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All-day kindergarten is a big hit in Moorhead

In May, Gov. Mark Dayton approved a plan to provide free all-day kindergarten throughout the state during the 2014-15 school year. The Moorhead School Board, however, decided to move ahead with the plan and signed off on spending $1.2 million to start all-day kindergarten this school year, a full year before state funding becomes available. The program is a hit, reports Helmut Schmidt of the Fargo Forum. “As of Friday morning, the Moorhead School District had 492 kindergartners registered for all-day classes, with just three families choosing to send their children for traditional half-day classes, Assistant Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak said. That means the district will open school with 22 classrooms of kindergartners. District staff estimated in May that kindergarten numbers could jump to 475 students with all-day kindergarten, but Kazmierczak told the school board it would be wiser to set aside extra classroom space. Turns out, he was right. A (fresh) kindergarten classroom was added early last week at the Probstfield Center for Education. …  ‘We more than doubled our teaching staff at the kindergarten level,’ he said.”

Despite a typically Minnesota combination of unpredictable weather, apple growers in Southern Minnesota are optimistic about their crop, writes Ryan Stotts of the Winona Daily News. This season has been tough on the apple industry – a late spring followed by cool, wet weather. Ralph Yates, manager at Fruit Acres Inc. in La Crescent, said nonstop rain this spring made disease control challenging. John Curtis, general manager at Southwind Orchards in Dakota, said when it rained for all but three or four days in a month, pollination was stunted because bees don’t work in the rain. Also, muddy hillsides kept tractors from distributing fungicide in a timely manner. The hardest hit? McIntosh and Cortlands. Still, SouthWind has good crops of SweeTango, Zestar and Honeycrisp, Curtis said — even Jonathans and Empires. Here are the remaining estimated apple harvest dates, according to the Minnesota Apple Growers AssociationZestar: Now; McIntosh: Sept. 10; Sweet Sixteen: Sept. 10; Cortland: Sept. 15; Honeycrisp: Sept. 15; Haralson: Sept. 21; Honeygold: Sept. 25; Red Fireside: Sept. 25; Jonathan: Oct. 1; Regent: Oct. 1; and Keepsake: Oct. 10.

Amanda Dyslin’s lede in the Mankato Free Press says it all: “Due to the fallout from sequestration, the regional Head Start program administered by Minnesota Valley Action Council will serve 27 fewer kids this year.” Head Start is a federal program that helps children under age 5 get ready for school. Chris Marben, MVAC’s child development services director who coordinates Head Start, said this is the largest cut the nine-county program has received in the 17 years she's worked there. MVAC's Head Start federal funds have been cut by about 5.3 percent, or $152,000 of its $2.9 million in federal funding. State funding will remain the same at about $667,000. That means the program will serve 533 kids, down from 560 last school year. Staff in three other programs were cut back as well, and two administrative jobs were cut. The cuts come at a time when President Barack Obama and Gov. Mark Dayton have declared early childhood learning a priority.

Blooming Prairie is losing its medical professional, and it’s a trend seen in rural areas across the country, writes Jeffrey Jackson of the Owatonna People’s Press. Last week, the  Mayo Clinic Health System announced that a staffing shortage means the Blooming Prairie health clinic will close, although the pharmacy will stay open, as will the anti-coagulation clinic. The closing of the clinic itself came about because of the resignation of Kathy Crabtree, the nurse practitioner at the clinic. She was the only provider at the Blooming Prairie clinic. Without Crabtree or another physician or nurse practitioner, there would be no one at the clinic who could see patients. In that situation, Mayo had little choice but to close the clinic. Tammy Kritzer, the Mayo Clinic Health System operations administrator who oversees the Blooming Prairie clinic, said the situation is part of a much bigger problem — the nationwide shortage of physicians and practitioners. The shortage, she said, is to be expected since baby boomers are aging and the demand for doctors is higher than it has ever been while the number of physicians decline. A recent Minnesota Hospital Association study found that 45 percent of Minnesota’s physicians were over 50.

OK, we talked about apples already, now it’s time to talk about a less artisanal crop: potatoes. Ben Katzner of the St. Cloud Daily Times writes that the late spring and wet early summer has combined with the latest stretch of hot weather to put a hurt on the potato crop. Paul Gray of Gray Potato Farm in Clear Lake said heat can be detrimental to everything from harvesting potatoes to transporting them. While some farmers like Gray are ready to harvest, other farmers' potatoes remain in the ground. The potatoes that are still growing now will be used for processed foods such as French fries and tater tots, said Rick Gilbertson, a crop consultant for Pro Ag Crop Consultants in Sauk Rapids. The key for good late-season yields will be keeping the potatoes healthy. “They have to keep the above-ground plant as healthy as possible, as long as possible to be able to take advantage of this last-gasp period,” Gilbertson said. “You just hope that you can keep things healthy enough so that the plant gets that nutrition.”

The Brainerd Dispatch is reporting a rash of Dumpster fires over the weekend. Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said the fire department responded to the first Dumpster fires on Friday, and since has responded to nine such fires in sporadic locations around the city.

Seppman's Mill has withstood the depredation of the ages, but as it nears its 150th anniversary next year, park officials are monitoring a crack running nearly from the bottom to top of the mill, reports Tim Krohn of the Mankato Free Press. "It's a big crack. We're pretty concerned," Minneopa State Park naturalist Scott Kudelka said, adding that the mill was likely built half on sandy soil and half on clay. "We think with the drought last year the ground is shifting." The mill was built by Louis Seppman, a German immigrant and stonemason, between 1862 and 1864 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Seppman carved most of the wooden machinery himself with an ax, except for two metal cog wheels and the millstones, which had to be purchased from St. Louis for $600. In a good wind the mill could grind 150 bushels of wheat in a day, producing flour. Lightning struck the mill in June 1873 and destroyed two of the arms. Seppman replaced them, but seven years later a tornado knocked off two arms. Seppman continued to operate the mill, making animal feed until a storm in 1890 damaged the remaining arms and Seppman ceased operations. The mill sat empty and was almost torn down. It was donated by the Seppman family in 1929 to the Blue Earth County Historical Society, which did repairs and transferred the mill and some land to Minneopa State Park. In the 1960s the state did extensive renovations to the mill, removing plaster that had been put on the full exterior during a WPA project, restoring it to its original stone facade.

State and local police are looking for a man who might be connected to a murder in Granite Falls on Tuesday, reports the Marshall Independent. At 3:30 a.m. today, Granite Falls police discovered a 28-year-old woman dead of apparent gunshot wounds, and a critically injured 28-year-old man. The male  was transported to Granite Falls Hospital by ambulance and later transported by air to Hennepin County Medical Center, the DPS said. During the preliminary investigation, Andrew Joseph Dikken, 28, of Granite Falls, was identified as a person of interest, the Department of Public Safety said. Dikken is believed to be driving a 1996 brown GMC Sierra "club cab" pickup with a topper and Minnesota license number 032-GGL.

Knut Abraham, the minister-counselor, the consul general and the head of the Consular and Legal Section of the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., was taking a vacation and decided to drop by New Ulm, reports Josh Moniz of the New Ulm Journal. Abraham is attending a family reunion with his U.S. relatives. He said he previously visited New Ulm at age 16 in 1982 and age 18 in 1984. Abraham stopped by Mayor Bob Beussman's office for a visit, and said he’s looking forward to touring the Schell's Brewery and seeing the Hermann the German monument. 

Schoolbus image by Flickr user ThoseGuys119 and used under Creative Commons license.

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Comments (1)

Of course all-day kindergarten is a hit

It's free daycare provided by the taxpayers and more jobs for the teachers union. Free stuff is always a hit.