Meetings about special election in Albert Lea kick off tonight

Published 9:15 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

Today marks the start of a series of community referendum presentations as the Albert Lea school board and district officials prepare for a May 8 special election.

The first of six public presentations within the district is set for 5:30 p.m. today at Lakeview Elementary School. The public meetings will include one stop at each of the district’s six schools through April 24. These meetings will discuss the proposed updates to athletic facilities, including updating Hammer Complex to ADA and Title IX standards, expanding parking options, adding a softball complex, installing air conditioning in Albert Lea High School’s gymnasium, completing the school’s swimming locker rooms and expanding the gym at Halverson to become full-size.

These presentations are augmented by presentations involving members of the school board to specific community groups. School board members Dave Klatt and Mark Ciota attended an informational meeting with a booster club, and both said the meeting was a good one as they discussed going through the process and answered questions about the facilities.

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The schedule of community referendum meetings are as follows:

  • 5:30 p.m. today: Lakeview Elementary School
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday: Albert Lea High School
  • 6 p.m. April 9: Sibley Elementary School
  • 6:30 p.m. April 9: Hawthorne Elementary School
  • 6 p.m. April 10: Halverson Elementary School
  • 6 p.m. April 24: Southwest Middle School

Also at the meeting, district administrator Johanna Thomas said a handful of Albert Lea Area Schools employees, including school board member Neal Skaar, a few teachers and Albert Lea High School Assistant Principal Jeff Halverson, will be making a second visit to Alexandria Area Schools on Wednesday and Thursday to continue the way the school incorporates career fields, clusters and pathways, which Alexandria Area Schools refers to as “academies.”

The Minnesota Department of Education has done a breakdown of different vocations students may pursue after high school and include options for students that involve both further education or entry into the job market out of high school.

“Where we’re at is looking at how to make sure the kids are aware through four-year planning with our counseling program and what those career areas really mean,” Thomas said.

Funk said the district’s examination of this approach comes at a time when there is a considerable statewide and nationwide emphasis on career and technical education. The academy approach is starting to be replicated throughout the state, he said.

Thomas has done a preliminary grouping of courses offered by Albert Lea High School to examine what areas may have gaps in coursework when laid out in a career fields, clusters and pathways perspective. One of the areas that may need further development is the health sciences area, Thomas said.

Thursday’s visit to Alexandria Area Schools will be a chance to see once again a model program and to gather good ideas, Thomas said.

Funk said the district is making a serious consideration of this education model for application in Albert Lea Area Schools. It’s a way to meet the needs of more students, including those who are college-bound and those who are not.

“To meet the needs of our students and to meet the needs of our community, I think going with a cluster or academy approach will be the best way forward for our entire school district and community,” he said.

In other action:

  • Deputy superintendent Lori Volz noted a technical correction to two polling locations for the May 8 special election, a resolution for which was originally passed in December. The updated resolution, which passed Monday, updated the address for the Bridge Community Church polling location to 335 Clark St. W. to reflect the side of the building on which voters will enter the polling location. The Clarks Grove polling location was also re-identified, as the previous location was destroyed in a tornado last year, Volz said. Clarks Grove voters will now be voting at the First Baptist Church, 205 Second St. SE.
  • The board recognized the work of elementary building coordinators as well as science fair coordinator Gayle Brownlow, the district’s gifted and talented coordinator. The science fair was held at Southwest Middle School for the second year this year with a similar student participation to previous years of 110 students between third, fourth and fifth grades.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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