10/31/2019 3:53:00 PM Grade shuffle puts K in ed center, grade 5 at Sunrise and LWC is in middle school
It’s official, the kindergarten classes in North Branch will be moving to brand new space in the still-being-remodeled Education Center. The Ed Center on Grand Avenue is slated for completion in August 2020. The space being freed-up in Sunrise River Elementary School with the kindergarten re-location, will allow for fifth grade to move out of Middle School and back to the elementary facility.
The North Branch School Board heard from the two school principals in a work session October 24 that this better aligns the programs and age groups to benefit academically and socially.
Dr. Lori Zimmerman, Sunrise River Principal, remarked that elementary teachers are licensed for K through six and having fifth grade in with younger kids works well instructionally. They have much more in common with fourth graders than with middle school age kids, she stated. North Branch Middle School Principal Kelly Detzler added that there’s no gain in fifth graders maturing quicker, and at middle school there’s a level of independence and self-reliance in the school day that many fifth graders may not be ready to take on.
School Board Chair Kirby Ekstrom noted when grade five was shifted years ago to the middle school, there was concern in the community. He commends middle school staff for “making it work.”
The school board members also learned that in consolation with the other school district superintendents that cooperatively enroll students into the Life Work Skills Program, Dr. Deb Henton recommended shifting the Life Work Center to the area where the fifth grade was housed. The ALC will be a stand-alone program again.
The Life Work Center and the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) are co-located now next door to the middle school grounds in the Brooker Building. The program has students from Rush City, Chisago Lakes and North Branch.
Henton said the ALC can grow if the work skills students are moved to the fifth grade wing at the middle school. There are 42 in the ALC and her goal is to enroll 60.
She said the districts could lease space in town for the Life Work Center but that “wouldn’t make any sense” with room in an existing building. “I bring this (the shifts and relocations) to you tonight,” Henton continued, to allow enough time to consider the staffing implications and budget impacts.
There was a time period for Board questions as it was an informal workshop session. Board members Tim MacMillan and Kevin Bollman were absent.
The start time for high school was a question from Chair Ekstrom. Is staff and administration taking a look at a later high school day?
High School Principal Coleman McDonough said it’s on the radar, and ideally researchers say high school kids would start their day around 8:30 (it is 7:35 a.m. now in North Branch) but transportation is a major factor. Supt. Henton described the extra routes needed and their costs as “incredible.”
McDonough and Director of Learning David Treichel have been working on high school redesign, with staff, for about 18 months.
The idea is to review scheduling, grading and optional “flex” time opportunities and what effects any change will have.
The high school implemented a version of flex time as “honor hour” for this year, with 40 students participating. McDonough said he’d like to see every student get to the place where this pilot program can be a school wide option.