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home : local news : local news
August 7, 2020

7/7/2020 8:42:00 AM
Multi-Grade Teaching Discussed for Northland Students
By Kyndra Johnson of the Press-Citizen

This month's school board meeting was held on Thursday, July 2 at 5:30 p.m. at Northland High School. The meeting this month was not recorded and all public was invited to attend, along with all future meetings.

The meeting began with Principal Mary Yakibchuk giving a brief update on what the staff has been doing so far this summer. She mentioned there was a leadership retreat that Jon Payne, Pat Rendle and herself just attended in Nisswa. This retreat was beneficial as the three spent time actually discussing items along with connecting with other leaders in the region and bouncing ideas off of them.

Yakibchuk also shared with the board that she is working on doing a reboot of the Positive Behaviors in School (PBIS) program and there is going to be an online training for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

Superintendent Pat Rendle then gave his report to the board with the main topic being how school is going to begin in the fall. He mentioned that there are three scenarios that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has presented for schools to consider. Each school is allowed to determine which scenario or scenarios are in the best interest for the students. He also mentioned that the Fire Marshal has visited the school to measure rooms for capacity, and with the size of the district if school had to start at half capacity all students would possibly be able to attend.

Board Chair Marc Ruyak stated that the board has taken a stand and said that Northland will open as normal this fall regardless of what MDE says. Therefore, the staff should do their preparations for a normal start to the school year with a backup plan of preparing for the "pod" scenario. Ruyak stated that there should be no preparation for the distant learning scenario as the teachers just did that scenario and should already be prepared for that scenario.

Next on the agenda was a multi-grade classroom model presentation by Principal Yakibchuk and Mary Overlie, Literacy Coach. A multi-grade classroom would be where students of a certain age group are in class together and not a specific age. The model that was presented stated that students in grades first and second would be grouped together, second and third would be grouped together and fourth and fifth would be grouped together. Yakibchuk stated the benefits of multi-grade classrooms are the social growth of students, stable class sizes, and looping of students.

Social growth: The social growth students would receive in this model would be the expanded group of students to choose from for friends. Their would be less competition in the classroom with the older students becoming more of a roll model for the younger students and helping them out.

Stable Class Sizes: This would allow for class sizes to all be similar in size with approximately twenty students to a classroom. Currently class sizes go from twenty to twenty-eight to seventeen to twenty-four, etc. Therefore, teachers are constantly changing grades they are teaching due to the sizes of classes. If the district would do a multi-grade classroom a teacher would be able to consistently teach the same grade group.

Looping of students: The school has already done this in the past with first, second and third grade classes and this allows a faster start to the school year. With looping of students, they already are familiar with the teacher and know what to expect starting the new school year. The older students would then be able to help the younger students get acclimated faster and would be a roll model.

Yakibchuk shared that this was a scenario that the staff approached her with when she first started as principal two years ago, but with her just starting and not knowing the dynamics of the school district yet it wasn't something she wanted to explore at the time. She feels that this would be a great "fit" with the district. Board member Linda Knox asked how this would affect staffing, because it is to late in the year to eliminate any staffing positions. Yakibchuk said it would not eliminate any positions. Another question asked was what the feedback was from parents in the district. It was stated that this has not been brought up to parents yet because Yakibchuk wanted to approach the board before getting input and feedback from the public.

Ruyak stated that there is not enough time before the beginning of the new school year to make a decision. This is something that needs to be discussed throughout the school year and to throw this in with all of the current problems going on would be too much. Therefore, the motion to approve the use of a multi-grade classroom model was changed to a motion to not consider the use of multi-grade classroom model for 2020-21.

In other Board action:

• Approved meal prices for 2020-21 at $.90 for breakfast and $2.75 for lunch for elementary students; $1.00 for breakfast and $2.85 for lunch for high school students and $1.90 for breakfast and $3.85 for lunch for adults.

• Approve the sale of used technology devices to be held Mon., July 20, 8 a.m. - noon.

• Approve the hire of Kendra Penke as vocal music teacher with a start date of Aug. 31.

• Accepted the resignation of Debby Sepin, bus driver effective June 30.

• Approve Katelyn Edstrom as high school student leadership advisor for 2020-21.

• Approve an increase of hours for Brenda Snakenberg, cook from 7 hours per day to 8 hours per day.

• Approve change in position for Wanda Schear from kitchen helper to cook, effective July 2 at 6 hours per day.

The board has scheduled the following meetings: a special meeting, Thurs., July 23, 2020 at 5:30 p.m., the regular meeting, Thurs., August 6, 2020 at 5:30 p.m., and a work session, Thurs., August 20 at 5:30 p.m. all meetings are held at Northland High School.


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