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St. Paul district releases plans to close, repurpose several schools

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St. Paul district releases plans to close, repurpose several schools

St. Paul Public Schools on Monday unveiled plans to close and merge several buildings mired by declining enrollment as early as next fall.

Superintendent Joe Gothard said the consolidation will save some money, but the main goal is to create large enough schools that each can offer a well-rounded education, with classes in the arts, sciences and various support staff.

The school board is holding a special meeting on the plan Monday. The district plans to hold a series of meetings with affected schools before the school board votes on the plan either Nov. 16 or Dec. 14.

The plans, which will affect 9 percent of students in the district, are summarized below:

MONTESSORI MIDDLE

After a nine-year experiment, the district is giving up on Montessori middle school.

Parkway opened as a Montessori school in 2013 but never came close to filling the building. Turner said that while Nokomis Elementary students typically followed the Montessori pathway to Parkway, JJ Hill families picked other schools.

Chief Academic Officer Kate Wilcox-Harris said Parkway was among the first Montessori middle schools in the country and struggled to find teachers with the appropriate licenses.

HMONG LANGUAGE

Parkway would remain open, however, reborn as the district’s first middle school for Hmong Dual Immersion.

The move to create a middle school pathway for the program comes with a consolidation at the elementary level.

Jackson Elementary would close, sending its 159 Hmong language students to Phalen Lake. Jackson’s 143 students who are not in the language program would be steered to Maxfield.

A NEW OBAMA

Obama Elementary, dramatically underutilized with 313 students, would close next fall for a renovation. When it reopens, it would house a regular middle school in one half of the building and a Montessori elementary school in the other.

Its Montessori students would from JJ Hill, which would close, and Cherokee Heights, which would become a regular community school. JJ Hill would only close once the Obama renovation is complete.

Turner said families in the Cherokee Heights neighborhood aren’t particularly interested in the Montessori model.

FRENCH, SPANISH IMMERSION

The two East Side campuses of L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion would consolidate. Closing the lower campus and sending those students to the upper campus would put the new school at 77 percent of building capacity, with 364 students, according to fall 2020 enrollment.

Chief Operating Officer Jackie Turner said L’Etoile du Nord once was “one of our top-choice schools,” but demand fell when the district opened Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion.

Wellstone Elementary would close and send its Spanish Dual Immersion students to Riverview, which will become solely an immersion school. Wellstone’s Biosmart students would be steered toward a community school or science magnet.

Riverview students who aren’t in the immersion program would be steered to Cherokee Heights.

GALTIER, JOHNSON

Fulfilling a merger that the school board narrowly rejected in 2016, Galtier Elementary would close and send its 189 students to Hamline. Galtier could become a hub for early childhood programs.

John A Johnson, with 299 students last year, would close and merge with nearby Bruce Vento Elementary next fall. Meanwhile, the district would begin designing a new school on the Bruce Vento site; the district recently scrapped plans to renovate the building because of high cost estimates.

Facilities Director Tom Parent said Bruce Vento is one of the few sites in the district where he can build a new school without disrupting ongoing classes.

HIGHWOOD HILLS

Highwood Hills Elementary, with 192 students last year, would close. The nearest elementary schools for those students are Dayton’s Bluff and Battle Creek.

Turner said many families with East African roots live in apartments close to Highwood Hills and use the building’s rec center, but they’re enrolling in charter schools instead.

IMMIGRANT HIGH SCHOOL

LEAP High School, which serves students new to the country, would close. Its 144 students could enroll in language programs at other high schools.

ENROLLMENT LOSS

The district has watched enrollment fall for several years, due in large part to increased competition from charter schools. Yet, the district has added to its portfolio.

As total enrollment dropped by 3,526 students between 2014 and 2020, the district opened two more buildings. It bought E-STEM Middle School in Woodbury and built the K-12 special education school RiverEast, moving Jie Ming out of Hamline and into RiverEast’s old location.

This year, the district started an online school in response to parent demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic. It has around 1,300 students, and the district is considering keeping it open to all grades permanently — not just high schoolers, as initially planned.

Turner said the district has no immediate plans to sell any of the schools it’s vacating. District leaders hope the reorganization will create the kind of schools that families want, which will create demand for more.

“We believe that if we build a strong program, they will come,” she said.

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

In Zach Wilson’s return off a knee injury, the No. 2 overall pick struggled. Wilson threw for under 150 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception.

But the coaching staff stepped up and Wilson allowed him to manage the game as the Jets snagged their first road win of the season over the Texans in Week 12.

While there was some disappointment from the fan base on Wilson’s outing, Robert Saleh was pleased with the performance of his rookie.

“Was it his best game? No. Did he do a lot of things? Did he get comfortable as the game went on? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “He orchestrated two 13-play drives that led the scores where we were able to lap them. Scored before the half, scored after the half and another eight-plus-play drive. So, he orchestrated three pretty long drives and did enough to win the football game and that’s what’s most important.”

Wilson wasn’t happy with his performance, but Saleh looked at those emotions as a positive because of his quarterback eagerness to improve.

“I love that he’s hard on himself,” Saleh said. “His desire to get better is up there with anybody. I mean, he works his tail off at it.”

Saleh added that when Wilson struggles, it isn’t all on the rookie.

“But at the same time, coaches also, we’re hard on ourselves, too. It’s our job to help him get better and do everything we can for him,” Saleh said.

And to the coaching staff’s credit, they helped Wilson in the second half. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur realized the flow of the game and took the pressure off of Wilson.

In the first half, the Jets were more balanced as they ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards and Wilson threw it 12 times as he completed six passes for 44 yards with an interception.

LaFleur realized his quarterback was struggling and his running attack was working and leaned on the run game.

They ran the ball 23 times for 108 yards in the second half. That alleviated pressure off Wilson. His first pass out of the half was a play action throw to Elijah Moore for 22 yards. Moore was wide open on his deep curl route because the linebackers bit on the fake.

That running attack allowed Wilson to manage the half as he went 8-for-12 for 101 yards in the second half.

“The run game, defense, special teams, that’s what travels. And especially in this time of year, in cold weather, when people are hurting,” Saleh said. “And so, the offense to run the ball the way it did yesterday, the o-line was moving people, there was space, the backs were finding the creases, they were hitting it hard, they were breaking tackles, they were awesome all the way across the board. And so, yeah, whenever you get the run game going, it takes pressure off of everybody.”

And Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s gameplan shut down the Texans offense as they mustered 202 yards, and held them to 45 yards in the second half.

Gang Green defense shut down the Texans’ rushing attack by holding them to 96 yards. And on passing downs, they exploited the weak offensive line with a four man rush, the style Saleh wants to play.

They sent four on 71% of Texans QB Taylor’s dropbacks and he went 11-for-19 for 112 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Taylor had a passer rating of 70 and was sacked three times.

While Wilson worked off the rust, the parts around him showed up.

INJURY REPORT

Mike White tested positive for COVID last week and missed the game against the Texans. He’s still in the protocol and isn’t expected to be available against the Eagles.

Joe Flacco was placed on the COVID list because he was deemed a close contact. Flacco didn’t test positive but he missed the Texans game. He was activated on Monday.

Denzel Mims was inactive against the Texans as he worked back from COVID. Saleh says he will practice on Wednesday.

Mekhi Becton has been out because of a knee injury he suffered Week 1 against the Panthers. Becton is on track to do field work as he works his way back to practice.

Tight end Trevon Wesco suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and is out two to four weeks.

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Probe of Brighton councilman stems from alleged DUI incident before a council meeting

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Probe of Brighton councilman stems from alleged DUI incident before a council meeting

An investigation launched last week by the city of Brighton into the conduct of Councilman Kris Jordinelli stemmed from an incident in August in which police say Jordinelli drove drunk to a city council meeting, and when later questioned at his home, identified himself as an elected official and told the officer “you don’t want to mess with me.”

City of Brighton

Brighton Councilman Kris Jordinelli

The Aug. 17 incident is outlined in a 12-page police report obtained by The Denver Post. Jordinelli, who was elected to the council in November 2019, was charged with misdemeanor DUI. The case is scheduled for a Feb. 7 hearing in Adams County.

The city’s investigation, for which the law firm of Wilson Williams LLP was hired as a special prosecutor, is limited to looking at whether Jordinelli’s alleged statement to police broke any ethical standards or municipal laws. The city is paying the firm $250 an hour for its work.

The decision by city council last week to appoint the firm to look into the matter was unanimous. Jordinelli was absent for the vote. Brighton officials declined to disclose the identity of the councilman under investigation at the time of the city council vote.

The police report states that Jordinelli, 64, arrived for the meeting “disheveled” in shorts and a polo shirt and “was walking with an unsteady gait.” Several officers described a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and video surveillance later obtained by police showed that Jordinelli had driven to city hall right before the meeting and parked his Buick “at an angle occupying two parking spaces.”

After being escorted downstairs by a fellow councilman from a hallway outside council chambers, Jordinelli was walked to his nearby home by two city staff members, the report said.

When police contacted him at home to ask him about his car being at city hall, they described Jordinelli as having “red watery eyes,” “slurred speech” and being “unsteady on his feet.” In the report, police said Jordinelli opened his garage door in an apparent effort to show officers that his car was at home. The garage was empty.

Jordinelli, according to the report, then asked the officers if they knew who he was. After informing the officers that he was a city councilman, he said “You don’t want to mess with me.”

Jordinelli on Monday said the case “arises out of my suffering a serious medical event prior to a meeting and one of my political opponents trying to use that event now, several months after it occurred, to try to oust me from office.”

“I am sad to see how low others have gone to try and get rid of me just because we may not agree on political issues,” he said in an email. “I look forward to being vindicated of this baseless charge in court.”

He did not identify who his political opponents are.

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Infotainment retuned for ’22 Infiniti QX80 resurgence

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Infotainment retuned for ’22 Infiniti QX80 resurgence

A refined infotainment system and center stack are standard on the 2022 Infiniti QX80 and should serve as major assists toward a more well-rounded competitiveness in the full-size luxury SUV field for the Japanese product.

Power and plushness are a given for the QX80 and have been for some years. Up-front interior tech, though, with dual screens lagging in wireless compatibility fared poorly in comparative assessments.

For 2022, a new 12.3-inch touchscreen offers navigation, lane guidance, Infiniti InTouch Services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto links, Intelligent Cruise Control and Bose premium sound system with 17 speakers.

The upgraded QX80 is available in three trim levels – Luxe, Premium Select and Sensory – as it goes against Lexus LX, Mercedes GLS and G-Class, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover, BMW X7 and Audi Q7.

Interestingly, while I was driving the QX80 last week came an announcement from Yokohama, Japan, of the promotion by Infiniti of Wendy Orthman to general manager of global integrated brand, marketing and communications, a newly created position merging the responsibilities of chief marketing and chief communications officer. She was global head of communications for the brand.

Orthman previously served positions with Nissan and, earlier, as Midwest PR manager with Chrysler. While with Chrysler, Denver was a frequent stop for her, including bringing famed Dodge designer Ralph Gilles here in 2008 to show off a redesigned Ram with storage in its box’s side panels.

The new version of the QX80 continues to draw notice for its size – it’s big, 6 ½ feet tall and square-bodied with 5,815-pound curb weight, riding on Bridgestone Dueler P275/50R22 tires.

Performance comes smoothly from a 400-horsepower, 413 lb.-ft. torque, 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 7-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. A dial in the center console engages switching from Auto to 4Hi and 4Lo, with a separate button for snow mode, which lessens torque on takeoff. The shifter can be moved into manual mode and tapped for upshifts or downshifts.

The Infiniti is impressive in its maneuverability, belying its oversize. Its EPA fuel estimate continues relatively low, 13 to 19 miles per gallon. I averaged 16.4 mpg.

Inside, the front seating, with quilted inserts, is finished in saddle brown. The second-row buckets, with an abundance of legroom, will flip-fold forward for opening a path to the 3rd row, where footspace is very tight. By folding the far-back seats into the floor, cargo space grows from 16.6 cubic feet to a roomy 49.6. Twin 8-inch screens highlight a rear-seat entertainment system.

For $87,985, the Infiniti’s high-end Sensory trim level includes power moonroof, power-folding and heated outside mirrors, power rear liftgate, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, power reclining third-row seats and safety advancements forward emergency braking, blind-spot intervention, lane-departure prevention and around-view monitor with moving-object detection.

The Infiniti brand was introduced in the United States in 1989 as Nissan’s luxury offering to compete with Toyota and Honda premium units Lexus and Acura, respectively. The QX80 is built in Kyushu, Japan.

Contact Bud Wells at
budwellsc[email protected]

The news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation.

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