Stillwater is latest to explore switching school-start times. Nothing is decided yet

Should Stillwater Area High School students start their day an hour later? The Stillwater school board is exploring a possible change based on research that shows that later start times help teens get more sleep, which can result in better physical and mental health. On Thursday evening, board members will be learning more about how a potential change in school start times for the 2019-2020 school year might impact students at all levels — from elementary to high school. The discussions are open to the public and will take place at Stillwater City Hall; video of the meetings will be available online. From 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., a University of Minnesota researcher and a representative from the Minnesota Sleep Society will present research about high-school start times. At 6 p.m., school board members will hear more about the impact of a start-time change, then will discuss the issue and vote on whether they want a formal proposal to change start times for 2019-2020, said Carissa Keister, spokeswoman for the district. “It’s not a formal recommendation at this time,” Keister said Tuesday. “The school board is interested in learning more and is really just exploring it. They want to see if this is something we want to continue to have conversations about.” Under one of the scenarios that will be presented, Stillwater Junior High, Oak-Land Junior High and four of seven elementary schools — Andersen, Lake Elmo, Lily Lake and Brookview — would start at 7:30 a.m. The elementary schools currently start at 8:40 a.m. and the middle schools at 7:50 a.m. Stillwater Area High School would begin at 8:35 a.m., as would Afton-Lakeland, Rutherford and Stonebridge elementary schools. The high school currently starts at 7:40 a.m. The elementary schools that would start earlier under the proposed scenario were chosen because they have shorter bus routes, Keister said. “We’re trying to minimize the amount of time that Continue Reading

Stillwater hyper-local radio station KLBB-AM to go off air March 31

From its home above a storefront on North Main Street in downtown Stillwater, KLBB-AM has been the voice of Stillwater and the St. Croix Valley for almost 70 years. The owner of the hyper-local radio station, known for broadcasting local church services and Stillwater Area High School Pony football games, announced Wednesday that the station will cease broadcasting March 31. “It’s so difficult to do,” said Dan Smith, owner and general manager. “I don’t want to do it, but it’s so difficult running an AM radio station on the fringe of a large metro. It’s been a real challenge.” Smith announced last year that KLBB planned to sell 3.6 acres of land in Stillwater that houses the station’s 203-foot tower. The tower, built in 1949, had exceeded its lifespan and needed to be replaced, he said. Ecumen, a Twin Cities nonprofit, plans to build senior housing on the site, which is just north of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Ecumen will close on the property on March 30; the station will cease broadcasting at midnight March 31. Smith would not disclose the sale price. When it was erected, the tower was on the outskirts of Stillwater with few other structures close by, Smith said. “Today, it’s surrounded by houses and businesses, and its value has dramatically increased,” he said. “There probably is another site (where a tower could be located), but at this stage of my life, I’m just not that big of a gambler willing to make that sizable of an investment in rebuilding an AM radio station.” “If the property is worth this much, and we can’t get that much for the station, then it’s a pretty easy decision,” he said. “We’ve done OK. I’ve got a great staff, but when I add it up on a calculator, and I look at my options, it’s just a no-brainer right now.” He said he has been trying to sell the business but has not had any luck. Smith broke Continue Reading

High schools: Unranked Webster, McLain look to crash 4A state party

For the seventh consecutive year, Scott Bowman has coached Webster into the Class 4A boys area basketball tournament.However, this will be the first time that Bowman’s Warriors will enter the area weekend having two games to pick up the one win needed to reach the state tournament instead of having to win three in a row.Unranked Webster (15-10) won its first regional title since 2004 with victories at No. 5 Victory Christian and No. 10 Catoosa.“We don’t feel like they’re upsets,” Bowman said. “Our players aren’t in awe of anybody, but they’re kind of playing with a chip on their shoulders.”Webster jumped out to a 26-9 lead Monday at Catoosa and withstood an Indians run that cut their deficit to five midway through the second half.In 2015, Webster lost a regional final at Catoosa on Central standout Elijah Landrum’s late 3 in overtime. Central went on to win the state title.David Ward, who passed 2,000 career points in the win against Victory, had a combined 52 points in the two regional games. Ward, who scored 31 against Catoosa, leads a young lineup that includes two freshmen.Webster will face third-ranked Fort Gibson in an area title game at 8 p.m. Friday at Skiatook, which is Bowman’s alma mater.”I’m glad we’re going to have that extra day of practice, we’re going to need it,” Bowman said.If Webster wins Friday, it will have accomplished the same feat that Kingfisher did to win the state tournament last year — defeat Catoosa, Victory Christian and Fort Gibson. The Warriors’ lone state tournament berth under Bowman was in 2013.Another Tulsa Public Schools team that wasn’t in 4A’s top-20 rankings, McLain, also is only one win away from the state tournament after winning 69-36 in a regional final Monday at Harrah. McLain led 32-9 at halftime and was never threatened as freshman Kejuan McCall scored 18 points. Coach Cordell Love’s Titans Continue Reading

All for all. For Stillwater boys swim team, ‘it’s all about teamwork’

Stillwater Area High School swimmer Matt Payne stays behind after school each day to give teammate Alec Olson a ride to practice. Alec is legally blind. “Matt waits for Alec, and then he helps him in the door to make sure that he gets inside and everything,” said senior swimmer John Stack. “We all kind of look out for him in that way.” It’s been a season of looking out for one another on the Ponies’ boys swim and dive team. At meets, team members carry Thomas Watry’s crutches to him during sprint warm-ups. Thomas, a freshman, was born with multiple defects on his right leg. “It’s really slippery when it’s wet and stuff,” Matt said, “so when he finishes, there’s always another teammate who walks down to the other end of the pool and hands him his crutches.” When seventh-grader Thomas Putnam, who has a rare genetic disorder that causes seizures and developmental delays, cut seven seconds off his personal-best 100-yard backstroke at a recent meet, the Ponies went wild. “Everybody was high-fiving him. They were all so excited for him,” said his mother, Rachelle Putnam of Stillwater. “It was just really, really sweet, because you don’t know how high school boys are going to be, especially with a kid who’s a little bit different.” IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TEAM “It’s a great group of boys,” coach Brian Luke said. “They are really top-shelf. We always try to stress the team, but lately I’ve been a little more cognizant of that.” Senior Jon Busse, 18, won the state title in the 100-yard backstroke when he was a freshman and took third last year. He will swim at Northern Michigan University in Marquette next year. Jon said the swimmers encourage one another in — and out of — the pool. “A lot of that is from the character-building that Mr. Luke talks to us about,” Jon said. “You’re not Continue Reading

High school swimming: Stillwater, Booker T. Washington, Bishop Kelley boys in 5A battle after Day 1 of state meet

EDMOND — Based on the preliminary results on the first day of competition at the Class 5A state swim meet Friday at the Edmond Schools Aquatic Center, the stage is set for a close, three-way battle for the boys’ state championship on Saturday. Stillwater, the 5A West Regional champion, is preparing for a tight contest with 5A East Regional champion Booker T. Washington and East runner-up Bishop Kelley. “Booker T. has lots of good depth and they improved in some areas today, so hopefully it’ll be a good knock-down, drag-out meet tomorrow between three teams,” Stillwater coach Kurt Goebel said. The Pioneers had the top preliminary time in the 200-yard medley relay and the 100 breaststroke (Aaron Hill), and secured 10 final-round top-heat spots for Saturday. Booker T. Washington also claimed 10 slots in the top heats of finals. “I think for the boys, it went really well,” Hornets coach Adina Meilner said. “Everybody swam really well, dropping times, so I’m proud of them. What we talked about was going out there and swimming your fastest times and pay attention to what’s going on around you, and I feel like they all went in there and they did that. Some really great swims today.” Kelley got nine top heat spots, including the top time in four events — two each by Patrick Callan (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle) and his brother, Jack (200 free and 500 free). Kelley also had the top times in the 200 and 400 free relays, but the Comets will be haunted by the disqualification of their 200 medley relay team that carries over from the East Regional two weeks ago. “It’s sad. It would give us a nice cushion, but I think we’re going to be OK without it,” Comets coach Ellen Glasgow said about the DQ. “The kids are sad they don’t get to swim it, I think is the main part. “It’s going to be really close. All three teams are really good and it could Continue Reading

Bowls needed for Stillwater hunger fundraiser

The Youth United Way of Washington County-East is looking for potters who want to show off their wares and donate to a good cause. The group needs about 200 more bowls for its Empty Bowls fundraiser March 8 at Stillwater Area High School. The event is intended to raise awareness of hunger. Attendees buy a simple meal of soup and bread and can buy ceramic bowls hand-crafted by local artists. Proceeds are allocated to Stillwater food shelf Valley Outreach, other hunger programs and local youth programs. Tickets are $20 for dinner and a bowl; $10 for dinner only. The cost for children 10 and younger is $5. If you are interested in donating bowls or other items, or if you’d like to buy tickets to the event, go to or call 651-439-3838. Bowls can be dropped off at the United Way office at 1825 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater. Continue Reading

High school basketball: 4A, 3A, 2A basketball playoff assignments unveiled

District, regional and area assignments for Class 4A, 3A and 2A boys and girls basketball teams have been released. Postseason action begins for schools in those classifications with district tournament play Feb. 16-17. Pairings were announced Friday by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. Note: First school listed is district host. Class 4A Area I District 1: At Elgin, Harding Charter Prep District 2: At Blackwell, Kingfisher District 3: At Perkins-Tryon, Berryhill District 4: At John Marshall, Douglass Regional main site: Kingfisher (Districts 2-3) Regional subsite: Elgin (Districts 1-4) District 5: At Cushing, McLain District 6: At Harrah, ASTEC District 7: At Mannford, Bristow District 8: At Weatherford, Bethany Regional main site: Harrah (Districts 6-7) Regional subsite: Cushing (Districts 5-8) Area site: Stillwater Area II District 1: At Webster, Locust Grove District 2: Inola, Vinita District 3: Grove, Catoosa District 4: Victory Christian, Sallisaw Regional site: Catoosa (District 2-3) Regional subsite: Victory Christian (Districts 1-4) District 5: At Claremore Sequoyah, Fort Gibson District 6: At Oologah, Cleveland District 7: At Stilwell, Wagoner District 8: At Miami, Lincoln Christian Regional main site: Fort Gibson (Districts 5-8) Regional subsite: Oologah (Districts 6-7) Area site: Skiatook Area III District 1: At Elk City, Chickasha District 2: At Sulphur, Bridge Creek District 3: At Heritage Hall, Classen SAS District 4: At Anadarko, Clinton Regional site: Anadarko (Districts 1-4) Regional subsite: Heritgae Hall (District 2-3) District 5: At Ardmore, McLoud District 6: At Newcastle, Cache District 7: At Ada, Blanchard District 8: At Plainview, Tuttle Regional main site: Ardmore (Districts 5-8) Regional subsite: Blanchard (Districts 6-7) Area site: Washington Area IV District 1: At Broken Bow, Madill District 2: At Pauls Continue Reading

Minnesota high schools pump up commitment to strength and conditioning

Connor Kruse, a freshman offensive lineman at North Dakota, returned to his high school in Waconia in mid-December on break from classes but seeking quality football workouts. His alma mater’s new state-of-the-art weight room, a striking example of a growing commitment to strength and conditioning at the high school level, proved more than accommodating. “You can do all the workouts I’ve been doing at North Dakota,” said Kruse, a 6-6, 298-pound lineman. Waconia senior Tyler Wagener, who visited Augustana University in Sioux Falls and signed with the Vikings wrestling program, said his high school facility “is definitely right there with Augustana. This weight room is nicer than most colleges.” Big fellas such as Kruse once were a weight room’s main inhabitants. Likewise, a few repetitions of heavy weights once passed as a workout. No more. Weight rooms and workouts today must entice more athletes across a wider sports spectrum to prime their bodies. Training them requires a mix of universal movements and sport-specific workouts designed to improve performance. Greater emphasis on strength and conditioning has triggered changes in high school weight rooms throughout the metro area. More strength and conditioning coaches are pursuing national certification, allowing them to design and teach more efficient, athletic movement-based workouts. Doing so reduces athletes’ risk for injury in their sports, more important than ever in the age of specialization. “That’s become a major driver because parents don’t understand sports-skill balance,” said Wayzata’s Ryan Johnson, named the 2017 High School Strength and Conditioning Coach by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. “If you don’t train outside your one sport, you’re setting kids up for failure.” Fueled by hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades approved by voters in school bond referendums, weight Continue Reading

Documentary will feature beloved Stillwater choir director

Erik “Doc” Christiansen expected greatness from his students — and he got it. Christiansen, a choir director at Stillwater Area High School for 28 years, routinely asked his students to sing pieces that “really were probably too challenging for us,” said Katelyn Larson, a former student. “But he held us to a high standard, and we always met it,” Larson said. “The more he believed in us, the more we believed in ourselves.” When Christiansen retired in 2016, hundreds of former students came to his final school concert at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and sang a piece that had been commissioned for the occasion. Now a former student is making a documentary about the alumni choir and the legendary choir director. Roger Williams, who sang in the choir in 1993, is producing “His Voices — A Short ‘Doc’umentary” and has turned to crowd sourcing to get it funded. The film features interviews with alumni, photos, and video clips of the alumni choir singing “When Music Sounds,” a piece arranged by René Clausen, the conductor of the choir and a professor at Concordia College in Moorhead, based on the Walter de la Mare poem. Sonia Esch, a former Christiansen student who teaches music at Rutherford Elementary in Stillwater, arranged for the commission. She asked Larson, who teaches choir at Stillwater Area High School, to organize a small alumni choir. “Sonia asked if we could get a quartet or an octet together,” said Larson, a soprano. “I put something out on Facebook and sent out an invitation to see if we could get 10, 15 people to come back and put some time and effort into this project. I was thinking 15 to 20 people max.” Within days, more than 200 alumni had signed up to participate. The choir was so large that the concert had to be moved from Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater to St. Andrew’s, Larson said. “We Continue Reading

Stillwater Da Vinci Fest promotes art, science — and droids

“Star Wars” fans and students can build their own droid and see BB-8 and R2D2 at the 10th annual DaVinci Fest at Stillwater Area High School. The free festival, which promotes student art, science and film projects, will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 6. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend. “In 10 years this event has grown from a small art and science fair to a large-scale free community event that delights people of all ages,” said Beverly Petrie, executive director of the Partnership Plan, a nonprofit that raises money for extra programs in the Stillwater school district and sponsors the festival. “Every single year, people stop me in the halls to tell me they had no idea that this event was so much fun and yet so educational.” Among the highlights will be the creation of a life-size ice replica of Tron, Pysanky egg decorating, a tornado simulator, wheel-thrown pottery demonstrations, screenprinting, ice sculpting, Star Lab visits, Fab Lab demonstrations, Native American artworks and story-telling, learning how to create a podcast, Styrofoam-eating mealworms, raptors and germ exploration. For more information, including a schedule of events, go to Continue Reading