An elementary school boundary review process has been in the works this month in the Alexandria School District to tackle increasing class sizes, which have hit capacity at all six elementary schools.

A 25-member boundary study task force, made up of staff members, parents and district residents, has been working to recommend boundary adjustments for the coming school year. Reducing class sizes was one component of a voter-approved operating levy that passed in November.

Its recommendations, which are expected to affect about 2% of students, were given a first approval by the Alexandria School Board at its Monday, Jan. 27 meeting.

Families affected by changes to the district boundaries will be contacted individually first, said human resources director Scott Heckert. The board is set to make a final approval at the February board meeting. After the February meeting, the changed boundaries will be public.

Woodland Elementary School would be turned into a four-section school, meaning there would be four classrooms and teachers per grade level. Right now, Woodland, Voyager and Lincoln elementary schools are mostly three-section schools.

The additional classrooms at Woodland would be created in the second-floor area currently being used for district offices and Community Education. That would increase enrollment at Woodland, and decrease enrollment at Lincoln and Voyager elementaries.

The four additional classrooms would make for one complete grade level in that space. Special education services would also be located in the former district office space.

One exception to the boundary changes will be made. Current fourth graders would be able to finish next school year as a fifth grader in their elementary school, Heckert said.

Younger siblings at the same school would move to the new school per the boundary changes and parents could decide to move the fourth grader. Waiting lists will be available for families with students who did not get into their preferred school.

Targeted class sizes will be in the 20-23 range in grades K-2 and 23-26 in grades 3-5, Heckert said. “It’s not always 100% possible given all the variables, but know that everybody is making all efforts to try to get to that number,” he said.

Open-enrolled students should be assigned to schools according to space available, if class sizes meet the target class size.

The Budget/Facilities Committee, along with Dan Miller of JLG Architects, reviewed proposed floor plans for the district office remodeling, which will accommodate fifth grade and additional programming for Woodland School. The board was comfortable with the floor plan and timeline as proposed, and approved the renovations that are expected to begin in late spring or early summer.

Enrollment will be monitored so staff can be efficient at elementary schools, and any future growth should be allowed based on these plans, Heckert said.

Heckert said district staff is considering reviewing attendance boundaries every 3-5 years, instead of its current 4-5 year study, because the district’s population is growing. This would allow staff to make small changes in boundaries if needed, instead of larger changes.

By converting the second floor of Woodland into classroom space, the school board is considering options for a new home for the district office (Jan. 29 Echo Press).

In other matters

  • Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the 2019-2020 strategic plan is turning out well. Steps are being taken to decrease racial and economic achievement gaps, and students are receiving preparation for college or their career.

  • The school board approved application submission for the following grants: a $24,500 USDA National School Lunch Program Equipment Competitive Grant to purchase a combi oven for Discovery Middle School; the PMMI/Aagard Group for $4,507 ($2,250 each) to support the purchase of a CNC machine at AAHS; the Forada Lions Club for $1,500 to purchase food and personal items for AAHS students in need; and the MN Department of Education for an amount to be determined by MDE to allow additional income-eligible students to attend preschool programming at no cost to families or the district.

  • Alexandria Public Schools received a total of $11,300 from PMMI and Aagard for the robotics program to purchase a computer, mini lathe, a 3D printer, assorted tools and to help pay registration fees. The Early Education Center also received an $18,632 grant from the Children’s Mental Health Collaborative to support children’s mental health through TCIT.

  • The board approved Alexandria Shooting Park as the independent provider for the clay target program for the 2019-2020 school year.

  • Discovery Middle School will add 8th Grade Exploring Music and Digital Art and Photography to its curriculum for the 2020-2021 school year.

  • Ann Logan, secretary for the Food and Nutrition Service, is retiring in April after 30 years in the district. Bev Lorentz, a cook for FNS, retired in December after five years in the district.

Honors and awards recognized

  • Eighth grader Carter Lundsten won the Discovery Middle School geography bee.

  • Chris Kragenbring and Heather Netland gave a presentation at the College for Every Student Brilliant Pathways National Conference in Bolton Landing, New York. They shared their knowledge of integrating core practices into classrooms and how to use essential skills to support the social emotional learning needs of students and school communities with attendees of this national professional development conference.

  • Juniors Aubrey Kosters and Christian Fleming were selected to represent the high school for the Minnesota State High School League Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Award. This award is given to students who are active in school activities, show leadership qualities and work voluntarily in their community.

  • Seniors Amanda Bittmann and Josh Kietzmann were chosen to represent the high school in the Academics, Arts and Athletics Award program. They will advance to section competition and will be honored at the Section Triple A Recognition banquet at Cragun’s Resort on March 8.

  • 1943 Alexandria graduate Hal Haskins was inducted into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first Minnesotan to score 1,000 points as he led Alexandria to a runner-up finish in the state tournament. He went on to become an All-American at Hamline University.

  • At the District Spelling Bee, the elementary champions were: Jaeger Running in first grade at Woodland Elementary, PJ Vanderheiden in second grade at Voyager Elementary, Adley Lorentz in third grade at Voyager Elementary, Aaron Lenarz in fourth grade at Woodland Elementary and Hannah Hoff in fifth grade at Voyager Elementary. The middle school champion is eighth grader Josie Hochsprung, who advances to the Regional Spelling Bee in February.