If you ever want to know what friendship looks like, just ask Scott Schindler. After Shawn Libor took the lead in renovating his northeast Hutchinson home to be more accessible, Schindler has a good frame of reference.
"He's just a great friend," Schindler said. "Thanks doesn't even come close to what I feel."
In late 2018, Schindler was paralyzed from the neck down in a head-on collision at County Road 7 and 85th Street near Stewart. He spent several months out of the state for surgery and rehab. When he returned to Hutchinson about a year ago, he was unable to move back into his home due to the challenges of moving around in an electric wheelchair.
Schindler hoped workers' compensation would cover upgrades he needed to comfortably return home, but it became clear the cost of his needs would go beyond what he had available, even when accounting for aid from local donations. Libor, who met Schindler when he moved to Hutchinson about 20 years ago and rode motorcycles with him, knew he wanted to help his friend have the best life he could.
"Scott really wanted to stay in that house," he said. "He wanted to be back home in his neighborhood, not build something new. The only way we were going to make it work was to do what we had to do with the resources we had with everyone helping out."
Libor, a carpenter, decided to take the lead. With help from an employee, and the aid of material suppliers offering the best deals they could, he volunteered the manpower necessary to renovate Schindler's home.
"We basically took an existing story-and-a-half home with a two-bedroom main floor and converted it to a handicap-accessible main floor for Scott," Libor said. "We took two bedrooms and converted to one bedroom with a much larger bathroom with a wheel-in shower. ... He can just go right into it."
The existing footprint of the house was used, but interior restructuring was required. A chimney was removed, for example, in order to squeeze out that much more square feet of floor space to make it all work.
"It was that tight," Libor said.
A local plumber, landscaping business and electrician helped with work outside of Libor's expertise.
"I know they really sharpened their pencils and did the project for less than it should have cost," Libor said. "They were really flexible with timing and always willing to be there right away when we needed them."
Libor's renovation plan was aided by visits to Schindler when he was in rehab. He was able to see how rooms were constructed for ease of access, and what systems were in place to make life easier. One advanced system that made it to Schindler's renovated home is an overhead lift that can take him from his bed to his shower.
"It's almost a ride at an amusement park," Libor said. "And then he has Shaun, his son, as his primary caregiver right here taking care of him."
"He dropped out of college to come take care of me," Scott said. "He gave up his career to take care of me every day."
Without Shaun, Scott would not have been able to move into his home again, and instead would have gone somewhere he could receive 24-hour care.
The home built in the 1950s has other renovations as well. The rooms are more spacious, the doors are wider and the windows — likely the originals — were replaced with windows that stretch closer to the floor.
"There were a lot of things I didn't even think of," Schindler said. "I was pretty naive to people who were handicapped."
The renovations even extended outside.
"He built me the Taj Mahal of ramps," Schindler said.
Work reached a point near enough completion that Schindler was able to move into his home July 27. All in all, the process has been a little overwhelming, he said, both those strong feelings began even before he was moved in, all the way back to his return to Hutchinson a year ago.
"When I saw the sign when we pulled into town, it was awesome," Schindler recalled, fighting tears. "I was back home. But I still wasn't finally home until Monday. I walked in and I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was so excited at how nice it looked. ... I love my little house. I love my neighborhood."
Neighbors, eager to welcome Schindler, began visiting immediately. Many had even stopped by when Schindler visited to see how renovations were going.
"That's this town," Schindler said. "That's this neighborhood, and my friends and family. I can't stop smiling."
"People in his neighborhood really wanted him back in there," Libor said.
Schindler has found it challenging to get over just how generous everyone has been in helping him to move back in.
"I expected a bill three times what (Libor) gave me," Schindler said. "It's extremely generous."
Libor is just happy his friend can finally rest.
"It's just been a series of steps for him," he said. "He's always had to plan for the next step. It was HCMC to Denver, then to another facility, then to Hutch. ... Well, now he's finally at a step where he doesn't have to do that anymore. He's home. He can sit back and relax."
Before the Zimmerman farm became the 700-acre corn field in Brownton that it is today, it began over in Germany in 1865. Gustav Andreas Friedrich Zimmerman, the great-grandfather of the Dean Zimmerman, the farm’s current owner, was born May 9, 1865 in West Prussin, Germany.
Gustav came to the U.S. with his family in 1866. He married Louise Rickert when he was 20 years old, and at the turn of the century he became a U.S. citizen. In 1892, Gustav and his family moved to Glencoe, where he delivered ice and milk and was also a partner in the Glencoe Brewing Co. for several years.
According to Dean, Gustav sold his shares in the brewery at the perfect time, right before prohibition. That allowed him to move the family to Carrington, North Dakota, and buy farmland. After a couple of his kids became of age to look over the farm, Gustav moved back to Minnesota in 1920 and purchased 200 acres in Brownton from William and Augusta Brandt.
Five years later, Dean's grandfather, Arthur, purchased the farm from Gustav. That same year, Arthur married Bertha Schmidt and had three kids: Orville, Dean's father, Kenneth and Eldonna.
Gustav passed away one year later in 1926, and Arthur passed away suddenly at the age of 39. That left a big hole for Bertha to run the farm.
“My dad was 9 at the time,” Dean said. “His brother and sister were both younger. My grandma hired some people to help with the farm. So my dad dropped out of school at eighth grade, a lot of people did at that time. Anyway, he did that and took over the farm so he could farm full time.”
Bertha passed away in 1958 from a heart attack, months before Orville married Annette Mehlhop. He purchased the farm in November of that year from the Bertha Zimmerman estate, and the family had two children: Dean and his sister, Jane.
Dean got into the farming business at an early age.
“I started farming on my grandpa's on my mom's side, over near Glencoe,” Dean said. “He had an 80-acre farm. I started renting that in about '79. That's when I graduated from high school. I went to vo-tech for diesel mechanics. … I would say I was farming by '81 when I graduated from vo-tech.”
Dean worked in partnership with his father for many years until Arthur officially retired from the farming operation in the mid-1990s.
“That's the gray area,” Dean said. “Because when you farm, if the operation is still in business, you're never completely retired.”
This year, the Zimmerman family farm was officially recognized as a Century Farm by the Minnesota State Fair and Farm Bureau. To earn this recognition, the farm must be under continuous family ownership for at least 100 years and be at least 50 acres or more.
Like many farms, it hasn't always been easy for the Zimmermans. For awhile, the farm raised dairy, beef, hogs, small grain, alfalfa and soybeans. Now it is strictly a crop operation.
The farm hit some financial trouble in 1983 when a tornado struck and caused extensive damage.
“It took down the silo, it blew the roof off one shed here,” Dean said. “It damaged the house, nothing too serious. It took the chimney off and broke a couple of rafters. It was a lot of stuff that insurance didn't cover.”
With that, no original structures remain from the first site since they have moved to a predominately corn production.
Dean has two sons, Nathan and Ryan, who don't currently work on the farm, but help in its operation. Dean said farming is something that is in your blood, and both Nathan and Ryan have families that come and play on the farm regularly.
“Somebody's going to be farming this land,” Dean said. “I don't know how it's all going to work out, but when I'm not here the boys will be farming it. Hopefully some of the grandkids get the bug too. … I've got some health issues going on and they've been stepping up and getting this stuff done, so I don't see that as a major problem at all.”
In a 4-2 vote Monday evening, the Hutchinson School Board chose in-person learning as its base learning model for the 2020-21 school year. That means the plan is to open schools for in-person learning September, but that could change throughout the school year, or even before the school year begins, based on the number of local COVID-19 cases.
Board members Byron Bettenhausen, Keith Kamrath, Brian Pollmann and Chris Wilke supported the resolution. Board members Tiffany Barnard and JoEllen Kimball voted against it. Those in favor highlighted a desire to return structure to the lives of students, to help at-risk students, the need to aid students with mental health and social challenges, and confidence in the school's health and safety plan modeled around state mandates. Those opposed highlighted concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment, the availability and speed of COVID-19 tests, a lack of substitute teachers, and challenges associated with finding day care should the model quickly change in the future. Opponents favored a model with a mixture of in-person learning and distance-learning, known as hybrid.
"The state has assured us that they are going to provide those (personal protective) items to us prior to the first day of school," Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden said. "But I can't tell you we have those yet. The regional support centers, from my understanding, they don't have them in possession either, but the state continues to tell us that they will be there for us. So the masks, the shields, those items, along with test kits for our educators. ... We share those same concerns as well."
Plans for the school year were also discussed at length in a meeting this past Friday.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and recommendations calling for a flexible approach, Minnesota schools must follow mandated health guidelines in school buildings and for student transportation. The state will also advise schools which education model to use based on their county's 14-day COVID-19 case rate per 10,000 residents. As a result, schools must prepare for five scenarios:
Each of the five models come with their own health requirements.
Schools will be able to determine if they follow the state's guidance or adjust up or down along the model options. Determinations may also be made per building if there are differing factors, but the state may approve or deny any of those decisions.
The most recent determination from the state shows the school on track for in-person education this school year, with an infection rate of 4.47 in McLeod County from July 12-25. But that could change as there was a steep increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the county reported last week.
To help prepare for the coming school year, District 423 asked families to fill out a survey regarding their feelings on COVID-19 and school safety. The survey asked what decision would be made if the school opened with a plan for in-person learning. Results indicated:
Another 213 students were not accounted for with the survey.
"We've also assured them if they do change their mind between now and when school starts, we'll certainly accommodate them," VanderHeiden said.
One of the school's main concerns is transportation. While it is implementing plans to keep the school clean and apply social distancing rules, school buses are one of the most challenging places to follow guidelines.
According to the survey:
He hopes for route information to be available within the next week. Major changes are not expected.
"We've got a social distancing plan for our transportation system," VanderHeiden said. "We would load all of our buses from back to front and would unload ... front to back."
Siblings would be asked to sit together, and buses will have seating charts. Administrators believe that due to the number of families opting out of school transportation, it will be feasible to follow social distancing guidelines.
"(Transportation is) our largest density in one spot over a time period," said Brian Mohr, the school's director of transportation. "A lot of our high-density stops are very close to our building. So that high density will not be on the bus very long. Hopefully they are getting on and off within about a 10-minute time period."
In order to practice social distancing, several changes will be made in school lunch rooms.
Before entering the line — which will be marked to keep students 6 feet apart — students must use hand sanitizer. They will talk to kitchen staff through a sneeze guard. Staff will hand the disposable tray from person to person to add food, but the student will not touch it until the end. Students will, however, retrieve their own water or milk. Instead of having students use a keypad to enter a code for payment, staff will have a sheet of barcodes to scan, with a code for each name. Students will have options to sit in the cafeteria and elsewhere in order to have more room to spread out.
More lunch periods will help spread out the student population as well. The school is considering an option to send breakfast home with students to eat the next morning, but state approval is needed.
In order to maintain student and teacher health in classrooms, district educators are looking for ways to take items out of rooms and make more room. Storage spaces, for example, are being moved elsewhere. A guiding rule is that no two people can be within 6 feet of each other for more than 15 minutes, even with face coverings, and faces must be covered.
Masks will be required, and the school hopes to have some on hand to help if there are mistakes. There will be alternatives for students who need to use face shields. There will also be outdoor face covering breaks throughout the day.
Band, choir and music classes will use auditoriums and outdoor spaces to spread out.
Students confirmed to have COVID-19 must be quarantined for 14 days and be symptom free. The school will also conduct contract tracing for students with a diagnosis. Students with symptoms will be separated from their classrooms. The school is also taking precautions ahead of time by flushing all water systems and changing air filters. Filters are also adjusted to maximize outside air.
Even if the year starts with in-school learning, options will remain for distance learning. However, distance learning in the 2020-21 school year will not mean a lighter load or a shorter school day. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will attend school digitally with a distance learning teacher assigned per grade level. Older students will attend their classes over the internet.
"It's not condensed, we're not losing days," said Michael Scott, director of teaching and learning. "If a student is at home, they need to have the same instruction and equitable access to those (physical education) and art and those special areas just like if they were in a classroom."
Students learning at home will still have a full school day and be expected to log in and watch instruction during class periods at the regular time. Attendance will be counted.
Five new people will be honored this year as part of Hutchinson High School’s Wall of Fame Class of 2020.
Every two years HHS seeks nominees for a new class of Wall of Fame inductees. People may be nominated in five categories: coach/adviser, athlete, fan, outstanding graduate and fine arts. Inductees have their photo added to the Wall of Fame in a hall trophy case outside the Hutchinson High School gym, along with a plaque highlighting their achievements.
This year’s inductees are:
Lowell Himle, coach: Himle served as a track and field coach for 50 years at HHS. He coached the field events, mainly high jump and shot and discus. But he also coached the pole vault and long and triple jump when needed. Lowell was the consummate coach — meticulous, caring, loyal and dedicated to his profession.
He coached many school record holders and state place winners, including a two-time state champion and (at one time) the all-time Minnesota state record holder in the high jump. One year, he had five girls who all jumped over 5 feet in the high jump. He coached, at the time, school record holders and state place winners in the pole vault and the triple jump. He coached the top-10 discus throwers in school history. His willingness to help kids succeed was undeniable.
Most nights he would stay after practice to work with kids that, in many cases, probably had little chance of ever placing in a meet. He was always the last one off the practice field and the last to go home.
Ryan Dolder, athlete: Dolder is the all-time goals, assists and points leader in Hutch boys hockey history. He led the hockey team to its first state tournament appearance and the 1995 state consolation championship. He went on to play college hockey at Notre Dame.
While in college, Ryan was nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, which recognizes athletes who have made a difference off the ice as well as on, to the team, to the program, to the school, and to the community in which the player lives.
Ryan also holds several football records at Hutchinson High School as a quarterback.
Wendell Jahnke, outstanding graduate: Jahnke was a four-sport letter winner in high school (football, basketball, baseball and track). He was named All-State honorable mention in football, helped lead the basketball team to subdistrict and district titles, was a 220-yard dash district champion in track, and played baseball for the Hutch Hornets state tournament team.
Jahnke lettered in football, baseball and basketball at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and earned all-conference in football and basketball. He is a member of the Minnesota State Athletics Hall of Fame.
He coached high school football and basketball in Ortonville, as well as high school football and track at Nuremberg, Germany. He was the first football coach for Wilson Campus School in Mankato. He also served as the freshman team head coach at Minnesota State for both football and basketball. Jahnke has officiated football, baseball and basketball for more than 40 years at high school and college levels.
Glen “Clancy” Kurth, fan: Kurth has been a HHS supporter for several years. He has provided funding and support to many activities at HHS. In addition, he volunteers at numerous events and assists local media with reporting and scores.
Kurth is a true Tiger fan, and his support has enhanced opportunities for many.
Carol Wendt, coach: Known to her players as ‘C.W’., Wendt was a two-time Minnesota Coach of the Year and is a member of the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame. She took either an individual or a team to the State Girls Golf Tournament 23 out of the 24 years that she coached.
Wendt cared for and mentored countless young women to be productive world-changers, showing grace, humility and kindness to all.
Due to COVID-19 and because there won’t be a football game this fall during Homecoming, HHS Activities Director Thayne Johnson said an alternative celebration is being planned.