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President Wilson goes into detail about Gold Fridays

Missouri Western’s new Gold Fridays initiative for the 2020-2021 school year will drop most Friday classes for students while also encouraging them to go out into the community to volunteer, participate in work studies, internships and other applied learning opportunities.

But what’s to stop them from simply taking the day off altogether?

Missouri Western President Matthew Wilson said he’s aware that some students may use the time to catch up on sleep or relax. Others, he said, may use it to take an extra shift at their job to help raise money toward tuition.

And he’s OK with that.

“One of the things about college life for universities is that you don’t have the structure, and it’s part of the training ground for students to learn how to organize themselves. In the current system, there’s nothing that would prevent a student from scheduling classes three days a week … I know many students to do that. But here, what we’ve got is a concerted effort to make it a conflict-free day. … So you can have career fairs on Friday where previously, students might have thought, ‘Wow, I’ve got to make a choice. Go to a career fair and look for a job or go to class.’ … And what you’ll see is that students will engage in study groups, they’ll go and get tutoring, they’ll go and do company tours. Many of our students, just out of financial necessity, they need to work.”

Wilson said that the move toward Gold Fridays was not financially motivated, and that he does not anticipate that any of the buildings will be closed as a result of the new schedule, as students still will be on campus, engaging with professors, visiting with staff and using the library.

With Fridays off, student-teachers may also receive more opportunities to engage with local schools, Wilson added. And with the new Center for Service, which will allow students to turn volunteer hours into credit hours, Wilson said that Gold Fridays also can help students on their way to graduation.

“Students will be able on Friday to go, ‘Oh, you know what? Let me go to the Center for Service, pick out one of the service projects in the area and go into the community and spend around eight hours (volunteering),” Wilson said. “They are going to be able to use that time and that opportunity not only to serve the community but also to get college credit. It’s the perfect time for them to do that.”

And while not every program will be able to utilize Gold Fridays, Wilson said that the vast majority would. And the response from faculty and staff has been encouraging.

“Whenever you have anything that’s new and different, there’s always pause in terms of, ‘OK, how is this going to work? What are we going to do along those lines?’” Wilson said. “But the folks here have been very receptive to it. The faculty, it impacts them quite a bit. … Instead of having a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, it’s Monday and Wednesday.”

Courses will be taught for the same amount of classroom time once Gold Fridays are instituted.

“Gold Fridays really is another investment in students,” Wilson said. “And you know, as we think about the student experience here at Missouri Western, the idea is to give them opportunities to engage.”

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City Yards prepares or snow

The St. Joseph Streets Division is shifting its duties from summer construction, to winter weather preparedness.

As the weather cools and the chance of snow and ice begins to increase, City Yards is preparing to keep traffic moving.

Superintendent of Streets and Infrastructure Keven Schneider said they have salt and brine on hand in case an early winter storm hits, but are expecting between 4,000 and 4,500 more tons of salt to be delivered as trucks are freed up after the harvest season.

He said the city has 16 spreader trucks for salting streets and around 20 plow trucks, but he doesn’t know how many will actually be used during a storm at this time.

“The question will be having drivers for them,” Schneider said. “We’ve got several new employees this year, still have some open positions, and several new employees are in the process of getting their CDLs. I’m confident we’re going to be all right, a few of them are close, but it’s always a challenge making sure everybody is legal and ready to go.”

Winter weather could hit St. Joseph as early as this month, according to News-Press NOW Forecaster Mark Zinn, who said there could be wintry precipitation in the early half of next week.

“A pretty complex forecast into next week could bring us the chance for some frozen precipitation,” Zinn said. “There could be a little bit of rain, maybe mixing in with some wet snowflakes, and maybe turning into all snow at one point.”

He said the forecast will be more predictable as the week gets closer and stressed that these predictions could change.

“It’s still a little too far out to know for sure what’s going to happen, but it’s definitely not too far out to plan,” Zinn said.

He said, as it stands now, there could be snow Monday, Tuesday and/or Wednesday.

Schneider said an annual training event will start next week that will teach or refresh Streets workers on winter equipment use.

“They’re taught how to mount and remove the spreaders and plows. They also get a little time in on operating some of our equipment such as loaders,” Schneider said.

He said the event culminates in a “snowplow rodeo” that consists of an obstacle course that employees navigate in large trucks with plows attached.

“For the newer guys, it gives them a chance to feel what it’s like driving the truck out there with the added weight of the spreader and the plow,” Schnedier said. “For the more seasoned employees, you know you’ve been driving around all summer long without the spreader and the plow, it gives you a chance to remember what it feels like and gets just everybody thinking ‘snow.’”

An upcoming ordinance to be voted on by the City Council could update the list of emergency snow routes in St. Joseph to include streets that Schneider said already are treated like snow routes but were not officially in the code. He said many of them are in east St. Joseph where the population has increased.

A list of those streets can be found by looking at the council’s agenda on the city’s site at stjoemo.info.

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Checking compliance | Officials say lack of funds hampers tobacco-product checks
Funding limits tobacco, vaping enforcement for minors

As concerns about vaping among teens are on the rise, the St. Joseph Police Department struggles to check on tobacco vendors who could be selling the popular product to minors.

Sgt. Larry Stobbs, who runs the compliance checks program for the Police Department, said that funding is the main issue he faces when it comes to tobacco checks. While the department receives funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation for alcohol compliance checks, mainly to reduce the number of underage drunken driving crashes, there is not much money coming in for tobacco compliance.

“It’s either normally coming from either Missouri Division of Health and Senior Services, and that’s been a number of years ago since we got funding from them, but most of what we’ve gotten has been from from not-for-profits, or groups that work a lot with youth issues, where they’re trying to keep our kids away from illegal substances and provide for a healthy lifestyle,” Stobbs said.

Stobbs said because of this lack of funding, compliance checks for tobacco are only done about once every year and a half, compared to alcohol checks done several times a year. These infrequent checks are shown to have more vendors failing to properly ID minors when selling tobacco products even though it is something taught alongside alcohol training.

“The downside with tobacco is I can’t check the businesses as often as we should,” Stobbs said. “So typically, when we do go out and check them, where we’re at 6% failure rate on alcohol. We typically see about a 30% failure rate on the tobacco and it’s just because they’re so spread out, once every year, or year and a half.”

While the enforcement on vendors is difficult, Stobbs said officers will give tickets to minors they catch smoking or vaping, and school resource officers enforce regulations on school property.

Another group helping to lower the number of teens smoking and vaping is businesses, according to Stobbs. Businesses like Walmart stopped selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21, an age that can deter life-long tobacco use.

“With our young people, we know if they don’t take up smoking before they turn 18, 19 or 20 years old, chances are they’re not going to take it up as an adult because by then, they’re hopefully a little smarter and they realized, ‘Hey, that’s bad for my health.’” Stobbs said.