ALC, Community Ed moving back to Brookside

Published 9:20 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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The Albert Lea Area Learning Center and Community Education office will move back to Brookside Education Center starting in the 2024-25 school year, the district’s superintendent announced Monday in the school board study session.

Superintendent Ron Wagner said the decision was made as the district looks at a budget gap for the coming school year and looks to make proportional adjustments as far away from the classroom as possible. He said the adjustments were being made to be more efficient, and he also referenced the loss of income from the recent move of Head Start to the Streater building.

The Area Learning Center has been at Riverland Community College since the 2016-17 school year. At that time, district leaders said the move was made so students could collaborate with varying agencies, including the college and Workforce Development Center, and to allow students to see that they are making choices bigger than a high school diploma.

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Wagner said some of the reasons why the decision was made to bring the ALC back to Brookside were first to allow for a safety plan for those students that aligns with the current safety plans for the district, noting there is not a secured entrance at Riverland Community College, while there is one in place now at Brookside. He said while Riverland was a great partner and had its own safety plans, these plans were not congruent with those of the district.

Moving back to Brookside would also allow for more centralized supports for students and provide more opportunity for collaboration with Adult Education students.

Wagner said Riverland is not on the same academic calendar as the district, and there are some days that students could not be present on campus and had to be online only.

With the loss of the Head Start Program at Brookside, the ALC students would be able to utilize some of the unused space.

The Community Education office will also move from the field house at Hammer Complex to Brookside, allowing for a centralized resource for pre-K through adult learners.

The field house will be reconfigured to house the facilities department and activities director, as well as alumni events.

The superintendent said moving ahead there will be a team working with ALC Principal Johanna Thomas and Community Education Director John Double on the transition. The focus will be on supporting ALC students through their graduation on May 16 and then begin the transition of the program to Brookside.

Board member Angie Hoffman asked if the ALC students would be separated from the younger students once at Brookside, and Wagner referenced staggered times for entry and lunch, though they will be co-located in the building, something he said was no different than being on a school bus with a kindergartner and high schooler.

Board member Gary Schindler said he thought it was important that the ALC students be able to have their own space, which would help not only with learning but also in how they treat the space. He also asked if there would be a financial gain from moving the ALC to district property and said he didn’t want Hammer Complex to become an underutilized space.

Wagner said the change would be more about recouping the loss from Head Start’s departure and he could provide the board with more information on the lease agreements with Head Start and Riverland.

Board Chairwoman Kim Nelson, who also works as the dean of academic affairs for construction trades, transportation and manufacturing on the Albert Lea campus, said the initial move of ALC to Riverland was intended so the ALC could be used as a pipeline, and that has proven successful in the years students were there.

She said Riverland will work closely with the district to make sure the students will continue to be a pipeline and on making sure those students will be able to participate in opportunities. She referenced some students who will be graduating with a welding certificate because of being able to walk down the hall and take advantage of that opportunity.

“While this is not what I would call moving forward, I think we can’t move forward if we’re not taking care of the financial pieces cause if we’re not being responsible with the finances, we will struggle to support those students and what they need moving forward,” Nelson said.

She said while this is hard to see happen because students have been making strides, she recognized that the college has an open campus.

She also recognized that Riverland will have to work on additional ways to support Cedar Valley Services, which provides meals currently to ALC students on the college campus.

Nelson thanked the staff and faculty at the ALC and said they have been great to work with in her role at Riverland.