After helping to lead Minnesota into online physical education courses almost 10 years ago, Minneapolis high schools are adding a wrinkle that automatically records a student’s activity.

Ten online PE students donned Movband step-tracking wristbands this fall in a pilot test aimed at automatic recording of their activity. When the second semester begins this month, at least 200 are expected to wear the $35 bands to make sure they meet the course’s requirement for physical movement.

Students in the pilot liked that the bands take care of record-keeping. “It’s a heck of a lot easier than entering [data] in every single day and hoping that they qualify,” said Washburn junior Noah Solfest.

To qualify, students must do at least 15,000 recorded moves, the equivalent of more than half an hour of activity; 30 such days are required per quarter.

The advantage for a student like Solfest is that activities ranging from pickup football to shoveling snow to rehearsing for the school musical can count. Shoveling heavy snow can add as many as 6,000 moves, Solfest said.

The bands can also influence behavior. Some days, for example, Solfest has walked the two miles home from Washburn to meet his activity quota.

Online physical education includes a combination of exercise and computer-based study of healthy habits. It allowed Solfest to preserve time in his school calendar to take French and another elective.

Freeing up time in the schedule is one reason that a number of Minnesota districts have turned to online phys ed. Goodrich said state education officials have told him that tens of thousands of students have taken gym using the Minneapolis approach.

Steve Brandt

Two St. Paul schools to get new leaders

A pair of creative St. Paul schools will have new leadership in 2014-15.

The school district has tapped Dave Gundale to lead Open World Learning Community (OWL) when it moves to the former Humboldt Middle School on the city’s West Side.

OWL made history as the district’s first magnet school and has thrived with a new focus on expeditionary learning — a change brought about by a forced restructuring. The grades 6-12 school emphasizes hands-on learning and has seen students take expeditions to the Mississippi River or the Science Museum of Minnesota.

In recent years, OWL has shared a downtown site with Creative Arts High School, but administrators determined that the site was too small for both.

Gundale was assistant principal for OWL and Creative Arts. Valerie Littles-Butler, current principal of both, will remain as principal at Creative Arts.

Meanwhile, Great River School, a grades 1-12 Montessori charter school, is preparing for change after head of school Christina Beck and Montessori director Ben Moudry announced they would be moving on.

Moudry, one of the school’s founders, has accepted the position of head of school at the Grove School in Redlands, Calif. Beck told families in a letter last week that she and her husband will return this summer to community farm life at a nonprofit farm in the St. Croix Valley in Wisconsin.

The school started with grades 7-10 in 2004-05 and expanded to 1-12 in 2012-13.

Anthony Lonetree