48 in February (copy)

Most Mankato grade schools, including Kennedy Elementary School, don't have fences between playgrounds and nearby streets.File photo

Q: Roosevelt Elementary School in west Mankato, there's no fence around the playground. So I'm driving along and the kids are playing in the playground, a ball comes rolling right off the playground towards the street. Luckily I slowed up and stopped and the ball stopped before it got to the street.

I started looking around, other school yards have a fence. It doesn't have to be a chain link fence 12 feet high, but they often have 'em at 3 or 4 feet. So it at least keeps the kids from running out after a ball, and they can control the entrances. That might be something that could save kids' lives.

A: Mankato Area Public Schools Superintendent Sheri Allen indicated that fences are actually relatively uncommon at grade schools.

There's one near the playground at Eagle Lake Elementary and at two other facilities for younger kids — the Family Learning Center and Early Childhood Center, according to Allen.

That said, there's sort of a three-pronged approach to making sure kids don't run out into traffic.

Every elementary school has playground supervisors to keep an eye on the students.

Also, the kids have the safety rules hammered into them.

"It is a constant practice that our students are reminded about safety and objects rolling into the street," Allen said. "When this happens, students notify a supervisor to retrieve the object."

Finally, drivers are asked to do their part.

"Our communities have set up 'school zones' around each school for the safety of students," she said. "In these school zones the maximum speed is 20 miles per hour. We want to remind drivers to be alert, slow down and watch for students as we have many activities happening at all our buildings not just during the school year but also over the summer."

Q: Blue Earth County Road 1 from Good Thunder to Mankato, they're closing it basically from Mount Kato to Mankato. But when are they going to finish it between County Road 90, through what was always called the Strand Ravine Hill, to County Road 9 — the road to Rapidan? Are they going to close it down for another year? Because us people in Good Thunder have been having to live with this for three years now. They keep closing the road. Highway 22 was closed for I don't know how long. I mean Good Thunder has been locked out of the community of Mankato for years.

But anyway, why aren't they finishing it between County Road 90 through Strand Ravine Hill to the Rapidan road?

A: Two reasons, basically: soil and money.

That section of County Road 1, which many people still think of as state Highway 66, has poor sub-soils that are too soft to make for a good road foundation, according to Public Works Director Ryan Thilges. Not wanting to put a new road-bed on a lousy foundation, engineers had two options for fixing the issue.

First, they could dig down to the poor sub-soil and replace it with quality gravel and sand. Considering the depth of those soils, that would be very expensive, Thilges said.

The second alternative is much cheaper but it requires weighting and waiting. Basically, a layer of sand was placed along the bad sections and then gradually covered with an increasingly massive amount of dirt — an amount that weighs much more than the finished road will.

That compresses the soil, but the process requires time to work because the amount of weight is increased in stages.

"It'll squeeze the water out of the pores of the soil and make the underlying soil stronger," he said. "It's a more time-consuming process but it's more economical than excavating."

There are two areas where the process is required. One is already underway and the second, which is near the Le Sueur River, will begin once permits are granted by the Corps of Engineers. If all goes well, the segment could be ready for pavement at some point in the 2020 construction season.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com; put Ask Us in the subject line.

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