PR schools enhancing learning
By Anna Erickson
Park Rapids Area Schools are announcing several program enhancements for the 2014-15 school year.
“This is all going into our budget plan and what we’re looking at what we need to do to close the achievement gap, make sure our children are kinder-ready,” said Park Rapids Superintendent Lance Bagstad. “We want them to read well by third grade and beyond that increase graduation rates across the board.”
Head Start director Margaret Aho said that due to federal cuts last year, fewer students were able to be served. There is a waiting list and a proposal for additional classes will help serve that need, she said.“We’re working with the preschool piece and Head Start and utilizing our staff, rooms and facility and making sure the transportation piece falls in. We don’t want anybody school readiness-wise on a waiting list.”After surveying parents and gathering feedback, it was decided to add two full days of School Readiness classes. These classes will serve 16 children ages 3-4.“We’re working hard to maximize our resources in that area to ensure we have kids in the program,” he said. “In order to get them ready for kindergarten we need to get them here.”The total number of preschool kids served through Park Rapids will increase from 136 to 152.Head Start is also in the process of purchasing a new bus and working to provide more transportation for students.An additional kindergarten teacher will be added to decrease class sizes in that grade.“In those years we want to ensure that those experiences are the best they possibly can be as they move on to first, second grade and reading well by third grade,” Bagstad said.Kindergarten teachers Nicole Brandt and Kim Lempola have been communicating with preschool providers so kids will all have the skills that are expected when they enter kindergarten.“We’re looking to reduce class sizes for our youngest Panthers and need to raise the expectations,” Brandt said.In the past, Park Rapids has been conservative when looking at kindergarten and adding a teacher if the numbers come in at a certain place, he said.“This year we’re committing to add an additional teacher. We’re committing to those students that we’re going to have the sections available so we’re not questioning if there will be large class sizes,” Bagstad said.Kindergarten Round-up is Friday, April 4 and will have some new features.Another teacher is also being added to fourth grade due to a large class of third graders moving up. That class has six sections.At the high school, the Alternative Learning Center programming is being enhanced.“We’re definitely focusing our energy and taking it one step further from last year,” Bagstad said. “Last year we went through the ALC program approved for during the day. We’ve already had programming at night.”Principal Jeff Johnson said they are looking outside the box to expand programming for the ALC.Lisa Coborn has been working on the programming and said other programs around the state maintain communication with students by going out to where they are or reaching them through social media.“We need to break down those barriers and do whatever needs to be done to keep those kids on track,” Coborn said.Johnson added that the school wants to reach out to the business community and build relationships with employers who hire students.“We’re looking at what we can do to pull in those non-traditional students into a program that will fit and work for them,” Bagstad said. “To sum it all up, we’re looking at how we can beef up our programs and prepare students for success at all levels.”