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Three children killed in fire on North Side

Three children died Sunday in an early-morning fire that apparently originated in the kitchen and tore through their home in the north Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood, officials said.

The bodies of two of the victims were found in a first-story bedroom in the rear of the house by firefighters when they arrived to battle the blaze, according to family members and a fire scanner recording posted on MN Police Clips. The third victim was taken to an area hospital, where he or she later died, officials said.

The county medical examiner's office is expected to release the victims' names and their causes of death in the next few days.

When they arrived, firefighters found the modest two-story frame house at at 2755 Penn Av. North "fully engulfed" and encountered heavy smoke and fire while trying to reach a rear bedroom, where a 911 caller said the children were "trapped," according to the scanner recording.

“There’s no way we can enter this from the rear, this whole place is involved,” a fire official is heard telling a dispatcher on the recording.

One of the house’s occupants, who said she had stepped outside briefly before the blaze broke out, said that she tried to enter the burning house but was driven back by flames and dense smoke. She said the fire may have been caused by an oven that was left turned on and unattended.

As she spoke, sobbing family members consoled each other on the street.

“Lord let this be a dream,” one man wailed, after speaking with fire officials. “Let me wake up and hear my nieces and nephews voices again.”

The blaze, which was reported shortly before midnight, apparently started on the ground floor, before spreading to the roof, according to scanner traffic and fire officials. By 1:25 a.m., the blaze had been extinguished.

The incident recalled a similar tragedy on Valentine’s Day of 2014, when five children were killed after a North Side duplex went up in flames. That blaze was one of the deadliest in Minneapolis history.

The cause of Sunday's fire is under investigation.

Wayzata schools debate start times


Staff Writer

Parents jammed a meeting Thursday night to raise concerns about a proposal for 7:30 a.m. start times for most Wayzata elementary schools so high school students can start later.

Superintendent Chace Anderson’s recommended school start time scenario would mean most elementary schools in the district would start at 7:30 a.m., pushing back Wayzata High School’s first bell from 7:30 a.m. to 8:20. The start time proposal was spurred by the opening of Meadow Ridge Elementary in fall 2016.

The Wayzata school board expects to make a decision on the start time proposal Oct. 12.

Anderson backs the proposal because of research on the benefits of sleep for adolescents, as well as his conversations with staff. He said that though every student wants a later start, after talks with staff, elementary school students are observed to function better in early hours.

The district can’t afford all schools starting at the same time, he said.

“Everybody wants that sweet spot of the 8:15,” Anderson said. “It’s a really nice time to start for many kids.”

The proposal has sparked outcry from parents — many who have younger children in the district. A few of them interjected during the question-and-answer session with a moderator reading questions, frustrated that the panel wasn’t answering their concerns. Some were clad in gold shirts that read “Well-being and safety for YOUNG kids matter TOO.”

During the almost three hour-long meeting in the Central Middle School auditorium, sleep medicine Dr. Conrad Iber, school start times researcher Kyla Wahlstrom and sleep-specializing pediatrician John Garcia discussed sleep studies and optimal sleep times for students.

More sleep is better for all children, they concluded. Wahlstrom noted that data showed positive results for high schoolers with later start times, but that there wasn’t research specifically about elementary school early start time effects.

“We don’t have the research to claim that it’s detrimental to the children,” she said. “We don’t also know that it’s beneficial.”

Wayzata High School’s start time is early compared to neighboring high schools. Eden Prairie High School starts at 7:50 a.m. and Minnetonka High School starts at 8 a.m.; Wayzata is almost an hour earlier than Edina High School’s 8:25 a.m. start time.

Anderson noted that adding more school buses that would keep students on for 45 minutes would cost $1 million annually, and he’s worried there won’t be enough bus drivers to complete routes.

Parent concerns ranged from earlier bedtimes to children waiting outside before 7 a.m. for buses. Some worried that the district would back a proposal without any data on its predicted impact on younger students.

“Why would you take this gamble?” said Ethan Roberts, who has two children in elementary school in Wayzata.

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