Albert Lea learning center may move

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Albert Lea Area Learning Center may move from Brookside Education Center to Riverland Community College.

The move came up in an ALC update discussion during the school board meeting on Monday.

Kathy Niebuhr, secondary programs coordinator at the ALC, and Tonya Prouty, lead teacher at the ALC, presented the update to the board.

Mike Funk

Mike Funk

Email newsletter signup

Niebuhr explained how when she started at the ALC, there was no goal in place and that was attributed to no sense of urgency with the students. She developed a goal, which was credit attainment. The ALC then focused on getting students credit instead of having students do activities that don’t earn credits.

She also worked on systems development, such as registration, scheduling, attendance, credits and transcripts. She created procedures for intakes and record reviews and worked on contracts for independent study.

Prouty said in the 2013-14 school year, students at the ALC earned 250 credits. By the middle of the fourth quarter in the 2014-15 school year, ALC students had already earned 440 credits.

She shared some successes in some of the ALC programs. In language arts, the teacher said last year the completion rate was 45 percent, and so far this year it is 60 percent. The teacher also said students are reading more and inquiring about book titles and authors.

In social studies, she said last year the completion rate was 58 percent and this year so far it is 72 percent.

In special education, the teacher noted some individual growth, including a student who nearly doubled his credits and a student who had two credits last year but has already earned five this year.

Mark Ciota

Mark Ciota

Last year, Niebuhr said the ALC considered relocating due to a grant that early childhood education was up for. Early childhood education ended up not getting the grant, but the ALC continued to weigh the advantages of staying or moving, she said.

Niebuhr said there was a possibility to relocate to Riverland Community College. She said the college offers positive role models for students, and gives the students a chance to see college as a viable option after graduating high school.

She also said it would give students access to the Workforce Center and the location would be closer to Albert Lea High School, which could lead to concurrent enrollment for elective classes.

The ALC would be able to rent four classrooms in the 100 wing at Riverland, near the front entryway. Deputy Superintendent Lori Volz said Riverland would lease the classrooms for $9 per square foot, and ALC students would also have open computer access.

The cost of the lease would be $26,487 annual, and Volz said the levy would be the funding source to cover the cost. The levy would raise .3 percent due to the lease.

Volz also discussed food options for ALC students. She said students could eat meals provided by the National School Nutrition Program through the USDA; meals provided by Cedar Valley Services, which is the company that provides food for Riverland students; or meals prepared at the high school and then transported to the ALC.

Julie Johnson

Julie Johnson

Volz said vending through Cedar Valley Services would be the easiest route, and she is working on an agreement with them. She said she should have an answer in a few weeks.

As the new location would be off-campus, Funk said the school would have to be led by a licensed assistant principal.

The cost increase for hiring an assistant principal would be $25,000, Volz said. Half of that wage would come from compensatory funding, and the ALC’s compensatory funding has been increased to about $28,000 for next year, she said. The other half comes from profits from the Targeted Services program, she said.

Funk said Riverland could be ready for the students in the fall, and Prouty said teachers at the ALC are excited for the possible move.

Board Chairman Mark Ciota, who was at the meeting via webcam, said this is “excellent work.” While he said it would benefit a small number of students, he said those students need the help the most.

Board Member Jill Marin asked if the new Riverland location would still be a closed campus, and Prouty confirmed that it would be. She also asked if there would be an increased cost in busing. Prouty and Niebuhr said the new location would be closer for buses as well as shared teachers between the ALC and the high school.

Jill Marin

Jill Marin

Due to the board’s reception of the presentation, Funk said contract development with Riverland can move forward.

In other news, the school board:

Unanimously approved a renewal of insurance rates presented by Volz. The insurance premiums are going up by 10 percent as compared to a 0 percent increase last year. Volz said last year was a high claims year. Due to board approval, information will be sent to district staff about open enrollment.

Heard a Chromebook update from Director of Technology and Human Resources Jim Quiram and Coordinator of Technology Integration Kenneth Griswold. Griswold outlined the steps taken over the last school year to integrate Chromebooks into four classrooms at Southwest Middle School, two English classes at Albert Lea High School and fourth-graders at Lakeview Elementary School.

He also outlined a possible four-year plan for increasing the technology integration. By 2018-19, Kenneth said all staff could have a Chromebook, students in kindergarten through second grade would have an updated iOS device, students in grades three through five would have one Chromebook cart per grade level, students in grades six and seven would have one-to-one Chromebooks for core academic courses and students in grades eight through 12 would have Chromebooks to take home.

The cost for four years of computers and carts would be a little over $610,000, and the total cost for all equipment and networking over four years would be a little over $1 million.

Heard a discussion about board compensation. Board Member Linda Laurie said she would rather talk about board compensation when Ciota was with the board in person and Board Member Dave Klatt, who was absent, could be present at the meeting.

Jill Marin

Jill Marin

Marin said the board chair deserves more compensation than regular school board members due to the rigor of the job. A document was presented that showed the compensation of area school boards; the area average was around $3,000 per year, while Albert Lea School Board members make $1,200 per year.

Board Member Bill Leland, who was running the meeting in Ciota’s absence, said board compensation will be on the agenda on the May 18 meeting with possible action.