The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 5, 2013

Schools show important progress

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Thumbs up to several Mankato area schools for solid marks on all-important school and student measurements that were released this week.

Several area schools were rated Reward Schools, meaning they are in the top 15 percent of schools based on the new Multiple Measurement Ratings system. They included Monroe Elementary in Mankato, Maple River East Elementary and Maple River Middle School, Springfield and Sleepy Eye elementaries, Winnebago Elementary and United South Central Elementary.

The new rating system measures student progress and achievement in reading and math, but also academic growth, graduation rates and closing the achievement gap.

While reading scores were down in a number of schools, experts attribute that to a more rigorous reading test. And while the St. James Northside Elementary was still ranked as a Priority School being in the bottom 5 percent, students and teachers there increased their MMR percentage by 10 percent.

MnDOT works to help business

Thumbs up to MnDOT for doing what it can to reasonably accommodate businesses that will be disrupted during a massive construction project next summer.

Two roundabouts will be built on Highway 22 at two of the citiy’s busiest intersections — Madison Avenue and Adams Street. MnDOT wants to do the two projects simultaneously to keep the construction from stretching into two summers of disruption. But businesses east of Highway 22 — including Hy-Vee, Gander Mtn and Snell Motores — were understandably worried about an earlier proposal that would have drastically limited traffic from reaching them during construction.

MnDOT began reworking the plans and presented a new proposal recently that was well received by business owners. The plan calls for doing the work more quickly by working six- or seven-day weeks and 12- or 16-hour days.

But what businesses liked best was a new plan to build a temporary access road using Highway 22 just north of Adams Street, allowing motorists better access to businesses.

While details are still being worked out, it was clear the plan won support. Any big construction project is hard on businesses, but the scale of this one had potential to seriously harm businesses and their employees.

MnDOT should be congratulated for listening and coming up with creative alternatives.

Amboy effort at building reuse laudable

Thumbs up to members of the Amboy community for starting a process of coming up with a use for its former middle school building.

The Maple River district closed the school in 2009 in a cost cutting move, however it maintains community education and early childhood programs there. The gym has been used for sports practices.

Residents recently got together to brainstorm ideas for the building, noting that at one time, 24 teachers and staff worked there, a significant number for a small town. They have commissioned a consultant to do a feasibility study for possible building uses.

Some suggested it could serve as a retail outlet, or a house a senior center, fitness classes or be a place for pet boarding. Office space might be a possible use. Other possibilities include a commercial kitchen, recreation facilities or a banquet hall.

The Amboy Community Club is spearheading the idea generation and feasibility of the project. AgStar Financial Services donated $5,000 to the cost of a $10,000 feasibility study and the Amboy Alumni Association kicked in $1,500.

These kind of projects can be difficult to make work, but it’s good see the community being proactive and creating a new use for an old building that could eventually be a hub of community activity.