Planning is well underway for new grade spans (PreK/K-5; 6-8; 9-12) that will be implemented beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
Changing grade spans offers new opportunities to meet the developmental and academic needs of 6th graders and 9th graders. It will also help relieve space pressures at the elementary level, particularly related to the expansion of all-day kindergarten for all students.
In order to accommodate 9th graders at the high school level, space will be created at each of the three comprehensive high schools through building additions and remodeling/repurposing of existing space.
In the long term, the new grade configuration will provide benefits to students at all levels (e.g., potential expansion of early learning opportunities; more flexibility with space at elementary schools; new opportunities to meet the social/academic needs of adolescents at middle level; a more coherent high school program with all courses required for graduation under one roof; and alignment with state K-12 academic standards). Moving to the new grade spans will help our schools ensure high levels of achievement for all students.
On May 6, 2014, the school board provided direction on the Project Initiation Plan, which provides a high-level view of the project. Since the plan is a dynamic document, it will be updated as the process progresses. The plan is based on the Cornell Project Management Methodology.
A Grade Configuration Steering Committee is now meeting monthly to advise Superintendent Kate Maguire and Assistant Superintendent (and Project Manager) Kim Riesgraf on the work to implement the new grade spans.
In addition to seeking advice from the steering committee, project leaders will gather perspectives from other stakeholders through focus groups. Project teams will tackle the planning and implementation details in six main areas:
- High School Programming
- Middle School Design
- School and Department Transition Planning
Updates as of June 19, 2014
High School Programming
The high school programming project team is in the early stages of considering high school programming that is aligned with Minnesota’s new World’s Best Work Force requirements. The team will be looking at curriculum areas, student services, and specialty programs such as International Baccalaureate, with an eye to how high school programming will look when grades 9-12 are all under one roof.
Middle School Design
The middle school design team has met several times and has made two key recommendations that have been approved by district administration.
Our middle school model will:
- Use interdisciplinary teams for instruction in math, science, social studies, and language arts (“house” concept) and
- Incorporate a daily advisory with structured curriculum around college/career planning, social/emotional learning, and academic oversight.
The facilities team has identified tentative locations for building additions and space remodeling/repurposing at each of the three comprehensive high schools. Because the buildings were built at different times over a 50-year period and are used differently, the proposed additions and remodeling/repurposing projects are uniquely designed to meet the specific needs at each school.
The technology project team will identify any changes that may be needed to the technology infrastructure, paying special attention to impact at the high school level due to the increased number of students (addition of 9th grade) in high school buildings. The team will also ensure that technology supports instructional design.
School and Department Transition Planning
Every school and department will pay careful attention to student and staff transitions, particularly for those affected by the move of 6th grade to middle school and 9th grade to high school. Each school and department will develop a school- or department-specific plan for how it will help ensure a smooth transition to the new grade spans.
The staffing project team aims to do as much work as possible early on in the process so that staff will know as soon as possible where they’ll be assigned beginning Fall 2015 and what work, if any, they need to do to update their licensures or endorsements.
The team is identifying challenges and opportunities that may need to be addressed in two key areas:
- Transfer process for staff and
- Teacher licensing.
You can stay informed about planning by watching the reports at each regular school board meeting and checking this website.