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School district considers Transitional Kindergarten approach

The kindergarten teaching team at Century Elementary presented the Park Rapids Area School Board with a new approach to help students with kindergarten readiness.

The presentation, called "A Step Ahead: Century Leads the Way in K," would involve a three-day Kindergarten Camp to replace the current Kindergarten Round-up. This camp would allow the kindergarten staff to connect with the children and parents, as a way to gain information about each child to help kindergarten and pre-k staff to create kindergarten sections.

Kindergarten teachers Nicole Brandt, Emilee Edelman, Ky DeBlieck, Jen Michaelson and Rebecca Penning shared program details with the school board. Not present at Monday's meeting was Kim Lembcke.

The current makeup of kindergarten is the state says all children that turn 5 before Sept. 1 are ready for kindergarten. The teachers are looking to provide different opportunities for the children who may not be ready for kindergarten. These are students who can become frustrated with learning due to being put at a level they are not ready for. These students may be referred to special education because of a learning gap.

The teachers are proposing Transitional Kindergarten for students identified in this area as an educational experience between preschool and kindergarten. The program would have an adapted curriculum and expectations that meet the student's level. It would include more time for things like social-emotional development, fine and gross motor skill development, language development and basic academic skill development.

There are currently three districts in the state openly offering Transitional Kindergarten, and the state does not provide funding for the program. The state's position is kindergarten must provide opportunity to move to first grade or it is not funded.

According to information presented to the board Monday, one of the current kindergarten sections could turn into Transitional Kindergarten for children not fully prepared for kindergarten and the number of students capped at 18. TK would have a curriculum created by staff using current standards that helps prepare students for kindergarten.

Kindergarten Camp would give staff the opportunity to assess students based on standards and identify those that may fit into the TK program. The camp would also allow parents extra time to prepare for kindergarten or TK.

The school does not receive state funding for 5-year-olds in preschool and the teachers feel the TK program could bridge the gap between preschool and kindergarten. Without state funding, cost to the district would be to fund one full-time teacher position.

The board will consider the information presented Monday and revisit the matter at a future meeting.

Enrollment report

The board was presented the monthly student enrollment report. K-12 enrollment in the district as of Jan. 12 is 1,550 which is the same number as first day enrollment.

Total enrollment including Pre-K, Early Childhood, and High School ALC is 1,661.

Century Elementary grades K-4 reports enrollment of 629. This is up seven students from the September report of 622. The largest elementary class is grade 4 with 139 students in six sections, and the smallest class is third with 198 students.

Century Middle School grades 5-8 enrollment is 473, down seven students from September. Sixth grade currently has the largest class with 144 students, and the fewest is in eighth grade with 96 students.

High School grades 9-12 enrollment is 448 with sophomores representing the largest class at 127 students. The smallest class is this year's juniors with 101 students.

Panther Tracks

The board approved the first reading of the Panther Tracks registration booklet. High School Principal, Jeff Johnson presented information the High School Best Practice Team continues to develop. The team will revise the new Panther Tracks curriculum and come back to the board for final approval.

Panther Tracks is a concept that gives students the opportunity to explore a variety of courses, some of which are mandated, but the goal is to provide all students the learning opportunities that motivate them. Panther Tracks consists of the following areas of study: Freshman Exploration; Engineering, Manufacturing, Natural Resources, Technology, and Ag; Health and Human Services; Business Management, Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

Other business

• Approved new hire Greg Worner, middle school industrial technologies position contingent upon MN licensure

• Approved new hire Ethan Fleisher, part time community education para for Century Adventures

• Approved Cathrine Vicknair, middle school special education long-term sub through the end of the school year