By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie School District will transition from a two-school format to three, beginning with the 2011-12 school year.
Lester Prairie Superintendent/High School Principal Mike McNulty and Elementary Principal Pam Lukens explained how the new concept will work.
All students will still attend class in the same building, but instead of being divided into elementary and high school sections, grades k-five will be considered elementary, grades six-eight will be middle school, and the high school will include grades nine-12.
The purpose of the change is to introduce students to something closer to a high school format sooner, and to provide more focus on science and social classes, which testing has shown the school needs.
The sixth-grade class, which includes about 36 students, will be split into two sections, and these sections will alternate science and social classes on a three-day, two-day schedule.
Lukens explained that this will allow each group to do more in-depth projects, such as labs or research projects, in the weeks that they have more time in a particular class.
The sixth-grade students will not have a lot of electives, but they will be exposed to several different teachers, rather than working with just one teacher for most of the day.
During the last period of the day, sixth-grade students will participate in music class with the seventh- and eighth-grade students, but time will be set aside for the teacher to work just with the sixth-grade students, Lukens said.
She added that the middle school concept will also include an “enrichment period,” to provide extra support for students in areas where they need it.
McNulty has been talking to other school districts, including Watertown and Onamia, that have made the transition to a middle school format.
He said this has helped to identify things that Lester Prairie should consider as it prepares to make the change.
Scheduling will be a big part of the transition, McNulty said. He has been working on scheduling staff and putting people in the areas in which they have the most expertise.
Lukens said the administration has been in the process of preparing for the change for about a year.
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, there will be an orientation for current Lester Prairie fifth-grade students this year, and again at the beginning of next year, Lukens said.
They will also be assigned lockers in the same area, she added.
An informational meeting for parents has been set for Monday, May 2 from 6:30 to 7:30 in the Lester Prairie media center.
School staff will explain the middle school concept, and parents will have the opportunity to ask questions.