A certified nursing assistant program at the high school and 1,800 new iPads are among the changes students will notice when they return to the Belle Plaine Public Schools next week for the 2018-19 academic year.
The district welcomed 17 new teachers and staff members on Aug. 20; new and returning teachers reported to school on Aug. 21 for a week of professional development. Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled today (Aug. 29) for grades 7-12; those students start school Sept. 4. Parent-teacher conferences for K-6 students are set for Sept. 4-5, and those students begin school Sept. 6.
Belle Plaine Public Schools Superintendent Ryan Laager said he’s especially excited this year about the new CNA program at the high school, operated in partnership with the Lutheran Home Association. It will provide students with 35 hours of online instruction, 24 hours in a skills lab, 16 clinical hours, and the chance to take the state exam.
Laager said the program follows the recent success of the district’s partnership with Cambria, which hired two students who were learning computer-aided design at the high school.
“We’ve been actively seeking these opportunities for the last couple of years to move outside the walls of the school building,” he said. “Finding kids’ passions and unlocking them and helping them develop those skills over time — it’s what we should be doing, preparing kids for the world they’re going into.”
Margot Hansen, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said nine students have enrolled in the CNA program; half will take it in the fall and half in the spring.
“Our students will be doing online work here at school during the day—thirty-five hours of class work—and they will do their skills lab and clinicals with an RN at the Lutheran Home. It’s been a cool experience to be able to partner with them, and they are helping with the cost,” Hansen said.
Another exciting development this year, Laager said, is the introduction of 1,800 new standard-sized iPads, which replaced the district’s previous iPad minis.
“We signed another four-year lease with the full-sized iPads, and we saved a significant amount of money going with the big ones,” he said. “This will help us continue to build and develop the technology we have in the district, and give teachers the ability to individualize and personalize learning in ways we haven’t been able to do otherwise.”
The district spent $266,613.37 per year to lease the iPad minis for four years. The cost of leasing the standard-size iPads is $151,975.75 per year for four years.
Because teachers and students are used to the iPads now, Hansen said, teachers are encouraged to move beyond the basic implementation of technology.
“It’s not just a substitution of paper and pencil – what else can we do with these things? There are a lot of features on the new devices that we haven’t had access to. All of it is exciting, and it’s fun to see how much further, in terms of creativity and innovation, our teachers can push things,” she said.
The district has a new web filtering system called Securely that will update parents regularly via email on their children’s online activity while at school and at home. Because the system flags concerning activity, such as phrases that may indicate self-harm or bullying, Hansen said it can provide parents with great conversation starters.
“We are excited to see how that works, she said. “We’ve heard good things about it from other districts. Parents appreciate that extra layer of security.”
Projected student enrollment for 2018-19 is 1,610, down slightly from last year’s 1,614 and 1,620 in 2016-17. Laager said enrollment ebbs and flows, but he’s encouraged by the district’s high capture rate, which means of all the students who live in the attendance area, 86.3 percent attend the Belle Plaine Public Schools. This capture rate is nearly tied with Jordan’s 86.6 percent, and is the second-highest of seven comparable districts.
“There are kids who leave every district in Minnesota, and we keep more than most do,” he said.
When it comes to overall class size, Belle Plaine ranks fourth out of 35 districts in the seven-county area. Average class size per grade in Belle Plaine for 2018-19 is as follows:
• Kindergarten 19.17, first grade 22, second grade 20.83, third grade 26.5, fourth grade 25, fifth grade 24.75, sixth grade 22.6.
• Grades 7-12 (numbers are for average core class sizes) seventh grade 25, eighth grade 29.75, ninth grade 32.25, tenth grade 33.75, eleventh grade 26.25, and twelfth grade 28.25.
Laager said the mental health of students continues to be a challenge faced by schools. The district added a mental health counselor at the secondary level this year and hopes to develop and implement a plan by next fall for supporting mental health as part of a daily school routine.
District’s new teach- ers and staff members
• Dani Allen, first grade, Chatfield. Since graduating in 2017, Allen has held several long-term substitute positions.
• Dawn Alto, art teacher, Oak Crest. Alto has 15 years experience. She’s worked in mainstream 7-12 art classroom environments, as well as a combined 1-3 classroom and a 7-12 combined classroom with a uniquely diverse student population.
• Kristin Carlson, first grade math and second grade reading and math, Chatfield. Carlson previously taught K-2 Enrichment and fourth grade. She’s also been a long-term substitute in other districts.
• Nikki Golio, third grade, Oak Crest. Golio taught for three years in the Eastern Carver County School District.
• Cayla Menke, early childhood special education. Menke has worked in the Belle Plaine Schools’ Title I program and as a Reading Corp tutor. She has taught grades 5-6 and preschool.
• Jacqueline Miller, speech/language pathologist, Oak Crest. Miller is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and will graduate with a master’s degree. She had numerous intern experiences in school, clinic and rehabilitation settings.
• Stacy Olson, behavior interventionist at Chatfield and Oak Crest. Olson is a school social worker with previous experience in Hutchinson and Richfield.
• Jana Vanthournout, first grade, Chatfield. She has previous experience with all K-6 levels and as an EL teacher.
• Cory Immerman, high school math. Immerman previously taught at TCU and New Prague. He will assist with the football program.
• Maija Johnson, high school social studies. Johnson did her student teaching in Irondale and has been a substitute teacher for the last couple of years. She will have a role in the speech program.
• Kallen Knott, counselor. Knott spent last year in the Mankato school system. In this new position, she will address students’ mental health needs.
• Brian Kotila, 5-12 band. Kotila led the band program for several years at Mankato Loyola. He will lead all the bands in the Belle Plaine district.
•McCall Lemmons, high school special education. Lemmons spent one year at Harding High School and last year in Arizona.
• Brittany Olson, high school English. Olson spent the past few years at a small school near Minot, N.D., and her family was looking to return to the Belle Plaine area.
• Sara Olson, high school English. Olson has worked in Medford for the past few years. She is a graduate of Belle Plaine High School.
• Heather Stewart, high school science. Stewart brings many years of experience to Belle Plaine; she spent most of those years in Kansas and last year worked in the Mankato school system.
• Anna Walters, guidance counselor. Walters spent the past few years at MACCRAY High School. She will provide students with college and career counseling.