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New four-period school schedule moves ahead

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On Monday, Alexandria School District 206 took another step forward to launch its Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) learning academies.

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During its November 18 meeting, the school board approved a new four-period block schedule to begin next fall when AAHS is scheduled to open and begin its academies learning model.

ACADEMIES OF ALEXANDRIA

Now formally named, “Academies of Alexandria,” the learning academies model is designed to prepare all students for college and career — those who will be pursuing higher education after high school, as well as those who may enter the workforce after graduation.

The academies include core curriculum classes that are required for graduation, but the classes are infused with an academy theme. The district is boasting that the academies will provide things like smaller, personalized learning environments for all students, project-based, interdisciplinary learning and connections with business and community partners.

Students will be asked to choose from four academies:

● Freshman Exploration (all 9th graders will be required to begin here)

● Engineering, Manufacturing Technologies and Natural Resources

● Health Sciences and Human Services

● Business, Communication and Entrepreneurship

NEW BLOCK SCHEDULE

The new schedule at the high school will be a four-period, alternating block schedule. Students will alternate between “A Day” and “B Day.”

For example, “A Day” would include English first period, social studies second period, an elective for third and fourth period; and “B Day” would include science, math, an elective and study hall. An example is included with this article.

That means each school day will include four, 90-minute classes beginning next fall.

Currently, the high school schedule is made up of six, 55-minute classes.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

There will be a financial impact with the new four-period schedule.

During Monday’s school board meeting, School District Business Manager Trevor Peterson reviewed a budget totaling the cost to the district.

He reported to the school board that switching to four periods will require an additional 1.95 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers and three additional paraprofessionals, which would cost the district about $138,500.

To cover that cost and make the schedule switch “budget neutral” for the district, Peterson reported that 21 additional students would need to enroll in District 206.

Those 21 students would bring in about $6,600 in general education aid per student, reportedly covering the district’s projected schedule switch cost.

During Monday’s meeting, board member Dave Anderson said he supports the four-period schedule, but expressed concern about the costs associated with the new schedule.

School board member Jean Robley also echoed Anderson’s financial concerns, but said it would be best to proceed with approving the new schedule to keep the academies’ timeline and planning on track.

The board approved the schedule switch with a 5-0 vote; board members Pam Carlson and Alan Zeithamer did not attend Monday’s meeting.

PLANNING UNDER WAY

While the district works on marketing its Academies of Alexandria to the community, local business partners and students, district officials like Julie Critz, director of learning and teaching for District 206, are moving forward with planning.

The school board’s approval of the new block schedule on Monday means the academies program development kicks into high gear.

The academies implementation team will tackle things like creating a plan for each graduating class, identifying new courses for each academy, preparing information for the registration manual, and the district’s Curriculum Advisory Council reviewing and approving academy programs and courses.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz
(320) 763-1242
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