By Lauren Perry
The Caledonia and Houston school boards held a joint meeting on Oct. 28 to discuss ways to integrate and give students more choices.
The hope is that the schools will be able to give their students a wider selection of classes that would not generally spike enough interest in one of the schools alone. The boards have assembled committees to meet together and discuss the logistics, but as of now, they are purely in the idea phase with no solid plans.
“The main idea is to increase opportunities for students, given that we’re both fairly small schools. We feel as though our students shouldn’t have any less opportunities than students growing up in big cities,” Caledonia Superintendent Ben Barton said.
Both schools provided a list of classes with low enrollment, generally classes of eight or less, and compared.
“If we had four or five students from Caledonia interested in a class, that’d be too low of a number. However, if there are four or five from Houston also interested, we could run that class,” Barton said.
Possibly the biggest concern is how to congregate the students. There has been talk of using Skype to do televised lessons, transporting teachers and/or students, or using the virtual high school that Houston is associated with.
Houston is given 200 slots with the Minnesota Virtual Academy, and only uses approximately 60 of them. “If there’s a course that Caledonia didn’t offer, would an interested student be able to take it as an interactive course?” Houston Superintendent Eric Bartleson questioned.
“Transporting students is more expensive than transporting teachers, and we already have all the technology. The distance is a little longer than we’d like it,” Bartleson added.
A big pull for Houston is Caledonia’s extensive agriculture program and successful FFA Chapter, Houston board member Kevin Kelleher said.
“With classes involving the industrial arts, I think there is a definite need to move the students, because it involves such vital equipment, and there are things that just can’t be done on a T.V. screen,” Kelleher said.
The possibility of rotating teachers between the schools on a semester schedule was discussed, as was virtual classes with a hands-on meeting once a week or so.
Although there are differences in Houston and Caledonia’s schedules, they are minor, and it makes it easy that they are both on the seven period schedule, rather than blocks.
All board members expressed excitement, and were unanimous in agreeing that the planning should start right away. “We haven’t done anything with scheduling, so this would be the time to start,” Houston Principal Todd Lundberg said when asked if plans for next year could be made.
“In my opinion, we’ve got to start with next year. If we don’t, we’ll only ever talk about it,” Caledonia school board member Jared Barnes said.
Houston board member Tom Stillin agreed. “There are a lot of things that these students are missing out on.”
Agreeing that there would be a lot of barriers to overcome, the boards agreed to have the committees continue to meet and discuss the logistics. It was also suggested that a few core teachers be added to discussions.
“If the teachers don’t support and buy into it, it’s not going to work. There are some practical problems we’re not thinking of that they will,” Caledonia School Board member Kelley McGraw said.