I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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ORTONVILLE -- The historic Columbian Hotel in Ortonville burned and collapsed early this morning. Ortonville Fire Chief Alan Arndt said the fire was reported at 3:10 a.m. Friday, and most of the structure was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. The fire was under control within about 90 minutes, he said, but they were on the scene until late this morning watching for hot spots. There were no injuries. "With a building that old -- so dry and so much wood in it -- it went up in a hurry," Arndt said.
Residents in Minnesota Senate District 16 will choose this fall between a Republican elected to the Senate two years ago and a retired superintendent who is a former DFL legislator. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls was elected to the Senate in the former District 21 two years ago. Ted L. Suss of rural Lucan served in the Minnesota House in the 1970s and now lives in rural Lucan. Lines for District 16 were drawn in the state's redistricting effort earlier this year.
District 16 candidates are familiar with Minn. Legislature Residents in Minnesota Senate District 16 will choose this fall between a Republican elected to the Senate two years ago and a retired superintendent who is a former DFL legislator. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls was elected to the Senate in the former District 21 two years ago. Ted L. Suss of rural Lucan served in the Minnesota House in the 1970s and now lives in rural Lucan. Lines for District 16 were drawn in the state's redistricting effort earlier this year.
LITCHFIELD -- An estimated 250 acres of slough, grass and wooded area was destroyed by fire Friday night and Saturday off Meeker County Road 34 in Harvey Township. Five fire departments battled the fire, which was said to have been caused by fireworks. The fire was reported at 9:45 p.m. Friday, according to a release from the Meeker County Sheriff's Office. According to the release, the caller said cattails were on fire near County Road 34about four miles north of Litchfield.
WILLMAR -- A Supreme Court hearing they attended this week resonated with some Willmar Senior High students. "I learned that things can come back to haunt you," said David Bielenberg, a 17-year-old senior. "Even little things," added Jose Gonzalez, 16, a junior. The students in Lyle Hovland's psychology class said they had found the case interesting when the Supreme Court came to their school to hear arguments in an appeal. The court's justices conduct hearings twice a year in high schools. This was their third visit to Willmar since the school visits began in the 1990s.
WILLMAR -- The possibility of starting schools before Labor Day highlighted some of the few differences between legislative candidates Thursday in a forum with area superintendents and school officials. The superintendents met candidates for three legislative seats Thursday afternoon at The Oaks in Willmar. The candidates are running in the new Minnesota Senate District 17 and its two House districts, which were created earlier this year based on the 2010 Census. Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, and Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, are candidates for the Senate District 17 seat.
WILLMAR -- The six candidates for Willmar School Board agreed on many issues at a candidate forum Tuesday, as they offered opinions on vouchers, school improvement and school lunches. Don Thorpe, Sahra Gure, Jackie Saulsbury, Liz VanDerBill, Mike Carlson and Mike Reynolds participated in the 90-minute forum sponsored by the Willmar area League of Women Voters. The six candidates are competing for four seats on the School Board. About 20 people were in the audience at the Willmar Municipal Utilities building for the forum, which was also televised on local cable and on radio station KWLM.
WILLMAR -- The threat to tear down Lincoln Elementary School appears to have spurred some interest among potential buyers. The Willmar School Board set a deadline of 4:30 p.m. Friday to receive offers on the building. As many as three offers are anticipated. Realtor Doug Fenstra jok-ed at the board meeting Monday that he hadn't e-pected that demolition would turn out to be a marketing tool. In September, the board discussed tearing down the building, which has been vacant and for sale for several years.
WILLMAR -- Willmar's schools are fitting in about 100 more students than they did a year ago. The area's largest school district, Willmar had 4,135 students in all K-12 programs at the end of September. A year ago, the Oct. 1 enrollment was 4,036. Enrollment is about the same as it was two years ago at this time. Enrollment decreased about 20 students each in the New London-Spicer, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and Benson schools from 2011 to 2012. In NLS, enrollment a year ago at this time was 1,427, and this year it's 1,407. ACGC's enrollment was 783 a year ago and is 762 now.