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As part of the internship program with Visions of Hope, students take field trips to local businesses to experience what type of jobs may be available after graduation. On Wednesday morning, Lauren Halbrook, Karson Hart, and Cameron Wilfong of North County take a tour of the KREI/KTJJ radio station. They practiced creating commercials and learned what it takes to operate a radio station. The three interns also participated in an on-air interview with Mark Toti.

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Cadet man dies in crash Wednesday

Emergency responders were called to the scene of a fatal crash on Old Bonne Terre Road on Wednesday afternoon. 

The crash occurred near Woodland Acres near Bonne Terre at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a Chevrolet Cruze driven by Emmanuel Sohn, 37, of Cadet, was heading west on Old Bonne Terre Road when it crossed the centerline before the crest of a hill. A Ford F-350 driven by Kyle Lord, 30, of Bonne Terre, was heading east and struck the car head-on. 

Sohn was pronounced dead at the scene. Lord received moderate injuries and was taken to Mercy Hospital South for treatment. 

The road was completely shut down for more than two hours.

Giving homeless a hand-up

It's a busy time at St. Francois County's transitional shelter.

“We have a full house and our phone is ringing nonstop,” Shelly Bess, director of Shared Blessings, said on Monday afternoon.

Lately, they’ve had people appear at their doorstep to escape from the weather.

“We’re not a typical shelter,” Bess said. “We’re a transitional building.”

This means that the residents have a period to stay while they apply for jobs or housing in the area.

A volunteer of three years, Lori Dickerson quotes a saying their social workers like: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’re gonna get what you’ve always got.” This is the philosophy they use to guide their residents to self-sufficiency.

“To the majority of people here, life just isn’t fair,” Bess said. "They are people who have spent all their savings from being sick, or lost their house in a fire. By the time they get to us, they’ve burnt all of their bridges.”

There are organizations who help with homeless people but the residents of Shared Blessings follow a care plan to help them eventually go out on their own and succeed. Volunteers with expertise in social work or counseling help design those plans.

Lasting 60-90 days, the care plan typically gives the occupants enough time to save up some money to move out and become self-sufficient. They are each tailored to fit the needs of the individual.

Some local businesses are willing to accommodate the occupants with jobs, since they are within walking distance from the shelter. This extends to housing, where property owners will sometimes waive some fees to make unaided living smoother.

Since Bess has a good reputation, property owners trust her word on the backgrounds of potential clients.

“She’s often correct about which people will succeed,” Dickerson said. “She just has a gift for it.”

There is a 25-question survey which helps sort through applicants who don’t have any intention of working toward being self-supportive but instead are just looking for a warm bed as long as possible. But the good news is that some of them who just want a place to stay, Bess said, do change anyway and find a way out of their situation eventually.

“Most of our successes come from families who can learn to live cheaply,” Bess said about the success rate. “Younger folks and older folks have a harder time following the plan.”

Bess said volunteers and donations are important.

“We’re not government (subsidized), so we have to rely on donations and sponsors," she said.

The main guideline for donations: “anything you use in your house, we can use in ours.”

Volunteers are welcome for teaching the residents about cooking, parenting, mowing, and budgeting. Anything that a person is qualified to do and passionate about is a welcome contribution. Some cook meals and do Bible studies on weekends. Others are appreciated to give rides, especially in the bitter cold weather.

But mostly, Dickerson, said, they need people to run the office. This can be one or two days a week, and adapted to fit a flexible schedule.

“We don’t want it to be a hassle for them to be here,” Dickerson said. “Those who want to work come in and take a tour, and are usually very surprised. Then they decide if they want to come back and train with somebody.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about Shared Blessings especially this time of year on Facebook. People who are turned away will post negatively about it, despite not applying, or because they were rejected on the questionnaire.

Some misconceptions about the homeless spread to real life. Kathy Grogan, a resident advocate, shared a story about trivia night. Someone asked her why the homeless didn’t attend. It turns out that they were in the audience, but looked just like the other people there.

Shared Blessings has kept the doors open for 13 years thanks to fundraising and donations, but there’s always a need for more funds.

There are two upcoming events in March to help raise necessary dollars. At 8 a.m. March 16 the Shamrock Shuffle 5K run and walk will kick off at 518 Grove St. in Bonne Terre with a $25 entry fee.

Then on March 29 there will be a trivia night at 118 E. School St. The entry cost will be $20.

All proceeds will benefit Shared Blessing, and anyone interested in sponsoring the fundraisers can buy an advertisement for both events.

kevin jenkins / File Photo 

Shared Blessings, based in Bonne Terre, has a steady occupancy this winter. 

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How to call a snow day

When winter months come and winter weather begins, one thing that can always be expected is a snow day or 10, depending on the type of winter that occurs.

Bismarck Superintendent Jason King said that the decision to close is never an easy call to make.

“The most important thing is making a decision that will keep students and teachers safe,” said King.

King also said that he not only has to look at ground conditions, but also the forecast. Although we try to plan ahead as much as possible, it’s not always feasible.

“Oftentimes inclement weather can arrive during morning or afternoon routes, creating a dangerous situation,” said King.

King said that he always gets out and drives the district’s bus routes before making a decision. News reports, as well as other people’s opinions are great, but nothing beats seeing the conditions first hand, he said. 

Dylan Vogelsang, a local weather enthusiast, states that winter weather is hard to predict, especially a week in advance.

“Most of the time, winter weather starts out in the Pacific Ocean, which is where the energy is made,” said Vogelsang. “Until it hits land it’s just a guessing game.”

“Timing is the tricky part,” said Vogelsang. “For example, the storm that took place on Jan. 11 was forecast to begin in the afternoon up until that Thursday. However, once the storm got closer, it actually started Friday morning.”

King said that communication is also important. He said that several districts share borders and utilize the same roads for bus routes. He said superintendents of various districts often keep in contact with one another to share information on road conditions.

“The frustrating aspect of inclement weather is that is causes students to miss valuable learning time during a crucial part of the school year,” said King.

Even with missing critical learning time, King said the main concern is the safety of students.

“It is wise to err on the side of caution,” said King.

Dr. Yancy Poorman, superintendent of North County Schools, said that he is fortunate to have a transportation and maintenance director to assist in his decision to dismiss for snow.

Just as King said, Poorman also agreed that keeping in contact with other districts’ administrators is a big factor.

“We have an administrators association in the Mineral Area and stay in contact regularly during winter weather.”

Poorman said that if a storm is coming from the South, he consults with Fredericktown administrators and if it comes from the West, he can consult with Potosi or Arcadia Valley. 

“In the superintendent world, we have a saying,” said Poorman, “'do what’s best for the kids; you’re gonna be wrong to some people either way.'

“In short, in the 20-plus years I’ve been doing this, I always rely on the fact that, ‘I can make up a day, I can’t make up a child!’”

Desi Mayberry, superintendent of Central Schools said, just like the other administrators, that safety of students is the first priority. Mayberry said as administrators, they get out and drive the roads and make their best judgement call.

Mayberry said it’s a common misconception that buses can’t go in the snow.

“Buses can get around pretty good in about any kind of weather,” said Mayberry. “The one thing I always think about is how will that high school student who has often times just learned to drive be able to get around in the current conditions."

Stacy Stevens, superintendent of West County Schools, said that there are a lot of things he thinks about when deciding to call school for winter weather. The forecast, other administrators, and road conditions are just a few.

Stevens agrees with Mayberry in the fact that there are a lot of new drivers at varying level which makes for dangerous situations in the inclement weather.

Stevens said that having school on a bad day can result in low attendance, which can actually lower the district’s performance rating.

“It’s better to have good attendance on a sunny day in May than to try and go on a bad day in February and have an accident or poor attendance,” said Stevens.

Stevens also mentioned that the district provides students breakfast and lunch on school days. “I worry about kids when we don’t have school, especially those who may not have enough to eat,” said Stevens.

Stevens agreed with other administrators, saying “this is somewhat cliché, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution."

Matt Ruble, superintendent for Farmington Schools, says that the goal of the district is to provide a safe environment for all students. “We have about 2,500 students on buses in the morning and afternoon and about half of them live outside the city limits,” said Ruble.

Ruble says he relies heavily on the Transportation Director Stacy Williams, and Mark Krause, director of operations for the district.

“They are the ones who drive the routes and determine safety for buses and student drivers,” said Ruble.

Ruble said that Farmington School District covers 321 square miles from over into Ste. Genevieve County on Highway 32 and down to the Madison County line on U.S. 67. Ruble said conditions can be vastly different from one end of the district to another.

According to the Missouri State Teachers Association, snow days are required to be made up day for day until the seventh day is missed. At that point, schools must make up one day for every two days missed through 14 days.

After 14 days, MSTA said that snow days are forgiven, or don’t have to be made up.

A 2014 study by Professor Joshua Goodman of Harvard shows that snow days do not impact student learning. “Keeping schools open during a winter storm is actually more detrimental to learning than being closed,” said Goodman.

Goodman said that snow days are actually less a problem for learning than regular student absence. When a student is absent, a teacher has to spend time working with one student to get him or her up to speed with the rest of the class. “This delays everyone,” said Goodman.

One thing that always comes up during winter, especially from the older generation, is “back in my day we didn’t have snow days."

One of the obvious reasons was proximity. According to Roots Web, before the mid 1960’s when the Central R-3 district was created, three of the four little towns that now make up Park Hills had their own school districts.

Elvins, Esther, and Flat River each had their own schools, so most kids simply walked to school. In those days, you were looking at the district having a two-mile radius versus a 10-mile or more radius that is common today, especially in rural districts.

Bill Holloway, former chief of police of Park Hills, said he went to Elvins School. He said they never had snow days and they all walked to school. “If you lived over a mile from the school you could ride the bus and the best I can remember the bus only went out B Highway.”

Roots Web also states that in addition to Central, Farmington was also made up of several smaller schools, including the city schools, Doe Run Schools, and the Busiek School.

Also, according to Roots Web, prior to 1950, Iron Mountain had its own school district. In 1950, Iron Mountain School consolidated with Bismarck. Desloge and Bonne Terre also had separate schools. 

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City hires new chief

The Park Hills City Council met in special session on Tuesday night to discuss the hiring of a chief of police to replace recently retired Chief Bill Holloway.

Mark McFarland, city administrator, said that the council voted unanimously to accept Richard McFarland as the city’s new police chief.

Richard McFarland will begin his duties as chief on Monday.

Richard McFarland is a lifelong resident of Park Hills and a graduate of Central High School. Richard and his wife Shannon live in Park Hills with their four children.

He is returning to the Park Hills Police Department after having served as an officer for the city from 2000-2016.

Holloway retired on Oct. 25 after serving the city as police chief for 27 years. Lt. Doug Bowles had served as interim police chief for several months.