Thursday, August 25, 2011

Safe Routes to School Grant includes Sioux Trail

Five (or so) years ago Dr. DeeDee Currier (Sioux Trail Principal at the time, now ISD 191 Board Member) and Denise Engberg (Media EA, Transportation EA and Technology EA) worked in partnership with the City of Burnsville to develop and apply for a Minnesota Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Grant.  The initial grant application was a partnership between the City of Burnsville and ISD 191 to add a sidewalk along Highway 13 and install a path which connected the sidewalk and the school.  The City of Burnsville ended up allocating funds and completing the project two years ago with out funding assistance through the state of Minnesota.  Denise Engberg continued to submit the Sioux Trail portion of the grant proposal and worked with City of Burnsville staff, ISD 191 staff, contractors and other supporters to collect all of the required information for each application.  The feedback from MnDOT was positive, but the grant was never awarded - until now!

In a recent press release MnDOT announced 3.8 millions in grant awards and Sioux Trail is one of the sites receiving an award.   Sioux Trail was fortunate to have direct support from Jon Deutsch (ISD 191 Properties and Operation Director) as well as staff from Dakota County. The list of grant recipients, details about improvements at Sioux Trail and a story from KARE 11 are listed below.

There are many lessons here and this is an exciting opportunity for our students and families.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) announced Thursday the recipients of about $3.8 million in federal grants for projects to improve conditions for bicycling and walking to school.
The 16 grants come from the federally funded Safe Routes to School program.
"These projects will help make walking and biking to school easier for children and more acceptable to their parents," said MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel. "The grants will mean safety improvements in routes to school so students will be more inclined to walk to school. And walking to school is another way to increase exercise for healthier kids."
Of the 16 projects, 12 are in Greater Minnesota and the rest are in the Twin Cities metro. All of the grants will be used to improve or build trails and sidewalks for walking and biking.
MnDOT announced the availability of the grants in May and received 82 applications requesting $83 million in project money.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

The Sioux Trail award as listed from MnDOT:
Burnsville $107,100
Construct a trail from the Highway 13 multi-use trail to the school, build new concrete sidewalk around the bike racks and install in-street school crossing signs.

Bus Safety

KARE 11 did a story reminding everyone to watch out for school buses.  The segment was recorded at Sioux Trail and includes several Sioux Trail students and their principal.  Thanks to the Haddorff family for volunteering to get the word about bus safety out there.

KARE 11 Bus Safety Video

Here is the story from the KARE 11 web site:

BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- On any given school day, there are 14,000 school buses on Minnesota roads, each carrying children and an important safety message.
The Haddorff siblings have enjoyed their summer off. But with the new school year about to start at Sioux Trail Elementary in Burnsville, the kids are enjoying their sneak peak at what could be their next sweet ride - the school bus.
"It's fun to ride the bus and see all your friends," Brooke Haddorff said.
They walk together to meet the school bus every morning which is relatively uneventful on a quiet street. But when the bus gets to busy Highway 13, traffic changes.
"There's a lot of adults rushing to get to get to work. There's maybe a little bit of chaos," says Luke.
There are so many distractions for drivers. Schools try to make it obvious kids are around, but it's tough to compete with the rush to catch a green light.
Authorities investigate hundreds of crashes involving school buses every year.
Tuesday, officials offered a reminder: When school starts, watch out for the big yellow buses.
Doug Grisim is president of the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association and has been behind the wheel for more than 30 years.
"It's a passion," says Grisim.
Doug has several tips for drivers:
1. Amber lights on a school bus mean a stop is imminent so slow down.
2. Red lights on the bus mean stop.
3. And when you stop, make it at least 20 feet away.
4. And don't forget to be wary of the ten foot danger zone around the bus.
"The basic site lines are really good, but the areas right up in front can be very difficult to have a sight line to see when kids are crossing," Grisim added.
Also, pay attention to kids walking to the bus stop. You will likely see them before they see you.
Grisim also added something else for parents to keep in mind. Despite some crashes, he said school buses are still eight times safer to ride in than passenger vehicles.
"If they are properly seated in front or rear crash, the seats are made to absorb the energy made by a body moving," says Doug.
"This is our most precious commodity that's riding the bus," said Sioux Trail principal Taber Akin. "We want them to be as safe as possible on those buses."
For more information about school bus safety and to see inspection numbers for your child's school district, visit the Minnesota Department of Safety's website.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

River Hills Elementary School

The Sioux Trail Cafeteria is getting a facelift and the serving line is being retrofitted.  As part of this the roll-up (or roll-down) door that separated the kitchen from the cafeteria is being replaced.  The previous door was installed when Sioux Trail was built around 1964.  When the contractors removed the old door assembly there was a surprise.  Sioux Trail wasn't always "Sioux Trail Elementary School".

Hopefully, you can see from the photograph that the name was "River Hills Elementary School" at one time.  I had heard rumors that the name wasn't always Sioux Trail, but I hadn't seen anything to verify the rumor.  Now the rumor has been verified.  

The school is named for the trail (now Highway 13) used by the local Dakota people (historically known as the Sioux) as they moved along the Minnesota River from village to village or to the confluence of the Minnesota River and Mississippi River and Fort Snelling.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good-bye Portable Classrooms

Room 109 and Room 110 at Sioux Trail have long been known as "the portables", but I've always gotten a chuckle out of this label as the classrooms haven't been portable for over 30 years. That changed earlier today when a backhoe arrived at Sioux Trail and began the demolition of the portable classrooms.

The portables were added in the 1970's because the school needed additional space.  The portable classrooms have been used as Kindergarten classrooms, a Senior Citizen center, a science classroom, storage space and their most recent use was two first grade classrooms.  In recent years, our enrollment has declined and the demand for space hasn't been as high. The physical condition of these classrooms had declined and it was not cost-effective to correct these physical issues.  Several years ago ISD 191 created a task force and evaluated the boundaries of the district and the space needs of each school.  Through the process used by this task force it was determined that the portable classrooms were no longer needed at Sioux Trail and several other sites.

I have included a couple photos of the process; starting with a photo from this morning when the equipment arrived.