Jan. 10 edition
Thanks to a donor who pledged up to $100,000 in matching funds, the Sartell-St. Stephen Education Foundation launched a campaign to fund cutting-edge equipment and materials for Riverview Intermediate School. The donor is longtime Sartell resident, foundation supporter and former City Council member Pat Lynch, Granite Logistics.
After a one-week delay waiting for signs and barriers, the new student drop-off traffic plan at Pine Meadow Elementary School began Jan. 9. The change is needed, school and city officials said, because traffic is backing up on Pinecone Road as far south as City Hall around drop-off time. Officials were worried about traffic congestion and potential rear-end collisions, especially during bad weather.
It’s one of the saddest sights along roadways: crosses, flowers and memorabilia “planted” in a ditch where a loved one died in an accident. However, such memorials are also a cause for public safety. That is why the Sartell City Council passed an ordinance Dec. 9 regarding roadside memorials.
Jan. 24 edition
A second Sartell ice arena is closer to reality after a second lead gift to its capital campaign. Sartell Youth Rec Center, owners and operators of Bernick’s Arena, announced on Jan. 15 the donation from Regional Diagnostic Radiology. The plans for a second sheet of ice shifted in November from an open-air structure to an enclosed, year-round building including ice/refrigeration system, weight and dry land training area, locker rooms and turf system.
Dog-owning residents in Sartell no longer have to license their dogs in the city, effective Jan. 13. The Sartell City Council, after a Jan. 13 public hearing during the council meeting, voted unanimously to strike the license requirement from the city’s animal-control ordinance.
Feb. 7 edition
Recent state data predicts that Sartell’s population will grow from about 18,000 residents now to 25,000 people in 2025. But “we won’t be disappointed if that number isn’t achieved,” City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said. The health and medical technology sector is Sartell’s niche, and that’s where future growth is expected, Degiovanni said.
Many students need to hop a bus for a chance to learn in a forest or prairie. But starting next fall, students at Riverview Intermediate School will find the forest right outside the door. The outdoor classroom is now possible after wooded land west of the school was designated a School Forest by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Feb. 21 edition
Sartell’s Watab Park will boast a state-of-the-art splash pad now that the City Council has approved a final design and cost for the amenity. The council voted to approve a design by the Vortex company, an international leader in water-related projects for recreation. The splash pad will cost $173,500, slightly under a previously estimated cost.
Four new Sartell roadway welcome signs will be installed early this spring – three of them on roundabouts – as long as approval is granted where applicable by Benton and/or Stearns counties where city roads connect to county roads.
March 6 edition
Results of a recent survey of Sartell-St. Stephen school district students reveals students are smoking and drinking less but there’s increased vaping in high school and more students are struggling with mental and emotional health. School leaders discussed the results with the school board on Feb. 24. Sartell-St. Stephen fifth-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-graders took the voluntary, anonymous statewide survey.
March 20 edition
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district is making plans for distance learning when students return from spring break on March 30. Sartell-St. Stephen school board members met with community leaders March 15 to begin working out details on implementing the governor’s order to shut down schools and plan for the coronavirus epidemic. The Sartell district, along with St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids-Rice and area Catholic schools, closed for two weeks beginning March 16 to develop a distance learning plan.
Sartell High School’s graduation rate took a slight dip in 2019, but still remained well above the state average. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 96.5 percent of students graduated in four years, compared with 83.7 percent statewide. The Sartell score dropped from 98.2 percent in 2018. Compared with other area districts, Sartell ranked behind Holdingford’s 97.4 percent and above 92.2 percent in Albany and 90 percent at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.
April 3 edition
After the first three days of distance learning, Sartell-St. Stephen school leaders evaluated how the district is handling the coronavirus pandemic during a school board working session April 1. While technology issues early in the week were a concern, school board members discussed deeper and long-term challenges of continuing education with schools closed. Schoology, the software the district uses to create, manage and share materials, essentially ground to a halt nationwide as usage skyrocketed on March 30. Problems continued through April 1. Schoology usage jumped 400 percent nationwide, according to Kyle Breitkreutz, director of technology.
April 17 edition
These days, the streets, sidewalks and parks of Sartell are sometimes eerily quiet, free of vehicles and pedestrians, said Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes. It’s because of the widespread stay-at-home isolation caused by the coronavirus crisis. But then, at other times, people are on the go, driving here or there, he added. Daytime and afternoon arrests for driving while intoxicated have increased somewhat, Hughes noted, adding some stressed people might drink at home and then decide to go for a drive just to get away for awhile.
Sascha Hansen will be principal of Sartell High School, replacing Brenda Steve who is retiring after 32 years in the district.
May 1 edition
Sartell-St. Stephen school leaders are making plans now on how to end the school year with distance learning in place and accommodate traditional events jeopardized by stay-at-home orders. While administrators consider a number of distance learning-related issues, “graduation is by far the biggest one,” Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said. To come up with a plan on how to replace the traditional ceremony, the district sent surveys to senior students and parents.
Remodeling and renovation projects at Sartell-St. Stephen schools are moving ahead while the district’s buildings are shut down, school board members learned at the April 20 board meeting. At the old high school, where workers are remodeling it for middle school students, cleaners are moving through the building as the last work including flooring is being completed.
May 15 edition
Not all lake algae is bad, especially the golden algae discovered recently in Little Rock Lake – an indication the lake-river drawdown last year is now showing promise. The discovery was made in a sample of a phytoplankton colony taken from the lake at the public access just off of Hwy. 10 S. The samples taken were then analyzed at the St. Cloud State University Phytoplankton Laboratory, and that is when the “gold” was discovered. The news was recently announced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
May 15 edition
Two unique events will take the place of a traditional graduation ceremony to honor Sartell High School seniors this weekend. Public health guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic ruled out traditional graduation events so school and community leaders designed alternative events. The plan calls for a Senior Salute parade along Pinecone Road on Friday, May 29, and a drive-in graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 30.
Dave Lumley of Sartell loves to perform music for audiences, but lately he has been doing it for remote listeners via Facebook. Lumley is the Sartell High School band director, a job he’s had for eight years, and like other teachers he now communicates mostly online from his home because of the ongoing virus crisis. On his Facebook page, DaveLumleyMusic, he takes requests for songs like a radio disc jockey. He also sings while playing his guitar and features other performers, such as bass guitar player Micah Barrett of Barrett’s Music in St. Joseph. Lumley shares those other musicians’ performances on MN Music Livestream Concerts.
June 12 edition
Spring has sprung, summer is just around the bend, and many people who are finally able to go to local businesses are mighty happy about de-isolating in the nice weather. Those are the many people tired of being cooped-up or otherwise isolated due to the ongoing virus pandemic, which started a deadly infection swath across the United States, starting last March. At long last, the Teders family in Sartell enjoyed lunch in public for the first time after many weeks of stay-at-home dining because of the virus pandemic. On Sunday, June 7, the Teders had lunch right outside of Anejos Fine Mexican Cuisine restaurant in Sartell.
Sartell-St. Stephen school board members discussed at a June 3 work session how to plan for what school will look like in fall with so many unknowns about the coronavirus and how public health concerns will change in the next three months. The school year ended with distance learning for all students but how students return to classes will depend on Minnesota Department of Education guidance, which is not expected until the end of July. “Nobody has a crystal ball,” Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said.
June 26 edition
A motion by the Sartell City Council to move a basketball court in a park of the Wilds neighborhood raised questions of possible racial insensitivity at the June 22 council meeting. The suggestion to move that court to the city’s Watab Park came after some residents complained of young black males from St. Cloud playing on that court while listening to loud music and using obscene language. At least one resident said some neighborhood children had been harassed or threatened by the basketball players who began playing ball in that park after the gyms they used to play in were closed due to the pandemic.
Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a renewed focus on racial justice, the Sartell-St. Stephen school has taken two actions to address local concerns. The board conducted a listening session June 24 to hear about how schools should address equity issues. On June 15, the district published a statement that emphasized “as a school district, we are committed to ensuring each child is part of a healthy, safe, engaged and supported environment.” About two dozen people attended the listening session and shared experiencing racism; insensitive, hurtful comments about religion; and failed attempts to correct the problems.
Board members heard suggestions that centered on these areas: • hire an equity director and create an equity department to lead training and curriculum development. One speaker said Sartell-St. Stephen should work with St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids schools. • ongoing, required professional development for staff about how to recognize and understand racial injustice and how to handle it in the classroom. • a more diverse staff so students of color see people who look like them in leadership roles.
July 10 edition
Sartell-St. Stephen school board members offered somber and serious reactions to the June 24 listening session on education equity during a work session July 8. “When I left that night, I was embarrassed this was going on in our district,” board member Lesa Kramer said. “Our community does not deserve excuses why something hasn’t been done. I want to make sure we’re committed to move forward.”
City budgets will be boosted by its share of CARES Act funding to be distributed by the state of Minnesota. Minnesota counties, cities and towns will receive $841 million to support coronavirus relief efforts. The funds can be used to support local government services as well as grants to businesses, hospitals and individuals who have been affected by COVID-19. Local governments will receive a direct payment based on the per-capita formula developed by the Legislature during the special session. Cities with more than 200 people will receive $75.34 per person, which works out to $1,412,931 for Sartell. For St. Stephen, $66,375 is available and Le Sauk Township’s amount totals $45,875, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
July 24 edition
As a first step toward addressing its education equity issue, the Sartell-St. Stephen school board heard a proposal from Equity Alliance MN. The Woodbury-based consultants work with schools to research and develop plans to provide equitable education for all students. Sebastian Witherspoon, the Equity Alliance MN executive director, outlined how an equity audit would work.
An ambitious expansion project next to Bernick’s Arena in Sartell will be paid for via a city-backed financing method known as a “conduit bond lease.” The name of the project is Scheels Athletic Complex, so-named because of a major corporate donor. At its July 13 meeting, the council voted 4-1, with member Mike Chisum voting no, to approve the financing plan, in which the city will back the bond sale to acquire the $5 million for the project. Because of Sartell’s excellent bond rating, the loan acquired will have a low interest rate, saving as much as $50,000 per year in payback costs.
The outdoor basketball court in The Wilds neighborhood of Sartell will stay where it is. At its July 13 meeting, the Sartell City Council voted unanimously to keep the court as is rather than moving it to Watab Park as once proposed. The council’s action apparently put an end to some rancorous, emotional controversy in recent weeks, a controversy that raised the question of whether racial bias had caused the proposal to move the court.
Aug. 7 edition
Gov. Tim Walz visited Sartell Aug. 4 to highlight the availability of nearly 400,000 masks for Minnesotans, including older adults. The council has about 7,500 masks to distribute in coordination with Catholic Charities and 16 other partner agencies. Some masks will be distributed with meal deliveries or seniors can call the Senior LinkAge Line and a mask will be mailed. Making sure seniors have masks is one way they can safely step out of isolation, Walz said.
Few people get a chance to save the life of another human being, but Marena Kouba, a 2017 Sartell High School graduate, saved not just one life but three all at once. It happened July 19, while she and her boyfriend, Dayton Nash of St. Cloud, were visiting Presque Isle in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the Lake Superior side.
Aug. 21 edition
Sartell-St. Stephen schools will open the year with a mix of in-person and hybrid learning, unless updated numbers available on Aug. 27 show a drop in COVID-19 cases. As of now, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will open the year with in-person education while sixth- through 12th-graders will follow a hybrid schedule.
Six people spoke during the open forum portion of the Aug. 17 Sartell-St. Stephen school board meeting criticizing the board’s failure to support an equity audit.
Sept. 4 edition
Sartell police officers and firefighters are finding more space, new technology and a design for the future in their new home on Pinecone Road. Not all the boxes have been unpacked and a few details need finishing, but both departments are now operating out of the new Public Safety Facility.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place Aug. 26 in Sartell for a new sports arena, just south of the Bernick’s Arena in Pinecone Regional Park.
Sept. 18 edition
A former plan to secure a loan with the city’s help to build a sports complex in Sartell has been abandoned, and the funds to build it have been secured by the Sartell Youth Hockey Association via private financing with city involvement, according to Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber. Even though the City Council voted 4-1 to approve the city-private loan application (known as the “conduit” method) concerns had been raised that a financial agreement with the city’s help could make the city and taxpayers financially liable if the $5-million loan went into default.
Residents of the Huntington neighborhood in Sartell spoke up to share concerns about a new zoning plan at the Sept. 14 City Council meeting. “Huntington,” as it’s known, is a residential area in south central Sartell, east of Pinecone Road, connected to roadways such as Heritage Drive and Roberts Road. Among their concerns are big apartment buildings in their neighborhood causing an increase in traffic volume, crimes of theft and feelings of boxed-in density.
October 30 edition
Sartell High School senior Alice Colatrella learned she earned the highest possible score on her ACT test, she thought the rating was wrong. “I had no clue,” Colatrella said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”Alice, 18, is the daughter of Nicholas Colatrella and Stacy Hinkemeyer-Colatrella. Her composite score of 36 places her in the top 1 percent of students taking the college entrance exam. In 2020, only 5,579 out of 1.67 million students earned the top score.
Nov. 13 edition
All Sartell-St. Stephen schools will switch to distance learning Nov. 16, the district announced. Distance learning will continue until at least Dec. 4. When classes move to distance learning, high school activities and athletics will continue in person. Spectators will not be allowed beginning Nov. 16. In-person Middle School activities will stop. Increased community spread of COVID-19 forced the move.
Used to be that several people vied to be mayor of St. Stephen. In 2020, not so. Long-time resident Lisa Marvin won an election in which nobody even put their name on the ballot. Marvin received 48 of the 185 write-in votes that were cast on election day. The second largest number of write-in votes for one candidate was 17. “We had more than 100 ballots with 100 different names on them,” said Julie Jacobs, St. Stephen city clerk and election judge.
Nov. 27 edition
Gov. Tim Walz announced a four-week dial back to control the spread of COVID-19. This new guidance, which took effect Nov. 20, pauses all adult and youth sporting events, in-person social gatherings, dining, sports and fitness centers. Retail, salons, places of worship and other activities may continue to operate under current restrictions. The new restrictions come as the spread of COVID-19 skyrockets across the state and hospitals voice concern about the ability to treat those who fall ill.
Dec. 11 edition
With more than 18,000 residents in Sartell, one might think it’s hard to stand out. The Sartell Chamber of Commerce’s annual Choice Awards proved otherwise Nov. 12 when Citizen of the Year, Education Professional of the Year and others were honored. Jessica Lundsetter was honored for her work with the CLC Free Community Store. Founded in March, the store is a place where people who have lost their jobs or are facing tough times due to COVID can get needed essential items for personal care, baby care and more. Rosie Warzecha was named Sartell’s Education Professional of the Year. She is head custodian at Pine Meadow Primary School, where she has worked for 21 years.
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s long-planned equity audit launched Dec. 7 with an online survey for students in grades three through 12, parents and community members. The survey is one component of an equity audit conducted by consultants Equity Alliance MN.