The Farmington district has created “mothers’ rooms” at each of its nine school buildings so new moms have a private place to pump breast milk during the day.

Previously, new moms had to lock their classrooms to pump milk or find another discreet place to do it, employees said.

“It’s given me the opportunity to continue nursing my son throughout this year,” said Jackie Brand, a counselor at Meadowview Elementary, whose son is 10 months old. “Without this space — and the time and the support — it wouldn’t have been possible.”

The rooms, mostly repurposed storage spaces, were made possible by a $2,000 grant from the State Health Improvement Program (SHIP), said MaryAnn Thomas, human resources director and a member of the district’s Wellness Committee.

Grant money provided a chair, table, small sink, refrigerator, clock and mirror in each room, though existing furniture was used if possible, Thomas said. The rooms are an extension of the district’s commitment to kids.

“Now we [take care of] them from birth to grade 12, instead of preschool to grade 12,” Thomas said.

About 20 to 25 district employees give birth each year, officials said.


Early approval for Anoka-Hennepin teachers’ contract

The Anoka-Hennepin school board approved the Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota teachers’ contract for 2015 through 2017 this week, wrapping up one of the earliest agreements in the history of the district and the teachers’ union.

The contract for district teachers includes a salary boost, financial incentives for teachers with about 10 years of experience and the first salary increase in seven years for coaches and extracurricular leaders.

The negotiating teams reached the tentative agreement Sept. 4 with negotiators for the Anoka-Hennepin school board after meeting 11 times since May. The union’s members voted to support the agreement earlier in November.

It’s the second time the tentative agreement was ironed out before students were back at school.

The board voted 4 to 1 in support of the contract.

The contract for 2013 through 2015 wasn’t settled between the district and the union until April 2014.

“The mood in the buildings is far different than it’s been in a long time,” Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota president LeMoyne Corgard said. “Our members are extremely pleased that it was done.”


St. Paul firefighters provide coats to children

St. Paul Firefighters Local 21 is outfitting about 650 children from low-income families with brand-new winter coats this year.

St. Paul firefighter Colin Oglesbee said firefighters help select the children’s favorite colors and write their names on the interior tag of the new coats, which read, “Made Just for You.”

“The distribution day is the big payoff,” he said. “It makes it all worthwhile when we get to see the smile on the kids’ faces.”

The first of two coat celebrations happened Oct. 26 at Paul & Sheila Wellstone Elementary School. The second celebration will happen in December at Riverview West Side School of Excellence.