School Board considers $4M in strategic investments

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board April 24 took a look at proposed strategic investments in the next biennium and beyond.

The board is expected to approve the use of $4 million from fund balance reserve over the next four years at its next meeting as part of the consent agenda.

Three of five new investments involve implementing specialty programs at Hoover Elementary School, Anoka High School and Coon Rapids High School.

Giving Hoover Elementary School in Coon Rapids a science, technology, engineering and mathematics focus will align with STEM opportunities at Coon Rapids High School, said Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent for elementary schools.

Start-up costs over the next four years are estimated at $400,000.

Anoka High School will be home to the district’s first science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics program, giving students attending Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts and Anoka Middle School for the Arts the opportunity to build on their arts education in a specialty program, as well as harness their creativity in ways they may not have yet explored, like computer programming.

Currently without a specialty arts program at Anoka High School, “students at Anoka Middle School would have to go to Buffalo High School to continue that pathway,” said Jeff McGonigal, associate superintendent for secondary schools. “We thought it would be better if we did our own version right here.”

Teacher training started this year, and next year the first cohort of STEAM students will enter classrooms as freshmen.

Nearly 120 students have enrolled so far, according to McGonigal.

Costs over the next four years are estimated at $1 million.

Coon Rapids High School will duplicate the highly successful Center for Engineering, Mathematics and Science program at Blaine High School, giving students access to courses that will prepare them for a career in engineering.

Blaine’s CEMS program is at capacity, and annually, between 40 and 45 students leave CRHS to participate in the program at Blaine, according to Lana Rice, curriculum integration coordinator for the biomedical sciences program at CRHS.

The engineering program will complement the biomedical sciences program, which began in 2013, but will remain distinct, according to Rice.

Another CEMS program will benefit both Blaine and Coon Rapids high schools, McGonigal said.

The program will start up this fall with costs estimated at $300,000 each of the next two years.

Additional strategic investments identified in the document presented to the board include the creation of an elementary collaboration time pilot and continuing the work of the Secondary Math Plan.

At a price tag of $600,000 each of the next two years, a one-hour block of time would be created to allow all licensed staff to collaborate at the elementary level.

“Currently our model is afforded only for classroom teachers,” which leaves English language, special education and supplemental teachers without time for professional collaboration, Wolverton said.

Creating time for all licensed teachers to collaborate was a recommendation from the district’s Collaboration Committee, and it aligns with the Every Student Succeeds Act and special education audit recommendations, according to Wolverton.

A deep dive into secondary math curriculum and instruction will continue in the second year of the Secondary Math Plan, put in place with a goal of improved student achievement in math.

An investment of $800,000 in fiscal year 2018 will help the district adopt math materials that “compliment best instructional practices and provide resources to students and families,” according to the strategic investment summary.

“That process is going along,” McGonigal said. “It’s very complicated.”

Board Member Jeff Simon thanked staff for their effort to date on these projects.

“So much work goes behind each of these strategic initiatives,” he said.

The proposed strategic investments will appear on the board’s consent agenda May 8.

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