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Megan Smith, a junior, held up a sign greeting new students as they arrived for freshman orientation at Visitation High School in Mendota Heights last Wednesday.

Anna Reed, Star Tribune

Freshmen Marlo Torrence, right, and Lily Chemo compared schedules during freshman orientation at Prior Lake High School in Savage on Aug. 20.

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Significant changes happening in south metro schools

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER
  • Star Tribune
  • August 27, 2013 - 2:08 PM

From adding an extra period to help struggling students to providing better ways for parents to access student information online, schools across the south metro are making significant changes this year. One trend across Minnesota is that high schools are providing more chances for students to earn college credit, through various kinds of coursework and partnerships with colleges. Did your school update its classrooms this summer? Make room for a cyber cafe? Hire a new principal? Add a course in Chinese? Turn to page AA4 to find out.

Academic Arts

Principal: Jane Davin

Expected enrollment: 85 (9-12)

 

“We had a number of cool things that happened this year,” said Jane Davin, director at Academic Arts High School in West St. Paul for seven years. For starters, students will return to a renovated school with about 30 percent more square footage. The space includes five new classrooms and a performance and recording studio.

There’s also “a new science lab and a new science teacher to go with it,” she said. The space is better suited for the school’s project-based learning and environmental focus.

 

Apple Valley

Principal: Steve Degenaar

Expected enrollment: 1,606

 

From floor to ceiling, students will see a few physical improvements. New carpet was installed in 30 classrooms and some hallway areas, and new ceiling tile and lights are in 15 classrooms and a hallway.

The school purchased 60 Chromebooks for student use and added eight new desktop computers for use by the yearbook class. The business department also added 65 computers.

 

Arcadia Charter School

Principal: Ryan Krominga

Expected enrollment: 124 (6-12)

 

The Northfield School of Arts and Technology (ARTech) has changed its name to Arcadia Charter School. The middle and high school, now in its 11th year, will hold a 10-year anniversary celebration on Friday, Oct. 4, according to Principal Ryan Krominga.

 

Belle Plaine

Principal: Dave Kreft

Expected enrollment: 500 (9-12)

 

Students in grades 7-12 will now have “intervention time” built into their weekly schedule one day a week. During this time, students missing work can make it up or teachers can check in with struggling students. The period will operate like a homeroom class.

“We know how busy the kids are, especially at the high school level, so finding time to come in before or after school is a challenge,” Kreft said. As the year goes on, Kreft said the staff will add more enrichment activities during the period for students who have their work completed.

Also, all teachers in Belle Plaine “will have iPads in hand” this fall, Kreft said.

 

Burnsville

Principal: Dave Helke

Expected enrollment: 2,144

 

Burnsville High School students will return to new digs, including a remodeled commons and cafeteria, as part of a three-year project to bring the school’s aesthetic into the 21st century, said Principal Dave Helke.

The school will debut Check and Connect, a program to support students struggling with attendance and academic issues. The program assigns an adult on staff to check in regularly with their student as part of an “intense, wraparound intervention,” Helke said.

Burnsville has expanded the number classes offered in partnership with community colleges for college credit. Six new courses will be options for juniors and seniors, including two sections of a social science class and two sections of English through Inver Hills Community College. A business class is offered through Normandale Community College and a construction trades course is available through Ridgewater College. Adding the classes was an “attempt to give students in the academic middle more opportunities to experience college,” Helke said.

 

Cannon Falls

Principal: Tim Hodges

Expected enrollment: 386 (9-12)

 

Students in grades 6-12 and their parents will be working with a new student information system, Infinite Campus, which lets them track grades, attendance, behavior information like office referrals and lunch fees all in one place.

The high school is part of a new cohort of schools using Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a Department of Education program that not only teaches kids explicitly about expectations, but rewards them for good behavior, too. Last year, the school did a few PBIS trials and “saw a great positive response from kids,” Hodges said.

 

Convent of the Visitation

Principal: Dawn Nichols

Expected enrollment: 401 (7-12)

 

The Mendota Heights-based private girls’ school is in the middle of a major construction project, called the Heart of the School, to be finished in March. With 12,000 new square feet and 3,000 refurbished square feet, the addition will include an updated library, new classrooms and gathering spaces and a new entrance. Another part of the project was the 4,000-square-foot STEM center, completed last spring, which will also be used for arts activities.

This year is the second in Visitation’s 1:1 laptop initiative, with freshmen receiving them this fall. Sophomores received them last year.

Visitation is also starting the Visitation Leadership Institute, which will bring together all of its leadership programs under one umbrella. For the first time, a women’s studies course called Women and Society will be offered through the Institute.

 

Eagan

Principal: Polly Reikowski

Estimated enrollment: 2,020

 

At Eagan High School, students, parents and staff will notice the updated parking lot and busing area when they first drive into school. The changes were made to make the area safer, said Principal Polly Reikowski.

This year is the first that Eagan will offer AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) to 9th graders only. About 25 students are in the program.

Finally, four new teachers will join the staff, including two math teachers, a German teacher and a special-education teacher. The teachers will meet an entering class of 485 freshman — a smaller number than in recent years. Last year’s graduating class numbered 584.

 

Eastview

Principal: Randall Peterson

Expected enrollment: 2,150

 

This year, the STEM program at Eastview will have a bit of a new structure, according to Principal Randall Peterson. The classes will now be taught by math teachers and have algebra, geometry and physics principles embedded in them.

In addition, the high school will have six intervention days built in, instead of last year’s eight days. Because the school has “cranked up expectations” in the past few years, Peterson said that these days are necessary to support students and get them caught up. Six days seems to be the most the school can incorporate without disrupting things too much, he said.

 

Farmington

Principal: Ben Kusch

Expected enrollment: 1,891

 

After the district’s designation as an Innovation Zone last year and expansion of technology integration over the past few years, Farmington High School Principal Ben Kusch said the school has “enough that was new last year to tide us over for a little bit.”

The school will expand and tweak its hybrid and flipped classes, Kusch said. Two existing classes that earn students college credit added another section — an Introduction to Global Geography class through St. Cloud State University and a College in the Schools calculus class through the University of Minnesota.

Farmington now has a “spirit rock,” a five-ton boulder located near the east entrance. Student groups will paint the rock to promote upcoming events and school pride. The rock was purchased by the FHS Youth Development Committee.

The high school is in the process of hiring a new athletic and activities director and should finalize the decision this week.

 

Hastings

Principal: Mike Johnson

Expected enrollment: 1,500

 

The high school will be implementing a new Peer Helpers program this year for students in grades 9-12. The program will train between 20 and 24 students to counsel their peers about issues ranging from mental health to friends and family concerns. Principal Mike Johnson said that when students were asked with whom they wanted to discuss their problems, they often said they wanted to talk to another student their age. This is a way to “train them to be good listeners and good advocates,” Johnson said. They will also learn when they must involve an adult.

Last year, three of the high school’s students died, two from suicides and one in a car accident. The program is a way to take something positive from the losses, Johnson said. Students will be selected by teachers and have a range of backgrounds and interests.

Hastings will also add a new class in computer programming and video game design this year, offered through the IT department. “There are some schools that are trying to get away from [teaching] programming, but we want to add it,” said Johnson. Three sections will be offered, with 75 students enrolled. The class will teach concepts of artificial intelligence, game theory, programming, graphics and networking.

 

Henry Sibley

Principal: Ryan Redetzke

Expected enrollment: 1,400

 

Principal Ryan Redetzke will be a new face at Henry Sibley High School this year. Previously, Redetzke served as assistant principal of Faribault High School.

Sibley will add a new class of freshmen students enrolled in AVID, now in its second year. The school is in the planning stages of implementing more opportunities to earn college credit through an Inver Hills Community College partnership, which would begin 2014.

 

Jordan

Principal: Barb McNulty

Expected enrollment: 580

 

The district will have some new faces at the top this year, according to Jordan High School Principal Barb McNulty. New Superintendent Matthew Helgerson started on July 1, and the district hired a new special education director, Chad Williams. Williams’ time is split between the Belle Plaine district and Jordan.

The high school will have four new honors courses this fall, including 9th- and 10th-grade English, a 9th-grade civics class and a 10th-grade American history class. With the addition of several College in the Schools classes in recent years, students needed to be prepared for them, said McNulty.

Students can now take an Advanced Welding class. There’s also a Child Development II course that offers college credit through agreements with both Hennepin Technical College and St. Paul College.

Juniors will be given the ASVAB test this year, an inventory used to determine career interests. Parents requested the additional assessment.

 

Lakeville North

Principal: Marne Berkvam

Expected enrollment: 1,800

 

Lakeville North is creating a new business academy which will allow sophomores through seniors to explore the business world through specific coursework. Classes will focus on topics like accounting, entrepreneurship and retail merchandising. As seniors, students will have internships.

The academy will be housed in an updated space, with a computer lab, classrooms and presentation area. The program is full, with at least 100 students enrolled, said Principal Marne Berkvam. The district created the academy because business is an area of career interest for so many students.

The district is phasing in a full-fledged recycling program, which Lakeville North will start this fall. The program will include recycling food waste, as well as paper, plastic and aluminum.

The marching band was selected to play at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 1. The band’s 244 members are already practicing in preparation for the festivities.

Students will notice new carpet in classrooms throughout the school, which replaces 20-year-old carpet.

The school will add a cyber cafe in partnership with Starbucks this fall, with Starbucks donating coffee and coffee pots. By removing some lockers, the school made room for the cafe, installing pennant lights, comfortable seating and outlets nearby so students can plug in electronic devices. The cafe will have a limited menu of regular coffee, decaf and tea, Berkvam said, noting that many students were already bringing caffeinated drinks to school in the morning. Special education students will run the shop.

 

Lakeville South

Principal: Scott Douglas

Expected enrollment: 1,866

 

Beginning this fall, Lakeville South is phasing in its new STEM academy by offering two new classes, with two sections of each. A Technology, Engineering, Science course will examine electromagnetic radiation as related to digital electronics, and Engineering Your Future will address the fundamentals of engineering, including robotics, prosthetics and environmental engineering.

Principal Scott Douglas said the school will add an academic seminar class every Tuesday for 45 minutes. The class is designed so students who need help can get it, and to encourage them to take responsibility for their learning, he said. The other students will participate in enrichment activities or have study time.

The structure of parent-teacher conferences will change this year. Teachers will be required to call home in the late afternoon or evening every three weeks to inform parents of missing work or low grades. By the time conferences roll around, it’s often too late for students to catch up, Douglas said. Teachers’ time will be reconfigured so that they’re paid to make the calls.

The school will offer a health class that’s totally online, as will Lakeville North, he said.

Douglas added that the district was recently approved to provide an online K-12 school, called LinK12 Lakeville, available to students anywhere in Minnesota. “What we really want to do is be a magnet to the students who want to learn digitally or online and provide that service 24/7,” he said.

 

New Prague

Principal: Lonnie Seifert

Expected enrollment: 1,225

 

Two new administrators will start off the year at New Prague High School. Principal Lonnie Seifert was the assistant principal at New Prague for seven years before taking his current post. Assistant principal Erik Garnass was previously assistant principal at the middle school for two years and a math teacher in the district before that.

The school will add College Chemistry in partnership with Southwest State University to its selection of classes that earn students college credit.

The high school will also pilot a new, hands-on class this year in collaboration with Mayo Clinic. Students will spend a period per day at the clinic, rotating through various career areas and learning about them.

Students will now have an intervention time built into the schedule for 45 minutes Wednesday mornings to both allow collaboration among teachers and so students can get extra help or enrichment as needed.

 

Northfield

Principal: Joel Leer

Expected enrollment: 1,250

 

The biggest change at Northfield is that all students in grades 6-12 will receive iPads, said Principal Joel Leer. Teachers will integrate iPads into curriculum in stages over the next four years. Two or three of each student’s textbooks will already be in electronic form this year.

To modernize the “borderline prisonlike” lunchroom, aesthetic changes have been made to the food serving and cafeteria areas, Leer said.

 

Prior Lake

Principal: Dave Lund

Expected enrollment: 2,400

 

School will start a week early this year in the Prior Lake district so it can end early, too, giving them extra construction time next summer. The extra week is necessary because the high school will break ground on a 35,000-square-foot addition by early October. The new space will have nine classrooms, six science labs and three smaller rooms, which will ease the school’s current overcrowding, said Principal Dave Lund. The project will be completed by fall 2014.

The high school will welcome new Assistant Principal Joe Kuboushek this year, previously dean of students at the high school and the middle school.

The district will begin participating in Quality Compensation (Q Comp), a voluntary Minnesota Department of Education program that pays teachers for improving student achievement and provides staff development opportunities. Q Comp provides the district with additional funds to hire teachers to mentor other teachers, among other things.

Teachers will receive 500 iPads this fall and 1,000 iPads on carts will be provided for student use. Next year, every student will receive their own iPad, beginning in 8th grade.

 

Randolph

Principal: Ben Fisher

Expected enrollment: 250 (7-12)

 

All students in grades 7-12 will receive training in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) this fall through the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program. The initiative is in conjunction with Northfield Ambulance Services.

The school will install a sound and lighting system in the south gym to improve school plays, concerts and other performances.

A science teacher at the high school will be teaching a class using LearnPads, an iPad-like tablet, in combination with the traditional curriculum. Other teachers also use the devices with classes, said Principal Ben Fisher.

 

Rosemount

Principal: John Wollersheim

Expected enrollment: 1,993

 

The high school will debut two new STEM-oriented classes this year, both at levels above the AP courses already offered in those subjects. The first is a high-level Linear Algebra class, taught by a retired Rosemount teacher. The class will supplement the Multivariable Calculus class, which began last year. Also, an English teacher at Rosemount will teach a course in Advanced Computer Science. As part of a partnership with the high school, Inver Hills Community College will offer college credit for both classes.

Two upper-level Mandarin courses are being phased in this year. One is a level-four course and a second is a College in the Schools course offering credit at the University of Minnesota.

This is Rosemount’s first year of participation in AVID. The program is offered as an elective and open to freshmen.

The LADR (Leading and Developing Readiness) program is in its second year, thanks to another Inver Hills partnership. This will be the first year juniors will earn college credit for English classes. As 9th and 10th-graders, a group of students in the academic middle will take classes with an emphasis on preparing them for college work. In 11th and 12th grade, they’ll take classes at the high school that will earn them college credit through enrollment at both institutions.

The marching band will be performing at the Tournament of Roses parade this Jan. 1 and has already started practicing.

School of Environmental Studies

Principal: Dan Bodette

Expected enrollment: 400

 

As part of the American Youth Leadership Program, a group of students from the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley will be partnering with a school in Costa Rica and taking a yearlong class on leadership and climate change. In the spring, 18 of those students will visit Costa Rica for three weeks and stay with students they worked with during the year. The program is funded through a University of Minnesota grant which requires that half of students on the trip have a disability, whether physical or related to learning or mental health. Students will receive two University of Minnesota credits if they complete class requirements.

The school will now offer an AP Psychology class.

 

Shakopee

Principal: Kim Swift

Expected enrollment: 1,500

 

Students in math and science classes at Shakopee High School this year will be using Chromebooks to integrate technology into the classroom. The Chromebooks will also function as electronic textbooks.

In addition to the district’s website updates, parents and students in grades 6-12 will be using a new student information system and parent portal.

Ninth-graders at the junior high can participate in the AVID program, which is new to the district.

And at this year’s homecoming football game on Oct. 4, seven high school alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their community or in their career will be inducted into the newly created Shakopee High School Hall of Fame.

The district filled two administrative roles with principals who already worked in the district at the end of last year. Dave Orlowsky, previously principal at the Pearson Sixth-Grade Center, serves as the district’s data and testing administrator, a newly created role. John-Paul Jacobson, principal at Shakopee East Junior High School last year, is now the district’s technology director.

 

Simley

Principal: Jerry Sakala

Expected enrollment: 1,150

 

Principal Jerry Sakala is excited to debut an elective class in EMT/EMR (emergency medical technician or emergency medical responder) certification, the first of its kind in the south metro.

In addition, “Our relationship with Inver Hills (Community College) is expanding exponentially,” Sakala said. This includes participating in the LADR (Leading and Developing Readiness) program for the second year, which is aimed at students in grades 10-12 who are in the middle academically. In the program, students earn college credit at Inver Hills because the high school classes they take are the same as classes there.

Last year, LADR language arts classes were offered. This year, math classes were added. Simley is now offering a pre-calculus and trigonometry class to juniors in two 25-student cohorts.

Sakala said taking college credits in high school ultimately will save students money because they have to pay for fewer credits later on. He estimated the partnerships have already saved Inver Grove Heights’ families $1.5 million.

 

South St. Paul

Principal: Butch Moening

Expected enrollment: 900 (9-12)

 

As they begin senior year, 19 South St. Paul students are on track to graduate with their high school diploma, an International Baccalaureate diploma and an A.A. degree from Inver Hills Community College, according to Principal Butch Moening. It’s the first time students have had this opportunity, and Moening isn’t aware of another Minnesota school that offers all three. The Inver Hills partnership began last year.

The two district elementary schools will be starting remodeling and addition projects this year, the result of a $26.7 million bond referendum passed by South St. Paul residents in May. Plans eventually call for a secondary-school addition to accommodate sixth-graders in 2015-16, but that project won’t begin this year.

The district will provide 800 Chromebooks to students this year, with juniors and seniors receiving their own devices.

The school will now offer Chinese classes, and tweak the six-period day slightly, with certain classes now offered every other day, all year, Moening said. Finally, the school has new carpet in some areas.

 

St. Croix Lutheran

Principal: Rick Gibson

Expected enrollment: 480 (6-12)

 

Principal Rick Gibson is thrilled that enrollment at the West St. Paul Christian school will be at an all-time high this year, which has happened for three consecutive years, he said.

The STEM program is expanding from middle school to the high school, using the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum. One class, intro to Engineering and Design, will be offered this year, and will provide University of Minnesota credits through the College in the Schools program. More classes will be added yearly. PLTW is a nationally known STEM curriculum for middle and high school students.

An AP U.S. History class will be offered, one of about 10 AP classes available.

The school will also debut a more accessible student information system and parent portal.

 

St. Thomas Academy

Principal: Thomas Mich

Expected enrollment: 650 (7-12)

 

St. Thomas Academy will be opening Vincent J. Flynn Hall this fall, its fourth campus building. The new building will have a fine arts suite with space for band, choir, ceramics, painting and woodwork activities, along with social studies and health classrooms. It will also house two gyms, a fitness center and wrestling room. Another building, Founders Hall, was remodeled, with updates to science labs.

The private Catholic boys’ school in Mendota Heights will offer three more AP classes, including French, Chinese and World History.

 

Tri-City United

Principal: Alan Fitterer

Expected enrollment: 500 (9-12)

 

Tri-City United High School, which serves Montgomery, Lonsdale and Le Center, has several changes in store this year. Students will now be able to take Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses, beginning with a 9th-grade Principles of Engineering class offered to 50 students in place of their general science course.

Advisor/advisee time will now take place after first hour for 15 minutes. After the middle of first quarter, students who don’t need extra help will have the chance to study, head to the gym or do other activities. Students can also take an “e-break” at this time.

Two more classrooms are being added to the west end of the building, with completion expected by early October and teachers moving in over MEA weekend.

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