Axios Des Moines

Picture of the Des Moines skyline with DSM written across it.

September 14, 2021

What's up, Tuesday. High is 80.

Situational awareness: Iowa schools can mandate masks again after a federal judge ordered a temporary block on a recent state law banning them from implementing the measures.

  • Des Moines Superintendent Tom Ahart announced he’s requiring masks starting Wednesday.

Today's Smart Brevity count is 929 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: The Dark Overlord still haunts us

Illustration of a mouse in a bear trap

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Johnston's school district is still the target of hacking attempts four years after an international hacker group known as The Dark Overlord leaked student data and texted death threats to parents, school spokesperson Laura Sprague told Axios.

What's happening: Johnston recently avoided another security breach, but attack attempts "are getting more sophisticated by the day," Sprague said.

  • She said hackers have imitated emails of multiple school executives, including herself, in attempts to con people out of money. Some even include school logos and headers, making them harder to distinguish as fake.

Why it matters: Ransomware cyberattacks are on the rise across the U.S., threatening our food supplies, health care and national security.

  • Schools can expect to face increasing threats, as the rush to move learning online left many security systems vulnerable to attacks, Politico reports.

Flashback: In October of 2017, Johnston Public Schools canceled and delayed classes for several days after the hacking group posted school directory files online.

  • The Dark Overlord failed to obtain a ransom from the district, but the attack cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
  • The district's cybersecurity insurance alone has more than doubled since the attack, to just over $24K this year.
  • Of note: The Dark Overlord hasn't been credited with recent metro hacks.

Separately, nearby Des Moines Area Community College halted online instruction for about two weeks following a hack in June.

  • The school didn't pay ransom, and president Rob Denson told Jason yesterday the breach was limited to old personnel files of fewer than 25 people.
  • Those individuals have been contacted, Denson said.

The bottom line: We're being bullied and the outlook suggests it's only going to get worse.

2. Hy-Vee opens new "smart store"

Hy-Vee digital kiosk

A kiosk in the deli section at the Grimes Hy-Vee. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Hy-Vee's newest grocery store opened in Grimes this morning, featuring some of the company's latest modern experiments in attracting customers.

The concept: The 93,000-square-foot facility is the company's first venture into a "smart store" — a grocery store that integrates digital conveniences like scan-and-go shopping, where customers can skip lines by using an app to buy their items.

  • Large portions of the store are also dedicated to Hy-Vee's non-grocery partnerships, like DSW, The W Nail Bar and Joe Fresh clothing.
Hy-Vee food dining hall
A dining hall in the new Grimes Hy-Vee. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

What's new: Kiosks are located throughout the store to help you do everything from order a custom cake to buy an elliptical machine.

  • Looking for high-end wines? You can find $1,000+ bottles in the store's wine and spirits section, plus a cigar room.
  • There's a hot food area that functions like a food hall. Order at a kiosk, sit down and someone will bring out your Hy-Chi.
  • There’s no more paper price tags in aisles. They’re digital instead, requiring less labor.
  • And yes, a vending machine will even make you a custom salad.

Full story: Hy-Vee's reimagined grocery store opens in Grimes

Hy-Vee scan and go shopping
A bagging area for customers who purchase their items via their phones. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

3. Gray's Lake: DSM's next hot spot?

A photo of redevelopment concepts for Des Moines' south of Gray's Lake area.

Trail frontage would have a mix of residential and retail space under a plan presented to the Des Moines City Council yesterday for the area south of Gray’s Lake. Screenshot via city of DSM video

The Des Moines City Council got a first look yesterday at a master plan to redevelop a 140-acre area just south of Gray's Lake.

Why it matters: With views of downtown's skyline, city leaders are hopeful of the land's potential — particularly considering the rapid development in the area north of Gray's Lake that includes a professional soccer stadium.

Details: The city Economic Development Office's vision includes rowhouses, townhomes and multistory apartment buildings, built near a walkable, mixed-use district and green space.

  • Boardwalks along park edges and wetlands, as well as new trail connections, could commingle recreation with retail and dining.

What's next: The City Council is expected to vote on the concept in coming months.

  • There's no timeline for development. That's largely dependent on market factors and whether current property owners wish to develop their land.
A map of the south of Gray’s Lake master plan area.
The area targeted for development south of Gray’s Lake ​​runs along Thomas Beck Road from Southwest Seventh Street to Fleur Drive. Map courtesy of the city of DSM

4. "Unmasked" yearbook theme flunks out

A photo of an email announcing Dallas Center-Grimes' yearbook theme as "Unmasked."

Dallas Center-Grimes yearbook adviser Ivy Soener sent an email to students last week that announced "unmasked" as the 2021-2022 theme. Screenshot courtesy of a parent

"Unmasked" will not be the 2021-2022 yearbook theme at Dallas Center-Grimes High School, principal Scott Blum assured parents in an email last week.

Driving the news: Teacher and yearbook adviser Ivy Soener announced in an email to students on Sept. 8 that "unmasked" had been selected out of at least 16 themes students considered via an online poll.

The intrigue: There was some miscommunication among school staff, including Blum. He didn't know about Soener's email when he sent his message to parents the following day after being alerted to concerns on social media, district spokesperson Anne Wemhoff told Jason yesterday.

  • The word "unmasked" had been used during a brainstorming session as a descriptor but was not selected, Blum mistakenly wrote in his Sept. 9 email.

What they're saying: Many parents found the theme to be insensitive, especially considering the ongoing pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 6,300 Iowans.

  • "What a slap in the face to all the kids that are wearing their masks to protect their younger siblings or to protect those with underlying health conditions," one DCG parent wrote on the Iowans for Universal Masks in Schools Facebook page.

The bottom line: The yearbook's theme is still being discussed, but it will not be COVID-19 related, Wemhoff said.

5. 🍻 1 fun thing to go: Beer medalists

A photo of medals.

Photo courtesy of the Brewers Association

Seven Iowa beers were awarded medals of excellence in the Great American Beer Festival competition in Denver, Colorado, last week.

  • It's one of the largest beer festivals in the world, showcasing more than 4,000 beers from more than 800 breweries.

🥇 Iowa's gold

🥈 Silver

🥉 Bronze

What's next: The 2022 festival is Oct. 6-8.

🗳 Today is Ankeny's special election for its vacant House seat. Polls are open from 7am to 8pm. Learn more about the candidates.

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