District 88 looking at good start to school year

NEW ULM — As the end of summer drew nearer and the temperatures started to drop — at least for a short amount of time — it meant ‘back to school’ for students in New Ulm. The Journal asked around and lists what is new for the schools in New Ulm.

Jeff Bertrang, superintendent of ISD 88, said enrollment numbers at the New Ulm Public Schools have seen few changes.

“We had an increase in the enrollments for grades 5 and 6, more than we initially anticipated,” he said.

For the public schools, there was furthermore an increase in resources for the Career and Technical Education courses (CTE). The Middle School, for example, is now equipped with the “Fab Lab”, that holds a 3D printer, a CNC router, designing software, vinyl cutters, mechatronics trainers and more in store for the students.

The school teachers are also currently looking into expanding the technology used in the classroom and are trying out applications and features on iPads and Chromebooks to decide which devices work best for enhancing their teaching and the curriculum. A decision will be made next fall in time for the new school year.

Following the mixed results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) testing, where New Ulm students scored slightly below average in math and reading proficiency but had above average attendance and graduation scores, changes to the curriculum are being made and internal assessments are being prepared to test the effect of the changes. Bertrang stressed the importance for the kids to feel comfortable when coming to school.

“The first month of school is always about creating relationships and building communication between the students, the teachers and the parents and to help the students find a routine for the new year, which we have all been working on. And I think that we had a great start into the fall season,” he said.

Support programs for the kids, like the “Morning Meetings” in the elementary school and the advisory program in the Middle School, are continued and partially expanded, as well as after school activities and morning clubs.

Bertrang is furthermore proud of the high number of former students that enrolled in post-secondary education programs like college or the military. For him, the most important thing about school education is to prepare the students for further education programs and provide them with all the necessary tools to thrive in that environment.

Upcoming important dates for the public schools are the homecoming weekend, starting Oct. 1 and lasting until Oct. 5. On October 29, the Indoor Marching Band is giving a concert. New Ulm High School is hosting the Big South Conference Choral Festival, which takes place on Nov. 5. On Nov. 16 and 17, the High School will perform the play “Our Town” by American playwright Thornton Wilder.