District 197 Chalk Talk: Early Learning Expansion Introduced

The March 20 meeting of the District 197 School Board, in brief.

The  reviewed a plan to enroll an addition 213 students into the district's early education programs over the next two years. 

The goal is to increase enrollment from 17 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds to 39 percent, said Marcy Doud. The plan would make room for additional students by merging school readiness programs, including early childhood special education, with the community preschool program to make more efficient use of space and staff, and to create a more inclusive environment. Community preschool would be expanded to . The plan also incorporates early literacy specialists and coaches to improve intervention efforts.

  • The board gave a nod to a retirement incentive agreed upon between the human resources department and the teachers federation. The incentive provides a payment of $12,000 to retiring teachers at the end of this school year or the next, provided 15 teachers take the incentive, and $15,000 if 20 or more teachers take the incentive. If 15 teachers were to retire, the district could save almost $500,000 in the first year, according to Linda Goers, the human resources director. Savings come from filling those positions with less-senior teachers. Board chair Mark Spurr called it a "double-edge sword," because while the district would save money, they would also lose expertise.
  • principal Robin Percival and architect Paul Youngquist gave the board a tour of the third floor of the school's Interactive Media Center (IMC), which Percival wants to turn into a "Post-Secondary Success Center" with a career center and space for individual and collaborative learning. Funds for construction would come from a wireless project at Friendly Hills Middle School and Henry Sibley that came in under budget.
  • Doud also presented an updated lease agreement for the Branch Out program located on Marie Avenue. Branch Out is a transition program for special education students ages 18-21 that have not met graduation standards. 
  • Communications Director Susan Brott presented a draft plan to select a student representative on the board. "It's amazing some of the discussion and perspective you get in that model," said Brott. The student, and potentially an alternate, could participate in board discussions, but would not be a voting member. A more formal plan for an application and interview process is expected at the meeting April 9, with the intent that the student would be ready to participate in the fall. 



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