Mini-session pilot planned for 20-day window
A pilot program at the Little Falls Community Middle School (LFCMS) will begin Monday, Feb. 27 and run through March 27.
Students have already signed up for their top choices in classes such as “Couch to 5K,” a class designed to get students ready to run a 5K; “The History of Rock and Roll,” “Canoe Trip/Hiking Planning,” “Yoga,” “Brain Games,” “Knitting and Crocheting,” “Cribbage,” “Hand Carved Spearing Decoys,” “Improv” — more than 20 in all.
The idea behind the pilot program is to give students at the middle school more experiences to find something they are passionate about or just plain enjoy doing.
It also gives teachers a different sort of break. Teachers teach 10 of the 20 days, and the other 10 days, take part in a common planning day.
In addition to every middle school teacher, paraprofessionals, middle school staff and even members of the community will be teaching one of the classes.
The class periods run 45 minutes. This period of time will also be used for students who have additional needs in certain classes — they will get to take their desired course one day, and get a little extra work in on the subject they are struggling with the next day.
LFCMS Principal Wade Mathers told the School Board Monday, that the idea started last year. Then, over the summer, he attended a workshop and what the speaker had to say resonated with him.
The speaker talked about changing the “culture” and “language” used in the system.
“The first thing before you’re going to have an impact, is you have to impact the culture first,” Mathers said. “You have to look at your culture.”
The culture needed, Mathers said, is a culture where the majority of the staff truly believes that all students can learn and achieve at a high level, given the right amount of support and time.
“If you don’t have that, you have to tackle that first. Once you have that, and I think we have that at the middle school, then shift language from ‘intervention’ to a ‘student who is under-supported,’” he said. Using the word “intervention” often makes a student feel as though they are being punished, Mathers said.
And, instead of forcing a student to give up a class like art or physical education to focus more on the one subject that gives them the most trouble, they can take part in the classes for the most part, but still have time to focus more energy in their trouble areas.
As for those who do not struggle particularly, these pilot classes offer them new experiences.
Mathers said the program offers something for 100 percent of the students — not just the struggling 15 percent and not focused on the 85 percent who are doing fine.
Mathers said the teachers are excited, as are others who will teach a class. He said he’s had parents already ask to teach a class the next time around.
As with everything, there is a cost, and Mathers said local businesses and people have made contributions for the pilot program.
As of the day of the meeting, all but three students had registered for their classes.
Mathers said it was looking pretty hopeful that the vast majority of students would get a class listed in their top three choices.
“I’m excited about it,” he said.
A debriefing will take place after the series of classes ends.
“We will take some time as a middle school staff to go over it, talk about the next steps and what we learned,” he said.
If the program were to be continued next year, he figured over the course of the school year, six rounds of the mini-sessions could be included, starting three weeks after the school year begins and ending three weeks before the last day of school.
Mathers said he also has to apply for grants to cover any costs involved and will do some revenue searching.
“If I had to make a prediction, it would be that next year we’d be looking at once per quarter,” Mathers said. “We’ll see if I’m right.”
Little Falls School Board Briefs
In other business, the Little Falls School Board:
- Approved the art trip to Italy in June 2019;
- Heard about the traffic study going being conducted on Ninth Street Southeast, requiring students to turn south out of the school parking lot instead of heading north past Lindbergh Elementary School. Traffic patterns will be studied for a two-week period before a decision is made on whether or not to make the street a permanent one-way. Supt. Stephen Jones said although it may upset some people, the whole purpose is to provide student and adult safety; and
- Approved sharing hours for Jeanyne Gomez, an English as a second language teacher, with the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA). NJPA will have Gomez for five hours to teach, with the NJPA reimbursing the district for Gomez’ time.
The School Board will meet for a work session from 8 a.m. – noon, Tuesday, at the Initiative Foundation. It will also meet Thursday at 2 p.m. in the high school science lecture hall to open bids for high school construction.
A special meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 27, at 5 p.m. in the high school media center, to review high school construction bids.