also a fifth-grade student in Roers’ class in 1992 to answer the prompt.

In the Feb. 27, 1992 article Breck wrote “I think that there will be electronic devices like microwaves that in 5 seconds create heat and power. I hope they make a lot more Lego sets. I think they’ll make more technical cars and trucks. We’ll probably make more money. There will be a lot of trash on this planet, Earth, and maybe it will stay the same! What if Earth is going to be gone? I think cars will move by giant magnets. Maybe there will be life on other planets, like Mars. What if there are millions of escalators so we don’t have to walk?”

“I think vehicles are more technical — though not as fuel efficient across the board as I thought,” Breck said. “Instead of individual vehicles utilizing magnets — mass transit is being developed on the West coast that has similarities to my fifth-grade imagination. If Tesla wasn’t in the picture — perhaps we wouldn’t be as far as we are with this technology. I think technology has become more autonomous as opposed to escalators we have electric scooters and Segways.

I think our mind conceptualizes quicker than what we can create. My parents’ generation were dreaming of wrist devices that would communicate with other people and objects — that is now commonplace. I think I was still a little optimistic.”

Breck went on to say there are electronic devices but they are more for entertainment than household chores. He went on to say his incorrect prediction on trash as it is still a huge concern especially that it is no longer outsourced overseas.

“We’re still in search of life on other planets and we have placed technology on Mars — perhaps another civilization in another color system will find it someday,” Breck said. “I think it’s a good exercise to look into the future and think of a new world that we can help define.”

Breck is the Waseca Art Center executive director and is involved in the Waseca community.

He attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout for two years, studying business and finishing his degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. He moved back to Waseca to be the caretaker at Courthouse Park as well as the Art Center director.

Other fifth grade responses:

Brad Deml: “I think that in the year 2020 life will consist of advanced technology and a pretty easy life. It will also consist of pollution and drugs. We will have robots and machines doing most of our work. We will have things that normally run on gas, that don’t. Planes will take us anywhere in an hour or less. There will be tons of new junk food too. Space shuttles will discover new planets. We will have recycling centers everywhere. We will be trying to improve our planet in every way. Overall, life will be good.”

Nicole Dankert: “I think it will be a lot like the Jetsons, but we won’t be flying around in the air, we won’t be on a different planet or another galaxy. Even though we won’t be in the air we will be able to push a button on our car and be able to fly. We will be able to fly upside down, backwards, over lakes, trees, buildings, houses, rivers and mountains. There won’t be any airplanes unless you are an antique collector, and there won’t be many antique collectors. We’ll have no pollution because if you pollute you have to pay a fine of $1,800. Life in 2020 will be a lot better.”

Chalene Smith: “I think we will have cars that don’t pollute because there is a lot of pollution in the air. I think that nobody will be using drugs and everyone will have a home. I wish that pencils could write by themselves and what you tell it to write, it will write.”

Leisha Roemhildt: “I think we might actually be living in space and walking on air. Apartments could go up and down by pushing a button. We would have electronic beds, showers (baths) and food making machines. Everyone will have a pretty easy life. High school might be as easy as grade school. As for communications we will have little TV screens where you can see people as you talk to them. Then for getting around we might have space cars that fly, and the police might have motorcycles that fly. Your hair will be done by an electronic thing so that people don’t have to do your hair, that’s why I say we might be living in space because our Earth might be very polluted and burn. There will probably be tons of new things like new candy bars. (junk food)”

Tyler Ryan: “I think that education will be better. I think there will be more groups against drug abuse. I think the alarm systems will be improved. The prices will probably be higher, so that would most likely mean more homeless people. We will probably see more solar powered cars on the roads. There will be more endangered species due to our carelessness. We will probably find cures or at least treatments for diseases. The construction will be a lot more advanced. There will be more pollution to pollute the air and water.”

Ben Severin: “I think there will be floating street lights and flying cars and huge color TVs. The cars will have small TVs in them. There will be robot maids and some robots will clean streets and sidewalks, and we will have fishing rods that will cast by themselves. There will be big boom boxes and there will be huge movie theaters that have 100 screens.”

Andrea Fosburgh: “I think in the year 2020 the cars will be able to fly and they could also sail across water. Cars will also have Nintendos and TVs and VCRs hooked into the back of the seats so that the people in the back can watch the. Also, I think there will be airbags for the driver and the passenger. I think all of the builds and homes will be made of marble. Maybe we will learn a few animal languages, and we can talk to animals. I think some people on Earth will be living on different plants. To get up there we will have jets that go so fast it will only take seconds to make the trip. Instead of having stairs, there will be shuttles. When you get in the shuttle you push north to go up and south to go down. It will only take a few seconds to get from one floor to another in your house and in any building. Around the buildings are spiraling roads and you can drive up them and slide down them. I also think every house will have a TV as big as a theater screen.”

Melissa Flitsch: “I think life will be much different in the year 2020. Maybe our cars will rise a couple of inches off the ground and glide down the streets. Cars might have TVs inside of them instead of radios, or the cars might have glass rooftops. Maybe scientists will come up with something to help our pollution problem by then. Maybe we’ll have crystal clear lakes, good clean air to breath and our streets will be litter free. Maybe doctors will come up with a cure for diseases like AIDS.”

Reid Bartelt: “I think that people will be floating in cars that have magnets that reject the magnetic force of the Earth. Kids will be on skateboards that work the same way. People will live to be 200 years old because we will have medicines to cure major diseases. We will communicate using telephones that will show a picture of the person or persons you’re talking to. Your TV will have 250 channels on it with 18 screens so you can watch 18 different programs at one time. In space travel, we will be flying to Pluto and other galaxies. The best thing about 2020 is that almost everything will run on electricity so nearly all pollution will be eliminated.”

Waseca strength and conditioning coach Connolly Turek worked with the Waseca girls basketball team throughout the season and has helped build numbers in the weight room this year. (Photo courtesy of Connolly Turek)

Schools using 3D printers to create ear savers for those in need

During the COVID-19 pandemic personal protection is important and especially for essential workers on the frontlines.

To stay protected essential workers are recommended to wear masks constantly with community members wearing them as wanted.

Schools in Waseca County have started to help out by 3D printing tension release bands or ear savers. These are to be worn with face masks to keep the elastic straps from rubbing the back of the person’s ears.

“I just wanted to do what I could to help people out in this time of need,” Waseca Junior Senior High School Industrial Tech/Engineering teacher Bill Kuschel said. “I was motivated by a conversation with our school’s Superintendent Tom Lee. I’ve connected with others who were printing similar items in schools and was able to use a shared file to begin printing. I had also read about an engineering student at MSU who was printing and providing this item to a clinic in the Mankato area. I thought, I’ve got similar equipment in our engineering lab, I can print some of these, too.”

Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton science teacher Erick Kehoe started 3D printing ear savers after the JWP FACS teacher, Cindy Steinberg, was approached by a former student who is now a nurse, about making masks. When Steinberg started making masks she reached out to Kehoe about printing the ear savers.

Since starting Kuschel has printed more than 150 ear savers and Kehoe has printed more than 600. All of the ear savers being printed are being donated to those in need.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all healthcare professionals wear facemasks at all times when at the healthcare facility. The CDC also recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Kehoe first gave bags of the ear savers to nurses he knows personally or through mutual contacts. After donating them to nurses he took them to JWP for community members to pick them up since masks are worn by more than just medical field professionals.

Kuschel is donating the masks made in Waseca to those who need to wear masks at work.

So far he has given 50 ear savers to Itron in Waseca, some to Viracon in Owatonna and about 20 to Cardinal Glass in Northfield. He has also donated some ear savers to staff at local nursing homes and to Alexandria for use in another nursing home.

The ear savers being printed by Kehoe are available for pick up at the front entry of JWP. The masks are free but people are able to leave a donation to help with the cost of plastic if they wish to do so. Kehoe can be contacted if anyone is wanting 25 or more ear savers or can reach out through the school website. He has the capacity to print about 50-100 per day and has enough plastic for hundreds more. JWP has a supply of ear savers available for people to take and he will print more as needed unless contacted for a larger supply.

“I am continuing to print the ear savers to try and help people out,” Kuschel said. “It is a simple product, but it can make a big difference in comfort if you have to wear a mask.”