Dist. 84 board hears personalized learning, daycare presentations

SLEEPY EYE — Two-thirds of the elementary school staff spoke in impassioned tones at times, during a personalized learning presentation at the District 84 board meeting Jan. 17.

“We see the need for change. This will allow bright kids to fly. Every kid learns and develops differently,” said second-grade teacher Jodi Arneson. “Eighty-one percent of staff feel it’s best for elementary students. Learning should be paced to student learning needs and paced to student learning preferences and interests. We’re looking at how creative we have to be.”

Arneson to improve student learning and achievement, learning must be adjusted to each learner. Learning at their own pace and skill level will reduce student frustration, accelerate learning and close the achievement gap.

Arneson and other staff talked in glowing terms about recently visiting an elementary school in Harrisburg, S.D. in which students used iPad tablets plus pencils and paper as part of a personalized learning program.

“We’re one of the best schools in Minnesota at closing the achievement gap, spending a lot of time with struggling kids,” said Curriculum and Media Center Coordinator Nancy Moore. “This would enable us to spend more time with kids that are already there. It’s not all about academics. Teachers have to connect with kids to make them independent learners.”

Supt. John Cselovszki said teachers have to be interested in personalized learning or it won’t happen. He said a number of teachers told him they are very interested in it. He and Arneson encouraged other teachers to visit the Harrisburg school to see how the program works and talk with the teacher who coordinates it.

High School Principal Shane Laffen said the presentation gave him “lots of thoughts.” “If it’s successful, the high school will look very different,” Laffen said.

Board member Casey Coulson said he thought the entire school board should tour the Harrisburg school, located near Sioux Falls.

Plans call for rolling the program out for second and third grade students during the 2018-2019 school year after planning the program this school year. First and fourth graders would begin using the program in 2019-2020, fifth-graders would start in 2020-2021, sixth-graders in 2021-2022 and preK and kindergarteners in 2022-2023.

St. James Community Education Director Sue Harris talked to the board about offering childcare in the school. Cselovzski said the school district leases a migrant school building on the south end of the campus that could be used for childcare.

“It takes time. This is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done,” Harris said.

She said such a project requires lots of time and effort and will be very thoroughly inspected by the State of Minnesota. Harris said it’s best to approach the project with a business perspective.

The board accepted a $500 CHS Foundation donator to benefit Industrial Arts/Construction Trades programs.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.